Lyocell is a relatively new fabric in the textile industry. Originally created in 1972 and popularized in the 1980s and 1990s, Lyocell is a semi-synthetic fabric made from cellulose taken from primarily eucalyptus trees.
It’s a popular fabric because it’s breathable, soft, and has moisture wicking properties. People often use it for active wear, undergarments, and even jeans! These types of garments can make you wonder about the stretchiness of the fabric.
So, is lyocell stretchy? Yes, lyocell is stretchy, but only about the same amount as a cotton fabric. It’s made with plant fibers, so while it does have about 5% stretch, it won’t be as stretchy as other fabrics. To make it more stretchy, it’s often mixed with spandex.
Lyocell is a fantastic fabric in the sustainability movement and is swiftly gaining interest among the fashion industry. If you want to learn more about lyocell before using it for your own sewing projects at home, keep reading below!
What Is Lyocell?
Lyocell is a semi-synthetic fiber made from cellulose, very similar to rayon. It uses a closed-loop process, which means any toxic chemicals involved in the process are kept within the process and are not released into the environment.
This closed-loop process means that nearly all of the solvent used to make lyocell is fed back into the machines and used again. More than 99%! This is just one factor that makes the fabric incredibly sustainable.
Cellulose is a plant fiber, and in the case of lyocell, this cellulose is taken directly from trees. Lyocell is most often made from eucalyptus trees, though it can also be made from oak and birch trees.
Eucalyptus are the most common trees used for making lyocell because they’re easy to grow. Eucalyptus can thrive in place that most other plants would fail. They require no fertilizer, no irrigation, and no pesticides.
As a fabric, lyocell is soft to the touch and very breathable. It has moisture wicking properties, which make it ideal for active wear and undergarments. It also has a nice stretch – but let’s dive into that more below.
Is Lyocell Stretchy?
If you’re looking to make your own work-out clothes, you may be wondering what the best fabric option is. You want a fabric that’s breathable, soft, moisture wicking, and has a decent stretch to it for comfort while you move.
There are plenty of active wear fabrics on the market, but one you may unintentionally overlook is lyocell.
Is lyocell stretchy? The answer is yes! While it won’t be as stretchy as something like spandex, lyocell has about the same amount of stretch as cotton.
This means that lyocell provides a decent amount of stretch for simple comfort while you move through your work-out, walk through your office, or just lounge at home on your couch.
If you want more stretch in your lyocell garment, try looking for a lyocell fabric that has a small percentage of spandex mixed in. The spandex will add the extra stretch you’re looking for while maintaining the softness and breathability of the lyocell.
For those who may be on the fence about using lyocell, it could be helpful to dive into the advantages and disadvantages of using this fabric. We’ve got a summary below, with more details provided underneath.
|Eco-friendly (closed-loop production process, compostable/biodegradable)||Not sustainable in energy|
|Sustainable on several levels (source, production, disposal)||No longer compostable when blended|
|Breathable||Delicate washing instructions|
Once of lyocell’s main selling points, and the reason it’s gaining so much popularity, is that it’s a sustainable and eco-friendly fabric.
Even though it requires chemicals to be made, as most modern products do, the chemicals used in the process for making lyocell are all kept within the machines using that closed-loop process we mentioned earlier.
This keeps those chemicals out of our environment and simply cycles them through the machines as intended. It’s also sustainable in the source it comes from. As we noted above, lyocell comes from eucalyptus trees.
Because these trees are able to grow and survive with very little maintenance or intervention, they’re easy to grow in places where other plants wouldn’t. People can plant these trees again and again and simply watch them grow.
Lyocell is also easy to blend with other fibers to create blended fabrics. It can be easily combined with spandex, cotton, polyester, and even wool.
Adding lyocell to polyester can help cut down on the synthetic fiber production and promote more sustainable fibers becoming more common in the textile industry.
The final sustainability advantage comes in with disposal. When you’re done with your clothes, what do you do with them?
If they’re made with lyocell, you can compost them! Lyocell fabric is made from plants, so it can be composted and is biodegradable. This helps clear out excess trash from our landfills and creates an overall more sustainable planet.
Aside from just the sustainability, lyocell also has advantages when it comes to its breathability and moisture wicking properties. Sweat in your underwear isn’t a picnic for anyone. That’s why making underwear with lyocell fabric is gaining a lot of popularity!
Not only does it provide your body with comfortable breathability, but it can wick away sweat to help you stay feeling fresh all day long.
Although we highlighted a lot of different ways that lyocell is sustainable, there is one area where its sustainability is lacking: energy.
Lyocell requires a high amount of energy to manufacture. With the closed-loop process and multiple steps to production (harvesting the trees, dissolving the wood pulp, dissolving the wood pulp, stringing it into fibers, weaving the fibers), it eats up a lot of energy.
Another downside to one of the sustainability highlights is that even though lyocell on its own is compostable, once blended with a synthetic fiber like polyester or rayon, it’s no longer compostable.
This would apply to spandex, too. So if you’re looking for a higher stretch in your clothes and want a lyocell blend, keep in mind that it won’t be compostable or biodegradable when the blend contains synthetic fibers.
The last disadvantage to lyocell is the high care required for washing. Lyocell is actually a fairly delicate fabric, so the washing instructions are pretty limiting. You can’t use any hot water, and it’s best to stay away from the dryer too.
Heat can shrink and break down the fibers, so you have to stick with a cold-water delicate cycle and laying it flat to dry. This more hands-on washing process can be a disadvantage for people who don’t have time in their day to spend on laundry.
