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What Is Tencel and Is It Sustainable?

Posted by Jessica Swanson on
What Is Tencel? | Alare
Watch out Rayon, Tencel may be out to get you. That's because Tencel is quickly becoming a cult-favorite for eco-conscious clothing brands. It’s durable. It’s soft. It’s breathable. And best of all, it’s sustainable. What’s not to love?

At Alare, people often ask us about the different types of materials they come across and, most importantly, if those materials are sustainable.

So whether or not you've come across Tencel during your shopping expeditions, here’s the scoop on this trendy fiber.

What Is Tencel?

In a nutshell, Tencel is a silky fabric made from the pulp of the eucalyptus tree using recyclable solvents.

How Is Tencel Produced?

Produced by the company Lenzing AG in Australia, Tencel is made with dissolved wood pulp and dried via spinning.

Once the Tencel is almost dry, a special mixture of solvent and wood chips is applied to the wood pulp to make thread. When enough thread is accumulated, it’s treated with special chemicals and spun into yarn before it’s made into cloth.

How Does Tencel Impact the Environment?

Like all textiles, Tencel isn't perfect regarding its carbon footprint. But using the company’s patented REFIBRA™ technology, it’s certainly better than other common fabrics. We’re looking at you polyester!

First of all, the manufacturing process doesn’t consume nearly as much water compared to other natural fibers like cotton – which, by the way, is one of the thirstiest plants on the planet. Ugh.

In addition, Tencel is biodegradable and isn’t going to clog up our landfills for the next 200 years.

And most Tencel is derived from certified plantations that are known for sustainable practices. Nice.

In order to turn the wood pulp into fiber, there are petrochemicals that are used in the production process.

However, the chemicals are recycled in a closed-loop system which results in minimizing waste. In fact, the Lenzing Group states that the recovery rate of the solvents is 99%. Not too shabby!

Are There Any Downsides to Tencel?

One of the drawbacks of Tencel is that the production process consumes a lot of energy, which is obviously not environmentally friendly. But, the company has addressed this and is working on solutions to fix that particular problem.

All in all, Tencel is an extremely environmentally-friendly material that is beginning to get the recognition it deserves. In fact, the prestigious European Award for the Environment was given to Lenzing AG due to its revolutionary manufacturing processes. Kudos!

Why We Love Tencel

1. Tencel is Gentle on the Environment

Since Tencel is made from naturally sourced wood pulp from the eucalyptus tree, it gets a big prize for its sustainability. The eucalyptus tree is known for thriving without pesticides and doesn’t need much water to survive.

2. Tencel is Soft and Durable

The fabric feels heavenly on the skin and is known for resisting rips whether it’s wet or dry.

3. Tencel Drapes Well

Besides being super soft, Tencel is also known for molding to the contours of the body. It feels like silk and can be fashioned easily into a variety of items like dresses, shirts, and pants.

4. Tencel is Absorbent and Breathable

Since Tencel is so porous, it dries quickly making it ideal for activewear.

5. Tencel Retains Its Shape

Unlike cotton, Tencel doesn’t shrink, wrinkle, or fade with time – even with multiple washings.

Final Thoughts

Tencel is not only great for the environment, but it also looks and feels good on the body. This sustainable fabric is a great alternative to other fabrics that have a larger carbon footprint and don’t last as long.


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