What Is Viscose Made Of? Is It Eco-friendly?

The third most utilized textile fiber in the world is reportedly viscose. If viscose is unfamiliar to you, you might be familiar with it by another name: rayon. It’s a tree-based semi-synthetic fiber, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better for the environment or for you. The substance has actually recently raised a lot of environmental concerns. You must be aware of the following.

What Is Viscose?

In the fashion industry, viscose is frequently promoted as a less harmful substitute for cotton or polyester as well as a less expensive and more robust option to silk. These draping summer dresses, skirts, supple blouses, and synthetic velvet are frequently made with it. But viscose isn’t just found in our clothes—it’s also used in the manufacturing of upholstery, bedding, carpets, cellophane, and even sausage casing!

What Ingredients Are Used To Create Viscose Material?

Wood pulp, typically from pine, beech, and eucalyptus trees, is used to make viscose. The wood is dissolved into a pulp solution, which is then washed, cleaned, and bleached as part of the viscose manufacturing process. To produce fibers, this solution is processed once more. Regenerated cellulose is produced from the fibers through additional processing and is spun into yarn for the production of textiles.

A Brief History Of Viscose

The history of rayon made from viscose is distinctly European. Hilaire de Chardonnet (1839–1924), a French industrialist and scientist, is credited with creating the first viscose fiber for commercial use as a less expensive substitute for silk. But because the fabric was so flammable, it was quickly taken off the market while the German Bemberg Company created a safer procedure. The manufacturing process was discovered and patented in 1892 by British scientists Charles Frederick Cross, Edward John Bevan, and Clayton Beadle. By 1905, the first commercial viscose rayon was available for purchase.

Is Viscose A Natural Substance?

Sodium hydroxide and carbon disulphide are used in the production of viscose yarns, which makes the fabric from natural wood sources a semi-synthetic material.

How Is Viscose Made?

Bamboo can also be used to make viscose, which is typically made from the wood pulp of trees like beech, pine, and eucalyptus. Because so many chemicals, including carbon disulfide and sodium hydroxide, are used in the viscose process, viscose is considered to be semi-synthetic.

Five steps can be used to summarize the production of viscose:

  1. 1. The plant is broken down into wood pulp using chippers, and chemicals like sodium hydroxide are dissolved to create a brown wood pulp solution.
  2. 2. Then, this dark wood pulp is cleaned, bleached, and cleaned again.
  3. 3. The pulp is treated with carbon disulfide to produce the fibers, and the resulting viscous solution is then dissolved in sodium hydroxide.”
  4. 4. A spinneret, a device that produces regenerated cellulose filaments, is used to force the viscous solution through it.
  5. 5. This recycled cellulose is spun into yarn, which can then be woven or knit into viscose rayon fabric.

What Features Does Viscose Possess?

If you want a lightweight material with a nice drape, a lustrous finish, and a soft feel, viscose is a great choice. It can convey luxury for a much lower price point and is reasonably cheap. Additionally, it mixes well with materials like cotton, polyester, and spandex.

  • 1. Absorbent. Suitable for t-shirts and athletic wear, viscose rayon does not retain heat but also effectively absorbs water and perspiration.
  • 2. Lightweight. Because it is so light and airy, viscose works well for blouses and summer dresses.
  • 3. Breathable. It is the best fabric for warm weather clothing because it is extremely light and doesn’t stick to the body.
  • 4. Soft. Although it feels like cotton, the fabric looks like silk.
  • 5. Maintains Shape. Although the fabric is not elastic, it can be blended with other fabrics to add stretch, like spandex.
  • 6. Dye fast. Even after repeated washings and prolonged use, viscose retains color without fading.

How To Care For Viscose

Dry cleaning is required for viscose clothing because spot removal methods occasionally result in long-lasting stains. When damp, it can stretch and lose a lot of its strength.

To prevent any dye bleeds, always hand wash viscose in cold water if you do decide to do so. Gently work a mild detergent into the fabric using your hands. To avoid stretching it, do not wring or squeeze the item. Shake off the water after rinsing, then hang or flatten the item to dry.

Viscose – The Pros And Cons

Silk has long been replaced with great success by viscose. It is easier to produce and mixes well with other fabrics. Its soft texture and beautifully draped lightweight composition make it ideal for clothing design.

