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Viscose fabric: what it is, characteristics, applications and much more

Viscose, also known as rayon, is one of the most widely used fabrics in the fashion world. Recently, it has gained popularity in response to the demand for natural fibres; but what exactly is Viscose, where does it come from, what are its characteristics, and is it really a natural fabric?

What is viscose?

Viscose is a type of semi-synthetic fabric, created as a cheaper artificial alternative to silk, resulting from the extraction of cellulose fibres from the core of some trees such as pine, bamboo or eucalyptus converted into fabric yarns.

How viscose is made

Viscose is made by processing cellulose xanthate, the main constituent of plant cell walls, which is extracted from wood and plant fibres into a viscous liquid that is then subjected to a series of chemical processes to make a fibre that mimics the qualities of natural fibres such as silk and cotton.

Are viscose and rayon the same thing?

Although viscose is commonly called rayon, it is actually a variant of rayon, as are modal and lyocell. These variants differ mainly in the manufacturing process, as they are each treated differently and become fabrics with different properties. Rayon itself is made by the cellulose dipping process, and unlike viscose rayon, it is not extracted from plant fibres, but only made from bamboo or wood cellulose.

History of viscose rayon

Viscose rayon was originally created in 1883 by Edward John Bevan and Charles Frederick Cross, as a cheaper artificial alternative to silk, as it has a drape and soft feel similar to the luxury material. The first commercial viscose rayon was produced by a British company in November 1905. The name “rayon” was adopted in 1924, and “viscose” was used for the viscous organic liquid used to make rayon and cellophane. In Europe, however, the fabric itself came to be called “viscose”, which has been considered an acceptable alternative term for rayon.

Characteristics of viscose fabric

Viscose fabric is very soft to the touch and often has the look of silk and the feel of cotton. Chemically, viscose resembles cotton, but it can also take on many different qualities depending on its manufacture.

It is a very versatile fabric and a suitable choice whether used alone or blended with other fabrics. The lustrous appearance of viscose fabrics gives them an expensive look, despite being quite affordable in general. Viscose is also a hypoallergenic and highly breathable material, capable of keeping cool in hot weather and also useful for providing a basic level of insulation in cold temperatures; it does not trap heat and wicks away water and sweat very well, making it ideal for T-shirts and sportswear.

It is not a stretch fabric, but can be blended with other fabrics, such as spandex, to add stretch. It drapes well and can be used to create draping and movement in various garments and styles.

It also dyes easily; it can retain colour without fading, even after prolonged wear and washing, so it definitely appeals to fashion designers and industry experts (which is why you are likely to find viscose in the most fashionable colours and shades). It features deep, bright colours that do not change.

Uses and applications

Viscose rayon is widely used in clothing because of its soft and comfortable feel, and can be found in different types of garments such as blouses and shirts, sportswear, as well as in smaller accessories such as scarves. It can be found in cotton end uses, as well as in luxurious velvets and taffetas; it can also be found in feminine hygiene products, in tyre cords, and as an interior fabric for curtains, tablecloths, napkins, bed linings and blankets.

How to care for viscose fabric

Although viscose is a durable material, it loses much of its strength when wet due to its ability to absorb moisture, so it is very important to treat wet viscose garments with care. Viscose garments should be dry cleaned; it is preferable to avoid washing machines and hand wash in cold water, using a mild detergent while gently working the fabric, as it shrinks easily. After washing, rinse and shake out the water and hang the garments or lay them out to dry, preferably avoiding direct sunlight. Wringing out or squeezing viscose rayon may damage its fibres, spoiling the look and feel of the fabric. If the fabric is stained, being a fabric that absorbs colours easily, removing dried stains will be more difficult.

Environmental impact: is viscose a sustainable material?

Despite the many benefits of viscose, its manufacturing process can be harmful to the environment, especially if it is mass-produced. On the one hand, due to deforestation, viscose is derived from wood and natural fibres. On the other hand, viscose production uses a high concentration of toxic chemicals that pollute the air and water, such as sulphur, nitrous oxides and carbon. In addition, viscose production uses a lot of water, both in the irrigation of trees and in the process of converting those trees into the fabric.
However, viscose is biodegradable, although the environmental impact of its production is still high. Therefore, if you want to use this fabric, we recommend using existing viscose to avoid its excessive production, the pollution involved in making it, and the consumption of unnecessary resources.

In our circular knitting catalogue, you can find viscose and other materials for your next collections that contribute to reducing the environmental impact of fashion. You can also try selling your leftover fabrics, someone might be looking for them!




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