TENCEL® is a brand name for a fiber which is also called lyocell, manufactured by the Lenzing AG company. Technically, a fabric must contain at least 30% of these proprietary fibers in order to use the name Tencel, but the term has become more commonly used than lyocell for similar products from all sources.
Whatever it's called, Tencel or lyocell is a sustainable fabric, regenerated from wood cellulose. It is similar in hand to rayon and bamboo, both regenerated fabrics. However, Tencel is one of the most environmentally friendly regenerated fabrics, for several reasons. Tencel fibers are grown sustainably.
Unlike rayon and bamboo, Tencel’s supply chain is transparent. It is obtained from eucalyptus trees that are grown on farms—no old growth forests, genetic manipulation, irrigation, or pesticides are used. These forests and the pulp produced for Tencel have earned Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification that the products come from socially and environmentally responsible forests. The European Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification has also endorsed Tencel's farming practices as sustainable. Tencel eliminates the negative environmental impacts of traditional fiber processing, using new sustainable technologies.
Tencel has some distinct advantages over traditional fibers in terms of chemical processing, which can often be extensive and toxic. For example, Rayon manufacturing generates highly polluting air and water emissions, uses catalytic agents containing cobalt or manganese, and creates a strong, unpleasant odor.
On the other hand, the chemicals used to produce lyocell fibers are nontoxic. In addition, the cellulose or ground pulp used for Tencel is treated in what is known as a closed loop process in which these solvents are recycled with a recovery rate of 99.5%. The tiny amount of remaining emissions is decomposed in biological purification plants. Because of the nature of the material, the processing never requires bleach. This overall method of manufacturing fabric was awarded the “European Award for the Environment” by the European Union.
TENCEL® fabric carries the Oeko Tex 100 certification, an international standard developed in 1992 to certify that it contains no harmful substances. Tencel also has been awarded the European Community Eco-label flower for products and services with reduced environmental impacts.
Tencel clothing is comfortable.
Tencel fibers are spun into yarns and then woven into textiles that are soft, absorbent, very strong when wet or dry, resistant to wrinkles and drape well. Tencel lends these qualities to the fabrics with which it is blended. It is often blended with natural fabrics such as hemp, cotton and wool.
All Lyocell is not created equal.
While the process used to produce fiber strands from wood pulp are very similar regardless of the source, the methods used to transform these fibers into yarn, fabric, and finished products can vary a lot. Strong chemicals may be used in this process, rendering the fiber less sustainable and potentially more toxic. For a fabric that has the smallest possible ecological footprint, choose brand-name TENCEL® or another lyocell fabric manufactured in Europe or the United States.