Lyocell, Tencel?! What’s the difference? These eco-friendly fabrics can sometimes get a little confusing. So what’s the difference between lyocell and tencel?
Let’s jump in and put you out of your misery.
Essentially nothing. Both tencel and lyocell look, feel and wear exactly the same. That’s because they are made from the same raw materials and through the same manufacturing process.
Both Tencel™ and Lyocell are made using natural cellulose materials, most commonly wood pulp from eucalyptus but can also include beech, bamboo or other woods.
The process by which Tencel™ and Lyocell are produced is much more sustainable than earlier versions of cellulose fabrics, such as rayon or modal. These earlier versions involved heavy viscose processing which has harmful effects on the environment.
So why is it that you’ve only heard of Tencel? It certainly feels like Tencel is getting all of the limelight, whilst lyocell has almost been forgotten as an eco friendly afterthought.
That’s because branded Tencel™ has come to stand for all things lyocell. Let’s dive in.
Simply put, yes! Tencel and Lyocell are the same in all but name.
Tencel is actually just a brand name. What we mean by this is that the name Tencel™ refers to branded lyocell fibres created by Austrian textile company Lenzing AG. This is very similar to the way in which Coca-Cola is used to refer to all cola soft drinks by many soft drink shoppers (sorry Pepsi loyalists, it’s the truth).
The exact same has happened with lyocell, with the brand Tencel™ now being used to refer to all lyocell brands.
TENCEL™ LYOCELL is made from sustainably sourced eucalyptus trees. The wood is broken down into a pulp using a non-toxic amine solution which can then be spun into sustainable fibres.
Lenzing’s Tencel™ brand has an outstanding sustainable track record. For a product to carry the Tencel™ trademark, it must contain at least 30% of Lenzing’s Tencel™ Lyocell fibres.
Tencel™ Lyocell produced by Lenzing is only sourced from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forests, meaning trees are harvested in a responsible way that provides for future generations. Almost all of the solvent required to break down the wood into pulp is recovered and recycled, and the process is powered by sustainable bioenergy.
This means that we can be confident that the Tencel™ brand is good for the environment.
This is just scratching the surface on the environmental benefits of Tencel™, if you’d like to read more click here.
No, Tencel and Polyester are very different materials. Unlike Lyocell or the brand named Tencel, polyester is derived from petroleum based materials whereas the former are made from natural tree pulp.
Polyester is extremely popular, partially because it’s so easy to make. Let’s look at the difference between Tencel and Polyester:
This all sounds great, right? Is it too good to be true?
Before you rush out and buy anything Tencel, there are still a few drawbacks to be aware of.
Whilst Tencel is good for the environment, it is often not the pure Tencel™ Lyocell you might expect. Here are a few checks to make to reduce the disadvantages of Tencel™.
1. Tencel can be bad for the environment when it is blended with less eco friendly materials. To label clothes with a Tencel™ fabric label only requires 30% official Tencel™ to be used. Labels do often state what the remaining portion is, however sometimes it can be less transparent.
When buying Tencel™ blends, try to look for items where other sustainable fabrics have been added. Often this is organic cotton, another very sustainable blend that helps give bulk to Tencel™ fabric. Sometimes synthetics or regular cotton can be blended with Tencel™, making the finished item less eco friendly.
2. We know that Tencel™ is a brand of Lyocell, like Dyson is a brand of Hoover. As lyocell is made through the same process as Tencel™ it should produce a similarly sustainable fabric. The problem is that some factories which manufacture lyocell might be encouraged to cut corners at the expense of the environment. A manufacturer might try to save costs by sourcing wood from forests which are not responsibly managed. There is also no guarantee that the processing facilities are ethically run with minimal environmental impact.
Transparency is key. If you are able to contact a manufacturer and find out where the raw materials are sourced, or even ask for an employee code of conduct, you can have confidence that your lyocell is sustainable.
3. Lyocell is typically more expensive than other fabrics, even other sustainable fabrics
Things are changing! As sustainable fashion comes onto the agenda for many big brands, it’s becoming more affordable to shop sustainably. Whether shopping H&M and ASOS’s conscious collections or smaller more dedicated brands like Cariki (*ahem shameless plug), prices are coming down so keep an eye out for affordable Tencel. It is definitely out there!
Lyocell is the generic name used for the third generation of regenerated cellulose fabric. If you’ve read this far, you will also know that the Austrian manufacturer Lenzing is responsible for the Tencel™ brand of lyocell which is most well known and trusted. But what does lyocell and Tencel mean?
The “cel” comes from it being a cellulosic fibre, which means the raw materials are made from a plant. Tencel was invented by the textile company Courtauld in Britain. The “ten” stands for tenacity.
There are two different types of Tencel, each with a slightly different finish. One has a silky smooth finish, whilst the other is a slightly softer and dustier texture similar to a peach skin. Both of these types retain the same beneficial properties of tencel, eco friendly and producing a soft yet strong fabric.
Not many people know that there are actually other manufacturers selling their own branded sustainable lyocell. Excel is one such branded lyocell fabric manufactured by textile company Birla. The evolution of this sustainable fabric doesn’t stop here.
The sci-fi sounding Re:Newcell (also marketed as Circulose®) is the latest addition to sustainably made lyocell. This modern fabric only became commercially available in 2019. It creates high quality lyocell textile by recycling old cellulose fabrics, dissolving natural fibres like cotton into a new, biodegradable raw material that can be used to make lyocell. It is the first step towards a fully closed loop clothing cycle where old clothes can be completely recycled into new fabric without the need for new virgin materials.
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