Viscose Fabric – Everything You Need To Know

Fabric nameViscose
Fabric, also known asRayon
Fabric compositionWood cellulose and synthetic substances
Fabric possible thread count variations300-600
Fabric breathabilityHigh
Moisture-wicking abilitiesHigh
Heat retention abilitiesMedium
Stretch ability (give)Low
Prone to pilling/bubblingMedium
Country where fabric was first producedUnited Kingdom
Biggest exporting/producing country todayChina
Recommended washing temperaturesCold
Commonly used inDresses, blouses, T-shirts, thobes, loungwear and linings

What is Viscose Fabric?

Woven Viscose Fabric
Woven Viscose Fabric

Viscose, also known as rayon in some regions, is a semi-synthetic fabric first developed in the late 19th century as a more affordable alternative to silk. Made from cellulose derived from wood pulp, viscose undergoes a chemical process that transforms it into a versatile fiber. The production of viscose involves dissolving cellulose in a chemical solution, which is then extruded through a spinneret and solidified to form fibers. This process allows for the creation of threads that are not only smooth and lightweight but also highly absorbent.

Compared to natural fibers like cotton, viscose offers a distinctively smooth texture and a lustrous finish, making it highly desirable for garments that require a soft, draped look. However, unlike synthetic fibers such as polyester, viscose is not inherently strong or durable, which poses unique challenges and considerations for garment manufacturers.

Properties of Viscose Fabric

Viscose fabric is celebrated for its unique properties that make it particularly appealing in the fashion industry. Here are some of the key characteristics:

  • Texture and Weight: Viscose is known for its soft, smooth texture that closely mimics fine silk. It’s generally lightweight, making it ideal for flowing dresses, blouses, and scarves that require a fluid, elegant drape.
  • Comfort and Durability: While viscose is comfortable against the skin due to its breathable nature and moisture-absorbent qualities, it does have some limitations in durability. It tends to be less resistant to wear and tear compared to more robust fibers like cotton or polyester, especially when wet.
  • Absorbency and Dye Affinity: One of the most valued properties of viscose is its high absorbency, which allows it to take dyes deeply and retain vibrant colors over time. This makes it a popular choice for producing richly colored garments.

How is Viscose Fabric Made

The process of making viscose involves several steps that transform natural materials into a versatile fiber. Here’s a step-by-step overview of how viscose is made:

1. Sourcing Cellulose

Viscose is made from cellulose, which is derived from wood pulp. Common sources include trees like eucalyptus, beech, pine, and sometimes bamboo. The wood pulp is obtained through a process that involves chipping wood and treating it with chemicals to break it down into a pulp.

2. Purifying the Cellulose

The wood pulp is treated and purified to remove any impurities, leaving behind a bright white cellulose product. This pure cellulose is what will be dissolved to form the viscose solution.

3. Dissolving the Cellulose

The purified cellulose is soaked in a solution of sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), which turns it into alkali cellulose. This alkali cellulose is aged under specific conditions of time and temperature to prepare it for the next step.

4. Xanthation

The alkali cellulose is treated with carbon disulfide, converting it into cellulose xanthate, which is a yellowish, highly viscous substance. This process is what gives viscose its name, derived from the “viscous” nature of the cellulose xanthate solution.

5. Dissolving Cellulose Xanthate

The cellulose xanthate is dissolved in a dilute solution of sodium hydroxide, resulting in a thick, viscous solution known as viscose. This solution is filtered to remove any undissolved particles and then degassed to eliminate any air bubbles that could interfere with the spinning process.

6. Spinning

The viscose solution is extruded through a spinneret into an acid bath containing sulfuric acid and other salts. This coagulates the viscose, regenerating it into cellulose filaments and setting the fibers. This step is crucial as it turns the viscose solution back into a solid form of cellulose, now in fiber form.

7. Drawing

The fibers are stretched, or “drawn,” which aligns the cellulose molecules and increases the tensile strength, making the fibers more durable. This step is important for enhancing the performance characteristics of the viscose fibers.

