What is Lyocell?

In the booming sleep industry, there are more options than ever when it comes to choosing the sheets you’ll rest on every night. Although price and comfort are major elements in how we make these buying decisions, they’re no longer the only factors to consider. Nowadays, we want to know everything, from manufacturer ethics and product durability to quality of the raw materials in the construction.

Lyocell is one of those materials you’ve probably heard of, but don’t really know about. Here, we’ve taken the guesswork out of deciding whether those lyocell sheets you’ve been eyeing are the right ones for you.

What is Lyocell?

Lyocell, also called TENCEL™ (brand), is an eco-friendly fiber made from wood cellulose (wood pulp). Lyocell is soft and breathable, which makes it a great alternative to cotton when used in fabrics. 

Although lyocell is man-made, it is not synthetic. Textiles similar to lyocell such as rayon and modal are often mistaken as eco-friendly, because they are derived from wood cellulose found in eucalyptus trees. But even if you begin with a natural ingredient, a treatment of toxic-chemical synthesis can change the entire makeup of the material. The toxic chemicals used to make those fibres result in a regenerated fabric that could be categorized as semi-synthetic.

On the other hand, lyocell is made with amine oxide in a non-toxic solvent spinning technique. 

How is Lyocell Made?

The fibers of lyocell are regenerated from the cellulose—or natural polymers—of eucalyptus trees. The the wood cellulose is broken down with a non-toxic amine oxide chemical and reformed into more easily woven fibers. Eucalyptus trees grow very quickly and are generally a sustainable form of wood.

The lyocell brand TENCEL™ operates in an eco-friendly and sustainable closed-loop production process, which recycles more than 99% of the water and the solvent used to spin the cellulose. 

There is relatively little waste, and no harmful chemicals can leak out to environmental surroundings. TENCEL also farms eucalyptus trees grown solely to make lyocell—rather than cutting down eucalyptus trees in the wild—and also sources cellulose from renewable raw material, such as beech wood, for the wood pulp.

What are the Benefits of Lyocell Materials?

There are many benefits of using lyocell as a fabric, but the biggest benefit is its small footprint, especially when compared to textiles such as cotton and polyester. Also, when the lyocell comes from a manufacturer like TENCEL, harsh chemicals such as bleach or chlorine are not used in production, cutting down on emissions even further.

More benefits of lyocell include durability, softness, and a slight cool-to-the-touch sensation—a particular benefit to those who sleep hot. It’s very strong, easy to clean, and drapes well. Lyocell is often used to supplement other fiber blends in order to strengthen, soften, or add durability.

Lyocell is an innovative fabric that is far more efficient than cotton or polyester. The growth and cultivation of TENCEL eucalyptus trees reduce the need for pesticides—they’re organic!—and very little water is needed to produce TENCEL. In fact, a main environmental criticism of cotton is the large amount of water it needs to be produced. For reference, cotton takes 10 to 20 times more water than what is required to make lyocell fibers. 

What are the Downsides of Lyocell?

The two notable downsides of lyocell are appearance and the treatments used to develop the material. For those who love the crisp, matte look of cotton sheets, lyocell may be a little too sheen, which, some say, makes the fabric look cheap. Lyocell is also used in our Jersey Sheets which are super soft and cozy, but may be a little too warm for some. This downside is simply a matter of personal preference.

Another concern about lyocell is that, although it does require a significant amount of non-toxic chemicals to produce, the substances are still chemicals and can cause irritation on super-sensitive skin. If you have very sensitive skin, it’s probably best to buy a small item first—perhaps a pillowcase—to see how it affects you before going for the whole bed set.

All in all, lyocell is an excellent material that isn’t just comfortable, it’s also durable with a small carbon footprint. If those are on your list of requirements for your next set of sheets, lyocell is the way to go.

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Erin Cline
Erin Cline

Erin Cline is a Copywriter at Tuft & Needle and a Phoenix native who began her content marketing career in 2011. She is active in the storytelling community and excels at harnessing discomfort to fuel comic relief. Erin has two dog-ters named Baila and Rue who are very sweet, but have very simple minds. Erin loves karaoke, but hates mushrooms and raisins. Craisins are fine.

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