Know Your Plant-based Fabrics: Modal vs. Rayon

If you're looking for luxury, comfort, breathability, and environmental sustainability in your bedding, Viscose/Rayon, Modal, and Lyocell are all good options. They all seem to have been lumped together under the sustainable label. This article focuses on Modal vs. Rayon.

Although they're all constructed from the same natural raw material, wood, and are sometimes mistaken for one another, they're not. Viscose and Modal fibers are all regenerated cellulosic fibers from all-natural, renewable, and biodegradable sources.

Modal vs. Rayon


Rayon is a cellulose fiber or a semi-synthetic fabric that is regenerated. It involves breaking down a natural cellulose substance with chemicals or solvents and then regenerating it into a fiber. Typically via extrusion, a procedure used in synthetic fabrics.

Rayon comes in various forms, depending on how it is processed and manufactured, including Modal, Lyocell, Viscose, Bamboo Rayon, Cupro, Acetate, etc. Rayon is a generic word for regenerated cellulose fiber, including Viscose, Modal, and Lyocell. Viscose rayon or plain viscose is the most popular form of rayon.

1. How Is Rayon Made And Processed?

Various cellulose materials can be utilized as fiber materials in rayon, with wood chips from trees and bamboo being two examples. The production process normally includes turning the cellulose into a soluble mix commonly called a pulp with chemical solvents. Synthetic fibers go through the same process of extruding components to create fibers.

Rayon is made using three different processes:

  1. The viscose method is the most frequent, involving alkali and the neurotoxic carbon sulfide.
  2. The cupro process, also known as the cuprammonium process, uses ammoniacal copper salt solutions. This procedure is no longer utilized in some countries, such as the United States.
  3. The lyocell process dissolves cellulose in an amine oxide or a solvent, N-methylmorpholine N-oxide (NMMO); however, it is not widely used because it is more expensive than the viscose process.

2. Eamples Of Rayon Uses:

  1. Rayon was created to substitute silk and natural fibers like cotton, linen, and wool.
  2. It is utilized in various textiles, including apparel, furniture, beds, toys, and other items.

Types of Rayon

1. Viscose

The viscose method is used to make rayon. As a result, it's sometimes referred to as rayon viscose. Depending on the cellulose material used and how that cellulose is treated, many types and grades of viscose fibers and films exist.

Wood pulp cellulose from eucalyptus, pine, and beech trees is one of the main types of cellulose. It saves on cost as opposed to bamboo and cotton linter. Viscose rayon or basic Viscose is the most prevalent form of rayon. It was the first version of this cellulose-based textile to enter worldwide mass production.

a). Viscose Process

Before producing fibers in an acidic coagulation bath, carbon disulfide is used to convert cellulose into cellulose xanthate, which is soluble in aqueous alkali solutions. Recently, a solvent system including N-methylmorpholine N-oxide (NMMO) has been utilized to dissolve cellulose, making viscose production more environmentally friendly.

b). Examples of Viscose Uses

The type or grade of Viscose determines what it is used for.

  1. Viscose rayons are used to manufacture a variety of fabrics for clothing and other applications.
  2. Rayon is great for usage in hot and humid regions since it does not insulate body heat.
c). Properties

Rayon's cellulose foundation gives it many of the same qualities as cotton or other natural cellulosic fibers. Natural fibers including silk, wool, cotton, and linen are imitated in the feel and texture of some Viscose. Artificial silk refers to the sorts that imitate silk.

Regenerated cellulose fibers, such as viscose rayons, absorb moisture better than cotton, are soft and easy to wear, drape nicely, and can be dyed in various colors. However, unless the fabric is manufactured from short, low-twist yarns, it will not build up static electricity or pill.

Rayon has modest abrasion resistance and dry strength. However, it is not robust, like other cellulosic fibers, which means it will wrinkle. Thus, combining Viscose and other regenerated fibers with synthetics such as polyester can result in fabrics that are more durable, comfortable, easier to care for, and wrinkle resistant.

Rayon can be ironed at lower temperatures than cotton. Viscose use in garment production has decreased because the production process uses high-toxic and hazardous chemicals, such as sulphuric acid, among other reasons.

d). What is Viscose Rayon's Environmental Impact?

Rayon is created mostly from cellulose harvested from pine, bamboo, and beech trees. Although they are renewable resources that benefit the environment during their growth, the cellulose extraction method used to create rayon employs harmful chemicals.

In the past, carbon disulfide, a highly toxic compound known to be harmful to human reproduction, was utilized as a solvent. Ammonia, caustic soda, sodium hydroxide, sulphuric acid, and acetone are popular ingredients in softening bamboo fibers.

Furthermore, most factories do not have high solvent recovery rates; most are near 50 percent. It indicates that the hazardous solvent has been discharged into the environment. