Viscose vs Modal vs Lyocell: Unveiling Sustainable Rayon Family

viscose vs modal vs lyocell

Last Updated on July 4, 2024 by Wahid

Choosing between viscose vs modal vs lyocell can be confusing. While all 3 falls under the umbrella of regenerated cellulose fibers (often referred to as rayon), they have distinct characteristics. Hence, they are all fairly similar then? Yes. Viscose, modal, and lyocell are very similar – so much so that you might be forgiven for calling them all viscose. The important thing to remember is that they may be man-made but they are not synthetic. In fact, as fibers that are man-made from a natural product, we might call them semi-synthetic fabrics. Here’s the key difference:

  • Viscose: The original rayon, made from dissolving wood pulp and chemically treating it.
  • Modal: A type of viscose known for its exceptional softness, derived from beech tree cellulose.
  • Lyocell: The most eco-friendly option, produced using a closed-loop solvent system that minimizes environmental impact.

Fortunately, this guide delves deeper into the world of these versatile fabrics, equipping you to make informed choices for your next project.

Viscose vs Modal vs Lyocell: Head-to-Head Comparison

The subtle alteration between viscose vs modal vs lyocell comes down to the different manufacturing processes and their final structure. The manufacturing process and chemicals of viscose and modal are very similar however modal fibers take slightly different steps after spinning such as stretching to increase their segmental orientation and consequently increasing tensile strength. That means these fibers have the potential to be lighter and finer. Well, let’s see the overall comparison below.

OriginWood pulpBeech tree cellulose (a type of viscose)Wood pulp
Production ProcessChemical treatmentSimilar to viscose but more refinedClosed-loop solvent system (eco-friendly)
SoftnessSoftExceptionally softVery soft
DrapeGood drape, varies by weightExcellent drapeExcellent drape
DurabilityModerately durableMore durable than viscoseMore durable than viscose
Moisture AbsorptionAbsorbs moisture wellExcellent moisture absorptionExcellent moisture absorption
Wrinkle ResistanceAverage wrinkle resistanceGood wrinkle resistanceGood wrinkle resistance
SustainabilityModerateMore sustainable than viscoseMost sustainable option
CostGenerally less expensiveMore expensive than viscoseMore expensive than viscose
Common UsesClothing, linings, home decorClothing, beddingClothing, bedding, towels

Unveiling the Rayon Family

Viscose, Lyocell, and Modal have been made from plant sources typically trees. So all of them have equal chemical base and are known as viscose in Europe and rayon in North America, and scientifically they are called regenerated cellulosic fibers.

What is Viscose Fabric?

Viscose, the original rayon, is a versatile fabric derived from wood pulp. It offers good drape, moisture absorption, & affordability, making it a popular choice for clothing, linings, and home decor. However, the production process involves chemicals, raising some environmental concerns.

What is Modal Fabric?

Modal is a type of viscose known for its exceptional softness and luxurious feel. Thus, made from beech tree cellulose, it offers enhanced durability & wrinkle resistance compared to regular viscose. Modal is often used for high-quality clothing and bedding.

What is Lyocell Fabric?

Lyocell, also known by the brand name Tencel®, is the most eco-friendly option among these three fabrics. Produced using a closed-loop solvent system that minimizes environmental impact, Lyocell boasts excellent drape, softness, & moisture absorption. It’s a popular choice for sustainable clothing, bedding, and even towels.

Viscose vs Modal vs Lyocell: What’s the Difference Between Them?

All 3 fabrics – viscose, modal, and lyocell – belong to the rayon family, regenerated cellulose fibers derived from wood pulp. But while they share some similarities, there are key differences to consider when choosing the right fabric for your needs. Here’s a breakdown:


  • Viscose: Made from wood pulp through a chemical treatment process.
  • Modal: A type of viscose specifically derived from beech tree cellulose.
  • Lyocell: Also made from wood pulp, but uses a more eco-friendly closed-loop solvent system.

Production Process:

  • Viscose: Uses a chemical treatment process that can be harsh on the environment.
  • Modal: Similar to viscose, but with a slightly more refined process.
  • Lyocell: The most eco-friendly option, employing a closed-loop solvent system that minimizes waste & environmental impact.