Finally, lyocell is more expensive to produce, which makes it more expensive to purchase. If you’re someone who needs to create your fabric projects on the cheap, then lyocell may not be the right choice for you.
Lyocell Vs Rayon
Since rayon is also a cellulose-based fiber made commonly from wood pulp taken from eucalyptus trees, many people wonder about the differences between lyocell and rayon.
Essentially, lyocell is an upgraded rayon. It has a much more eco-friendly and sustainable process for production, which makes it more popular in today’s culture focused on green initiatives.
Lyocell is also softer and more breathable. Rayon doesn’t have nearly the breathability of lyocell, which makes lyocell ideal for warm weather garments.
Not only is lyocell more breathable, but it’s also better in the moisture wicking category. For people looking to make active wear or undergarments, lyocell would be a much better choice than rayon.
And still, with all of these differences, it’s wild to think that lyocell and rayon are technically the same thing! Lyocell is considered to be a “third generation” version of rayon.
The two fabrics are sourced from the same trees, and the fibers are made through a similar process, although lyocell still has a more sustainable version of the process than rayon.
Are Tencel And Lyocell The Same?
Yes! While many people may not realize it, TENCEL™ is simply a brand of lyocell.
TENCEL™ is the name of the lyocell fabric product created by Austrian company Lenzing AG. You can even go to their website and learn more about their specific production process of TENCEL™ lyocell.
Many people speak about lyocell and TENCEL™ interchangeably because they are the same. Although other manufacturers also produce their own lines of lyocell fabrics, TENCEL™ is the largest brand on the market.
Is Tencel Lyocell Stretchy In Jeans?
We’ve talked about the stretchiness level of lyocell, so now you may be wondering, how stretchy is it in jeans?
Jeans are commonly made from cotton denim, but with the many sustainable and eco-friendly advantages of lyocell, it’s now becoming increasingly common to make jeans with lyocell instead of cotton.
In terms of stretchiness, this really won’t make much of a difference. Lyocell has about the same amount of stretch as cotton, so you can expect the same kind of stretchiness in your lyocell jeans as in your cotton jeans.
The main difference comes after repeated wear. Cotton fibers tend to stretch out and stay stretched out. Over time, as you wear your cotton jeans, they will begin to lose their original shape.
Lyocell isn’t like that. It snaps back to its original shape even after several wears, keeping your jeans looking newer longer.
Some jeans manufacturers will use cotton blended with a small amount of spandex. This adds that slight touch of stretch that many people want in their jeans to feel more comfortable.
The same thing can be done with lyocell, which would help increase the stretchiness of your jeans if that’s an important factor for you.
Lyocell Vs Cotton Jeans
Although the stretchiness of the jeans isn’t all that different between cotton and lyocell, there are other factors that make lyocell a great option for jeans.
Remember how we talked about how breathable it is? Lyocell is much more breathable than cotton, and this characteristic can be a huge game changer with your jeans!
Lyocell is also incredibly soft, and some people tend to find cotton denim a little scratchy or stiff. If you’re looking for a softer and more comfortable pair of jeans, try a pair made with lyocell.
As we noted above, lyocell also won’t stretch out and lose its shape over time. It will snap back to its original shape, so you don’t have to worry about buying new jeans on a routine basis.
However, there are advantages to cotton jeans as well! We briefly mentioned earlier that lyocell has more delicate care instructions. You can’t use heat, and although it can be run on a cold-water delicate cycle, some people still maintain that lyocell is best handwashed.
Cotton jeans can simply be thrown into the washing machine.
Since cotton is known to shrink in the dryer, it’s still best to leave to hang dry, but it’s a lot easier to hang something to dry straight from the washing machine than it is to handwash it first.
While we’re on the subject of washing your lyocell jeans, let’s learn more about care instructions for lyocell below.
How To Wash Lyocell
Although we’ve mentioned the care instructions for lyocell a few times, we think it’s helpful to provide a summary of the care instructions here for quick reference.
- Never use heat – this means no hot water, no dryer, and no iron! (For more information on ironing, see below).
- Wash lyocell on a cold-water delicate cycle in your washing machine or handwash. Handwashing is preferred, but a cold-water delicate cycle can work if you’re in a hurry.
- Use a gentle detergent. Don’t use anything too harsh. This applies to stain removers too!
- Speaking of stain removers – never use chlorine bleach on lyocell. If you need to use bleach, use oxygen bleach only. Chlorine bleach with damage your clothes.
- Once your lyocell garment is clean, be sure to hang it up or lay it flat to dry (depending on the garment). Lyocell is too delicate for the dryer, so it can only safely be dried by hanging or laying it flat.
Take care of your lyocell properly and it will last you for years to come! With its ability to spring back into shape, you don’t even have to worry about it stretching or becoming misshapen through years of use.
As long as you wash it following the guidelines above, you’ll be able to wear and love your lyocell clothing as long as you want!
Can You Iron Lyocell?
While you may not need to iron your underwear, if you have a dress made of lyocell, it would make sense to iron that before wear.
The only problem is that lyocell can’t handle heat. Any heat will damage the fibers and ruin your garment.
If there are wrinkles in your lyocell garment that you absolutely can’t stand, you can try very carefully to iron it on the lowest possible heat setting.
Make sure you place another layer of fabric on top of the lyocell so that the lyocell isn’t getting direct heat.
You can even try just hovering the iron above the fabric instead of pressing it down. The ambient heat may be enough to help it flatten.
You can try steaming instead, but don’t use a traditional steamer. Those would be too hot too.
Instead, try hanging your lyocell garment in the bathroom and run a hot shower. The steam that fills the room should be enough to straighten out the garment without providing too much heat.