What Is Lyocell? A Truly Sustainable Fabric?

You may already know that the fashion industry does a lot of harm to the planet. That’s why you need to know the answer to “what is lyocell?”

You may not know that to counter the issues caused by “fast fashion”, that there are efforts to create truly sustainable fabrics. 

In fact, we recently featured one such offering – Modal fabric

Now, we want to turn our attention to another, Lyocell, and see whether it’s as sustainable as it’s made out to be.

So, What Is Lyocell?

Lyocell is a fabric which is made from wood. The majority, for the moment, is made from eucalyptus but you can use other woods too. 

The wood is chopped up into small pieces. Then it’s ground up and dissolved in a substance known as amine oxide.

And that leaves… cellulose.  This is then spun into fibers, which must be washed and then left to dry. 

When that’s done – it can be spun up into a yarn and you can start to make fabric from it. 

lyocell texture

What Does Lyocell Look Like And What Sort Of Texture Does It Have?

You can alter lyocell based fabrics into pretty much any kind of texture but before it’s spun – it’s very soft to the touch.

It won’t cling in that form and it’s considered to be truly hypoallergenic

It’s really good for sportswear because it can absorb nearly half as much fluid, again, as cotton can. 

Is Lyocell Really Sustainable?

Yes and no because as with all things, sustainability is complicated.

At first glance, lyocell is sustainable – it’s made out of wood (a renewable resource) and the main chemical used in the production remains unchanged and can be used over and over again (you can recover 99.5% of it, in fact). 

No Greenwashing At All?

That’s the problem – lyocell made in a factory where they use coal power? Not so green.  Lyocell made of wood that isn’t going to be renewed? Not so green, either.


So, yes, greenwashing is possible. That means to be sure that you’re getting a genuinely sustainable lyocell garment – you need to check the origins and ensure that the supply chain is free of problems.

Fortunately, most green fashion retailers make this data freely available. 

Why Does The Name Lyocel end in “cell”? 

You may have noticed a lot of green fabrics end in “cell” or “cel”.  That’s because it stands for “cellulose”. 

Lyocel is a generic name – there are brand names such as Tencel, Newell, Excel, etc. that are the same thing made by a particular company. 

Is Lyocel Used Commercially? 

is lyocell used commercially

Yes, it’s used in activewear and in other forms of clothing. 

In fact, it’s so popular that it’s expected to completely replace viscose in the supply chain!

However, replacing cotton is more of a challenge but lyocell will certainly reduce the amount of cotton used in clothes. 

Final Thoughts On Lyocell

It’s a fabric which can be completely sustainable and which makes an excellent alternative to viscose and sometimes, cotton

You just need to make sure you check out the credentials of the suppliers to be certain it’s really sustainable.