8. Washing and Finishing

The newly formed viscose fibers are washed thoroughly to remove any remaining chemicals and impurities. After washing, the fibers may be treated with various finishing agents to achieve desired properties like softness, luster, or resistance to bacteria.

9. Cutting and Baling

Finally, the fibers are cut to a desired staple length if they are to be blended with other fibers or left as continuous filaments, depending on the end-user. They are then baled and shipped to fabric manufacturers to be woven or knitted into viscose fabric.

The process of making viscose is quite chemical-intensive, which has led to environmental concerns. However, recent innovations in manufacturing technology are aiming to make this process more sustainable, such as the development of the Lyocell process, which uses less harmful solvents and recycles the water and solvents used in production.

What Different Types of Viscose Are There?

Viscose, a versatile and popular fabric in the fashion industry, comes in various types, each with specific characteristics and applications. Here’s an overview of the different types of viscose you might encounter:

1. Standard Viscose Rayon

Viscosa Fabric
Viscose Fabric
  • Description: This is the most common type of viscose, known for its silk-like feel, smooth texture, and good drape. It is made from purified cellulose from wood pulp, primarily from trees like beech, pine, and eucalyptus.
  • Uses: Widely used in dresses, blouses, and linings due to its soft texture and attractive sheen.

2. High Wet Modulus (HWM) Rayon

Modal Fabric
Modal Fabric
  • Also Known As: Modal or polynosic rayon.
  • Description: This type of viscose is engineered to be stronger when wet and less prone to shrinking compared to standard viscose. It undergoes a modified production process that enhances these properties.
  • Uses: Ideal for items that require more durability and strength, such as sportswear and towels.

3. Lyocell

Lyocell Fabric
Lyocell Fabric
  • Description: Although similar to viscose, Lyocell is produced using a different solvent and process that is more environmentally friendly and results in a fiber with greater strength, especially when wet. It’s known for its sustainability credentials and is often marketed under the brand name Tencel™.
  • Uses: Used in a variety of garments, from denim to more delicate items, as well as in eco-conscious fashion lines.

4. Bamboo Viscose

Bamboo Fabric 1
Bamboo Viscose Fabric
  • Description: Technically a type of rayon because it is regenerated cellulose fiber made from bamboo. While marketed as eco-friendly due to the fast-growing nature of bamboo, the chemical process used to create bamboo viscose is similar to that of traditional viscose.
  • Uses: Popular in eco-fashion products such as soft T-shirts, underwear, and socks.

5. Cupro

  • Description: A subtype of rayon made from cotton linter, the short fibers that enwrap cotton seeds. Cupro fabric is exceptionally breathable and regulates temperature like cotton, combined with the luxurious feel of silk.
  • Uses: Often used in higher-end fashion for dresses, blouses, and linings due to its silky texture.

6. Visil Rayon

  • Description: A flame-retardant type of viscose that has silica embedded in its structure. It’s less common but useful in applications requiring fire resistance.
  • Uses: Used in protective clothing and in applications where fire resistance is required.

Each type of viscose offers unique properties that make it suitable for different applications, from everyday clothing to specialty garments. Whether prioritizing durability, environmental impact, or fabric feel, there’s a type of viscose to meet almost any need.

Ryan And Viscose

There’s a subtle difference between viscose and rayon:

Rayon: A broader term encompassing various types of fabrics made from regenerated cellulose, including viscose. Think of rayon as a category, like “fruit. “
Viscose: The most common type of rayon, known for its silk-like feel. It’s like a specific type of fruit, ” apple” within the category of “fruit. “

Both viscose and other rayon types share some commonalities:

Made from natural sources (wood pulp)
Semi-synthetic due to the chemical processing involved
Soft, breathable, and comfortable
So, you might see “viscose rayon” or simply “rayon” on clothing labels. In most cases, they’re referring to viscose. But if you’re looking for more specific information about the fabric, checking for terms like “modal rayon ” or “lyocell rayon” can help identify the exact type used.