Viscose vs Modal vs Lyocell: Benefits & Drawbacks Breakdown

While all three fabrics – viscose, modal, and lyocell – fall under the rayon umbrella, they each possess unique advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a detailed breakdown to help you make informed fabric choices:


viscose fabric


  • Affordable: Viscose is generally the most budget-friendly option among the three.
  • Soft and Breathable: It offers a comfortable feel and allows for good air circulation.
  • Good Drape: Viscose drapes well, making it suitable for various clothing styles and home decor applications.
  • Widely Available: Viscose is readily available in a vast array of colors and patterns.


  • Moderate Durability: Viscose may wrinkle or lose its shape more easily compared to modal and lyocell.
  • Average Wrinkle Resistance: It requires more frequent ironing or steaming to maintain a crisp look.
  • Less Eco-friendly Production: The viscose production process utilizes chemicals, raising some environmental concerns.


modal fabric


  • Exceptionally Soft: Modal boasts a luxurious softness, making it ideal for comfortable clothing and bedding.
  • Good Drape: Similar to viscose, modal offers good drapes for various garment styles.
  • More Durable than Viscose: Modal holds its shape better and resists wrinkles more effectively than viscose.
  • Good Moisture Absorption: Like viscose, modal absorbs moisture well, keeping you comfortable in warmer weather.


  • More Expensive: Modal generally comes at a higher price point compared to viscose.
  • Still Uses Chemicals: While a more refined process than viscose, modal production still involves some chemicals.
  • Limited Availability: Modal might be less readily available compared to viscose, particularly in terms of color and pattern options.


lyocell fabric


  • Most Eco-friendly: Lyocell is produced using a closed-loop solvent system, minimizing environmental impact.
  • Exceptionally Soft: Offers a luxurious and soft feel, comparable to modal.
  • Excellent Drape: Lyocell drapes beautifully, making it suitable for elegant clothing and home decor items.
  • Durable & Wrinkle-resistant: It holds its shape well and requires minimal ironing.
  • Excellent Moisture Absorption: Like the others, lyocell absorbs moisture effectively for breathability.


  • Most Expensive: Lyocell is generally the most expensive option among the three.
  • Limited Availability: Similar to modal, lyocell might be less readily available in a wide variety of colors and patterns.

Ultimately, the best fabric for you depends on your priorities:

  • For affordability: Viscose is the winner.
  • For ultimate softness: Both modal and lyocell excel, with a slight edge towards modal in terms of luxurious feel.
  • For eco-consciousness: Lyocell is the clear champion due to its closed-loop production process.
  • For a balance of softness and sustainability: Modal offers a good compromise.

Remember, this information empowers you to make informed choices based on your project needs. Consider all factors, including a budget, desired feel, environmental impact, and care requirements before selecting your perfect fabric.

Viscose vs Modal vs Lyocell: Exploring Applications – Where Do They Shine?

Viscose, modal, and lyocell, the versatile trio of the rayon family, find themselves woven into a variety of applications. Let’s delve deeper into where each fabric truly shines:

Viscose: The All-Rounder

  • Clothing: Viscose’s affordability and good drape make it a popular choice for dresses, blouses, linings, & even some suit jackets. It’s also commonly used for everyday wear like t-shirts and shirts.
  • Home Decor: Viscose adds a touch of texture and style to curtains, blinds, and upholstery fabrics.

Modal: The King (or Queen) of Comfort

  • Clothing: Modal’s exceptional softness makes it ideal for luxurious undergarments, loungewear, pajamas, & comfortable t-shirts. It’s also a popular choice for activewear due to its moisture absorption properties.
  • Bedding: Experience the ultimate comfort with modal sheets, pillowcases, and duvets. The soft and breathable nature of modal allows for a restful sleep.

Lyocell: Sustainable Style & Comfort

  • Clothing: Lyocell’s eco-friendly production and luxurious feel make it a perfect choice for shirts, pants, dresses, and even eco-conscious suits.
  • Bedding: Similar to modal, lyocell sheets and bedding provide a luxuriously soft and breathable sleeping experience.
  • Towels: Lyocell’s excellent moisture absorption makes it a great choice for towels, offering a soft and absorbent feel.

Beyond the Obvious:

While these are some of the most common applications, the possibilities extend further:

  • Viscose: Can be used for crafting scarves, tablecloths, & even some craft supplies like ribbons.
  • Modal: Can be found in socks and athletic wear due to its comfort and moisture management properties.
  • Lyocell: Finds its way into eco-friendly home decor items like tablecloths, napkins, and even some throw pillows.

Choosing the Right Fabric for Your Project:

Consider the desired outcome when selecting your fabric:

  • For a budget-friendly & versatile option: Viscose might be the answer.
  • For ultimate comfort & softness in clothing or bedding: Modal or lyocell are excellent choices.
  • For a luxurious & sustainable option: Lyocell reigns supreme.

Remember: This list serves as a starting point. Hence, experiment and explore the vast possibilities that viscose, modal, and lyocell offer!


Is viscose the same as modal?

No, modal is a type of viscose known for its exceptional softness. It’s derived from beech tree cellulose, a specific source within the broader category of wood pulp used for viscose. Though viscose originated as an alternative method to producing rayon, it is now considered an interchangeable term. “Viscose” is typically used in European countries, which is why our Italian designer rayons are called viscose.

Which fabric is softer, modal or lyocell?

Both modal and lyocell are incredibly soft, but modal might have a slight edge in terms of luxurious feel. It all depends on personal preference! Lyocell and modal are both coming from the wood fiber, they are just different generations of man-made fibers. Modal is usually high in stretch, and the fiber is shorter in terms of length than lyocell. Whereas lyocell is the long length fiber that has more bones and shine compared to modal. Tencel lyocell is the best lyocell and it’s the best man-made wood fiber of all kinds.

Is viscose eco-friendly?

Viscose production uses chemicals, raising some environmental concerns. While not the most eco-friendly option, it’s improving with advancements in technology.

Is lyocell stronger than viscose?

Both lyocell and modal are generally considered more durable than viscose. They resist wrinkles & hold their shape better.

What is the best fabric for breathable clothing?

All three fabrics are breathable due to their cellulose origin. However, modal and lyocell might have a slight edge due to their superior moisture absorption. 

Does viscose shrink easily?

Viscose can shrink if not cared for properly. Always follow care instructions on the label for best results.

Is modal more expensive than viscose?

Yes, modal is generally more expensive than viscose due to the refined production process.

Can you wash lyocell sheets in hot water?

It’s best to follow the care instructions on the label. While lyocell is generally durable, hot water might damage the fabric.

Is there a vegan alternative to silk?

Modal and lyocell are excellent vegan alternatives to silk, offering a luxurious feel without animal products.

What is a good fabric for summer dresses?

All three fabrics can be suitable for summer dresses depending on the weight. Look for lighter weight options for optimal breathability.

Is viscose good for towels?

Viscose can be used for towels, but its absorbency might not be as good as cotton or lyocell.

How can I tell the difference between viscose, modal, and lyocell?

It can be difficult to distinguish them by feeling alone. So, look for care labels or consult a fabric expert for confirmation.

Is there a sustainable alternative to viscose?

Lyocell is considered the most sustainable option among these three fabrics due to its closed-loop solvent system. The word Tencel is actually a trademarked term for a fiber called lyocell. The manufacturing process for lyocell is slightly different from other rayons and results in very little waste product. This makes Tencel/lyocell more sustainable and eco-friendlier! 

Conclusion of Viscose vs Modal vs Lyocell Fabric  

The journey through the world of viscose vs modal vs lyocell fabrics hopefully equips you to make informed choices for your next project. While all 3 share the foundation of regenerated cellulose fibers, they offer distinct characteristics & applications.

Viscose: The budget-friendly all-rounder, perfect for versatile clothing and home decor projects.

Modal: The champion of comfort, ideal for luxuriously soft clothing and bedding.

Lyocell: The sustainable champion, boasting exceptional softness, durability, and eco-friendly production.

Actually, there’s no single winner! The “best” fabric truly depends on your specific needs and priorities. Consider factors like:

  • Budget: Viscose reigns supreme for affordability.
  • Softness: Both modal and lyocell excel, with a slight edge towards modal for some.
  • Durability and Wrinkle Resistance: Modal and Lyocell hold the edge here.
  • Sustainability: Lyocell takes the crown with its closed-loop production system.

Finally, this knowledge empowers you to explore the possibilities! Experiment with these fabrics to discover which one best complements your vision & values. Whether you seek comfort, affordability, or environmental consciousness, viscose, modal, and lyocell offer a path to achieving your desired outcome. Happy crafting!