The advantages and disadvantages of this adaptable fabric are discussed here:

Viscose Characteristics And Benefits:

  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Drapes
  • Maintains shape
  • Absorbent
  • Comfortable
  • Soft texture
  • Durable
  • Inexpensive
  • Perfect for blending with other fabrics

Other, Perhaps Less Advantageous, Qualities Of Viscose Fabric:

  • May shrink when washed
  • Material may weaken when wet
  • Wrinkles easily
  • Fibres may weaken due to exposure to light

Even though viscose has some drawbacks, they are outweighed by its advantages, especially when it is properly cleaned and maintained. However, one of the most important discussions surrounding viscose—and perhaps one of the most critical aspects to consider when selecting this substance for clothing production—relates to its environmental impact.

Plain Dye Viscose

How Is Viscose Made?

Viscose is made from the “cellulose” or wood pulp of quickly expanding, regenerate trees like eucalyptus, beech, and pine, as well as plants like bamboo, soy, and sugar cane. After being dissolved in a chemical solution, the cellulose material is spun into fibers that can be made into threads.

Is Viscose Safe For The Environment?

How environmentally friendly is viscose, is the question.’ can be challenging to answer. Natural wood pulp is used to create viscose. However, the chemicals employed in the extraction of wood pulp for the production of yarns may be detrimental to the environment. It is called a semi-synthetic fabric as a result.

In recent years, viscose producers have improved their processes and adopted more environmentally friendly practices. Forests with the FSC certification contribute to the availability of resources that are sustainably managed. Lyocell, a more recent version of viscose, is one sustainable fabric option.

Environmental Considerations In Viscose Fabric Production

Because of the water wasted during production, the saturation of chemicals, and the destruction of regional ecosystems, viscose is not a sustainable option. Before deciding to buy viscose, take into account the following:

  1. Deforestation. Viscose can be made from wood that has been harvested sustainably, but it frequently comes from forests that have not been managed sustainably, which has a detrimental effect on nearby ecosystems and wipes out large natural forests.
  2. Toxic chemicals. Viscose is produced using a significant amount of hazardous chemicals, which pollute the environment both inside and outside. Air emissions near viscose production facilities contain sulfur, nitrous oxides, carbon, disulfide, and hydrogen sulfide. The production of other types of rayon, such as modal, tencel, and lyocell, is cleaner, even though the chemicals can be reused throughout the cycle of production.
  3. Water waste. Water is used extensively during the production of viscose, both for the irrigation of the trees and for the fabric-making process.

The production of viscose has a high environmental impact even though it is biodegradable and derived from renewable resources.

As A Result, Is Viscose Sustainable?

Viscose is not toxic or polluting by nature because it is a plant-based fiber. However, due to the expanding fast fashion industry, a large portion of the viscose sold today is produced at low cost through energy, water, and chemical-intensive processes that have a terrible effect on the environment, local communities, and workers.

The origin of the wood pulp and the process used to transform it into a fabric that can be used are the two main issues with viscose production.

The chemically treated wood pulp used to create viscose is filtered and spun into a fine thread in a manufacturing process. This is a very polluting process that releases numerous toxic chemicals into the air and waterways close to manufacturing facilities. One of the chemicals used, carbon disulphide, is a toxic component that has been linked to higher rates of coronary heart disease, birth defects, skin conditions, and cancer, not just in textile workers but also in people who live close to viscose factories. Additionally, dissolving-pulp production uses a lot of chemicals and wastes about 70% of the tree.

The Changing Markets Foundation conducted an investigation in 2017 that connected fashion retailers like Zara, H&M, and Marks & Spencer to highly polluting viscose factories in China, India, and Indonesia. Additionally, worries have been expressed about the devastation that wood pulp production causes to forests, people, and vulnerable animal populations.

Additionally, the world’s forests are rapidly disappearing as a result of the production of viscose, which is being done to make way for pulpwood plantations. 30% or so of the rayon and viscose used in fashion, according to estimates, is derived from wood pulp taken from old-growth and threatened forests. Along with habitat destruction, which poses a serious threat to endangered species, this frequently involves violations of human rights and land appropriation from indigenous communities.

In order to ensure that viscose is not from high-risk areas, organizations like Canopy do their part. To create a life-cycle analysis on alternative fibers in 2014, Canopy also collaborated with Stella McCartney.

