Choosing Tencel Fabric Clothes for Travel in 2022
If you want garments that are soft and luxurious, drape beautifully and are naturally wrinkle resistant, then pack some garments made from Tencel into your travel bag.
What is Tencel Fabric?
If you’re like me, you’ve never heard of Tencel. But if it is soft and luxurious, drapes beautifully is wrinkle resistant …. you might be willing to hear more.
Most of us think that there are two types of fabric:
Is Tencel a Natural Fiber?
Tencel is also called Lyocell. Tencel fiber is made from dissolving the cellulose found in the wood of trees or in bamboo in a variety of chemicals and then making it into a fiber again. So, it’s a “natural” product but needs some fairly unnatural manufacturing processes. It is sometimes called a “natural synthetic” or a “man-made natural”.
The process of using cellulose for fiber and fabric has been around for a long time. In France in the 1890’s it was called “artificial silk”, and in the 1920’s it became known as rayon.
Fibers made from cellulose in wood are called Lyocell but may be referred to as Tencel. Tencel® is the brand name for Lyocell produced by a company called Lenzing Fibres in Austria.
However, the name Tencel has increasingly been used to describe all lyocell fabrics – a bit like “Kleenex” is used to describe any brand of facial tissue!
Does Tencel shrink?
Tencel fabric is the result of high-tech manufacturing processes and is the third-generation development undertaken by Lenzing. They started working with rayon in 1938 and developed their own brand called Lenzing Viscose®. From 1964, they developed Modal®, which is an improvement on viscose, as it doesn’t stretch or shrink and it is much softer. From 1990, Lenzing added nanotechnology to produce Tencel®.
What makes Tencel different?
Tencel is made up of tiny fibers. These fibers or nanofibrils of Tencel are hydrophilic, which means that they absorb a lot of water, but the surface remains dry. The moisture content in Tencel is 13%, compared to 1% in a polyester fabric, but it feels cool rather than damp. Garments made from Tencel are very cool and refreshing to wear.
Is Tencel breathable?
Other advanced techniques control the fibrils or tiny hairs on the surface of the fibers. This makes the fabric very smooth. The smooth surface has better contact with your skin and adds to the coolness that you feel. It also allows for a wide range of finishes, from silky smooth to suede-like or “peach-skinned” to rugged denim.
This combination of smoothness and water absorption makes Tencel a wonderful fabric for active wear and for home textiles like bedding. It’s good for people with sensitive skins as it is hypo-allergenic.
Is Tencel environmentally friendly?
This is where the brand becomes important. If you want to wear garments made from regenerated fiber, then you might also want to know where it was manufactured.
Converting wood chips to a softly flowing dress is complex and uses so many chemicals that your eyes start burning just reading their names! Some companies are not too careful about how they dispose of these chemicals!Companies like Lenzing, however, have patented processes that use as many non-toxic chemicals as possible. They also have a “closed loop” system that recycles the chemicals and does not pump them into landfills or rivers.
In fact, Lenzing products have medical certification to show that fabrics have been tested for toxins and will not irritate or damage your skin. Look for the label: “Medically tested – tested for toxins” if you want the genuine Tencel® product.
If you are buying another brand of lyocell, make sure that it is at least 30% Lenzing Tencel®, or that it comes from a recognized facility, so that you know that there is some control over environmental issues. Currently, there are only four manufacturing facilities for regenerated fiber – one in the USA, two in Europe and one in India.
While the manufacturing process may be somewhat hazardous, the base plants are very eco-friendly. Tencel is made from eucalyptus trees that don’t need pesticides or irrigation and uses significantly less land and water than cotton. It’s said that industrially grown cotton uses twenty times more water than a comparable yield of Tencel. Eucalyptus trees can also be grown on land that is unsuitable for farming.
How does Tencel fabric compare with other fabrics?
Tencel vs Cotton
After cotton has been scoured and bleached it is 99% cellulose – just like Tencel. However, the cotton fibers are more closely packed and parallel to each other and are therefore much stronger and harder than those of Tencel.
Tencel is often added to cotton to make it more supple and to give it some luster. Those who have bought Tencel garments report that they feel softer than cotton, feel airier to wear and don’t have to be washed as often.
Tencel vs Merino
An interesting development has been the blending of Tencel with merino wool. These fibers share some properties – both neutralize odors, regulate moisture and heat and both are very soft. But when you combine them, there is a super cooling effect, and there is no hint of the itchiness that you might associate with wool.
Tencel vs Modal
Rayon and Modal and Tencel are the same product – with Modal and Tencel having advanced technologies to improve on the original. A big difference now is in the manufacturing process, where Tencel has a closed loop process to avoid environmental damage.
Tencel vs Polyester
Tencel may be called a “natural synthetic”, but when it is compared with a real synthetic like polyester, it’s natural qualities shine through. Polyester is very durable, but, unlike Tencel, it is quite hard and it does not absorb moisture, so can be uncomfortable against the skin. It is part of the petrochemical industry which has significant environmental challenges.
What sort of clothes are made from Tencel?
It’s obvious when you look through the advertisements for Tencel products that the fabric is soft and silky. There are dresses with skirts that will twirl, coats with pleats or gathers at the back, flowing tunics and shirts, cool culottes – and fitted jeans, shorts, and trousers. These are luxurious clothes for the elegant traveler!
New technologies in microfiber make Tencel “like a second skin”. This is great for lingerie and for socks and stockings. Lingerie for sportswear is getting particular attention.
The colors are deep and bright and garments have a gloss to them. Washing won’t affect the look.
How to Wash Tencel Fabric?
Tencel should be washed by hand or by machine on a gentle cycle. Use a gentle detergent and cold water and then drip dry. Even so, Tencel may shrink a little when you first wash it. If there is a bit of wrinkling use a warm iron only – too much heat will damage the fabric.
Be on the lookout for “dry clean only” labels. This is usually when there are combinations of fabrics – for example, a Tencel jacket with a lining of another fabric. Washing may cause one to shrink more than the other and pucker the garment.
Tencel products may be a little more expensive than others, simply because they cost more to produce. But if you want garments that are soft and luxurious, drape beautifully and are naturally wrinkle resistant then you might want some Tencel in your travel bag.
Oh and something else to remember if you’re traveling. Pack the wet wipes! Did you know that the best ones, if you want to be hygienically clean and environmentally friendly, are made from Tencel?
Written By Kate Mark
Kate is a mid-lifer who quit a growing corporate career to reawaken her passions and her lifelong dream of traveling the world.