Benefits of Using Viscose in Apparel

Viscosa Garment

Viscose holds several advantages that make it a favored material among apparel manufacturers and designers:

  • Comfort and Breathability: The moisture-absorbing properties of viscose make it extremely comfortable to wear in warm climates, as it helps regulate body temperature by absorbing sweat from the skin.
  • Draping Quality: Viscose fibers can create fabrics that drape beautifully, making them ideal for items that need a flowing silhouette. This property is particularly valued in the creation of elegant dresses and skirts.
  • Versatility in Fashion Applications: Due to its ability to mimic the look and feel of more luxurious fibers like silk at a lower cost, viscose is widely used across various fashion segments, from casual wear to more formal garments.
  • Cost-effectiveness: For manufacturers and consumers alike, viscose offers a cost-effective alternative to more expensive fibers, providing the luxury feel of silk without the high price tag. This makes it accessible for a wider range of consumers and helps brands manage production costs effectively.

These properties and benefits underscore why viscose remains a popular choice despite some of its challenges, which we will explore in the next section.

Advancements in Viscose Fabrication

Despite these challenges, technological advancements are making viscose more sustainable and durable:

  • Eco-friendly Production Methods: Innovations such as the Lyocell process have emerged, which use less toxic solvents and offer a closed-loop system where chemicals are recycled. These advancements significantly reduce the environmental impact associated with traditional viscose production.
  • Enhancing Fabric Durability and Functionality: Researchers and manufacturers are continually working on ways to enhance the strength and maintenance characteristics of viscose. This includes developing treatments and finishes that help reduce the fabric’s tendency to wrinkle and shrink.
  • Blending Viscose with Other Fibers: To improve the properties of viscose, it is often blended with other fibers such as cotton, polyester, or elastane. These blends enhance durability, ease of care, and can also offer additional functionalities like stretch.

These advancements are crucial for the future of viscose, making it more appealing to both the industry and environmentally conscious consumers by addressing some of its traditional shortcomings.

Viscose Fabric Applications in the Garment Industry

Viscose fabric’s versatility makes it a preferred choice for a wide range of apparel, demonstrating its broad utility across different fashion segments:

  • Types of Garments: Viscose is particularly suited for garments that require a soft feel and elegant drape, such as dresses, blouses, skirts, and trousers. It is also used extensively in linings where comfort and a luxurious touch are desired without the high cost of silk.
  • Role in Fast Fashion and Luxury Fashion: In fast fashion, viscose is valued for its cost-effectiveness and the ability to replicate luxurious aesthetics at lower prices. In luxury fashion, its silk-like qualities make it suitable for high-end designs that require a fluid drape and vibrant coloration.

Sourcing and Sustainability

As the demand for sustainable practices grows, sourcing high-quality and eco-friendly viscose has become a priority for many brands:

  • How to Source High-Quality Viscose: It’s crucial to partner with suppliers who adhere to stringent environmental standards and who are transparent about their production processes. This ensures the viscose is produced with minimal environmental impact.
  • Sustainability Practices: Manufacturers can look for viscose produced using the Lyocell process, which is more environmentally friendly, or opt for sources that are certified by eco-labels such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
  • Certifications and Standards: Certifications like the Oeko-Tex Standard ensure that the viscose fabric is free from harmful chemicals, making it safer for both the environment and the consumer.

Conclusion

Viscose fabric plays a crucial role in the garment industry due to its aesthetic appeal, functionality, and cost-effectiveness. Understanding the full scope of viscose—from its production to its practical applications—enables apparel manufacturers and brand founders to make informed decisions that align with both business objectives and sustainability goals.

For apparel brands looking to explore viscose fabric options, it’s essential to engage with suppliers who prioritize sustainability and are transparent about their manufacturing processes. Whether you are a seasoned fashion designer or a newcomer to the industry, considering viscose as part of your fabric selection can add both value and versatility to your collections.

Feel free to reach out to Valtin Apparel to get more information and samples and see how viscose can be incorporated into your next fashion project effectively and responsibly.

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Raymond Lau

Hey, I’m Raymond Lau, the senior account manager of Valtin Apparel.
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