Despite the complexity of the viscose production process, retailers are a major contributor to the issue. Manufacturers are under pressure from the big names in fast fashion to produce and distribute clothing at faster and cheaper rates. This supports these unsustainable environmental and social practices. Large companies have the resources and influence to support ethical and sustainable manufacturing, but there hasn’t been enough substantial action in this area. Unfortunately, while viscose suppliers have made significant efforts over the years to remove endangered forest fibers from their feedstocks, approximately 75% of the world’s top brands have made few to no commitments to sourcing more sustainable viscose, according to a new report by the Changing Markets Foundation.”

Samples of different green yellow and blue fabrics hang on hooks on metal rack bar in hallway at goods exhibition closeup

What Kind Of Clothing Is Made Of Viscose Fabric?

Viscose is a popular option in the clothing industry because of its adaptability and texture. Viscose dresses, including floaty maxi dresses, can be designed to have a silky feel thanks to this material.

Viscose shirts and trousers are ideal for both casual and formal wear because of their aesthetic appeal.

Additionally, viscose is very absorbent, which makes it the perfect fabric for athletic clothing like sports tops and leggings.

Due to its lightweight, airy, and breathable qualities, viscose is a popular fabric among clothing manufacturers for summer collections.

How Does Viscose Stack Up Against Other Materials?

Look at some of the key distinctions between viscose and other fabrics.

What Distinguishes Viscose From Polyester, And How Is Each Different From The Other?

Viscose and polyester are frequently compared as being similar fabrics. The two do differ in some significant ways, though.

  • The fabric polyester is synthetic. Viscose, which is semi-synthetic, is produced using natural fibers and synthetic chemicals.
  • Polyester dries quicker and does not wrinkle as easily.
  • Viscose is less resilient than polyester.
  • Polyester won’t contract.
  • Compared to polyester, viscose is more likely to pill.

What Distinguishes Viscose From Cotton And Vice Versa?

Cotton and viscose are both made from natural resources, but they differ in a few ways:

  • Viscose costs less to make than cotton.
  • Especially when the fabric is wet, viscose is less durable than cotton.
  • Viscose dyes take dye more readily.
  • Compared to cotton, viscose drapes nicely.
  • In comparison to the production of cotton, viscose requires more steps and chemicals.

What To Consider Before Purchasing Viscose Fabric

The best decision when purchasing any fabric requires taking into account a number of factors, and viscose is no exception. Look at some of the key areas to investigate:

Quality Of Viscose Fabric

The fabric viscose is soft and lightweight, and it usually feels good against the skin. The fabric is strong and suitable for a variety of garments, including dresses, blouses, and pants.


Viscose fabric takes dye well and is simple to dye.


Viscose has the potential to shrink after washing, which is one of its drawbacks since every fabric shrinks differently. Consider purchasing additional fabric or pre-shrunk options when buying viscose.

Washing Viscose And Care Instructions

When washing, viscose needs to be handled carefully. Due to the delicate fibers in most viscose clothing, hand washing or dry cleaning is usually the only option.

The Future Of Viscose Fabric

The manufacture of various types of clothing using viscose is popular and affordable. Although there are some concerns about its production and long-term viability as a fabric choice, many clothing manufacturers make efforts to develop cleaner and more environmentally friendly processes.

It makes an excellent choice for clothing because it is a versatile and light fabric. Additionally, because of its silk-like characteristics, it offers a substitute that is both inexpensive and luxurious.

The market is expected to grow at a rate of 4% between 2021 and 2026, according to research, with key market trends pointing to rising demand for woven fibers as a natural, biodegradable substitute for synthetic materials.

Viscose Faqs

Is Viscose Stretchy?

Fabric made of viscose is neither elastic nor stretchable. To create a flexible composition, you can combine it with other materials like elastane.

Is Viscose Breathable?

The answer is yes; since viscose is a breathable material, it is perfect for summer clothing.

Does Viscose Cause You To Perspire?

Viscose is a breathable, light-weight fabric that doesn’t trap heat, so it should aid in reducing perspiration.

Can You Dye Viscose?

It is possible to dye viscose because it is made of natural fibers.

Does Viscose Crease?

A delicate fabric that is simple to crease is viscose. Viscose should be ironed at low heat or on the silk setting.

Is Viscose Vegan?

Being made from a natural resource, wood pulp, viscose is technically vegan. Some manufacturers, though, use synthetic chemicals that could be bad for the environment.

Lucky Wong

Learn More →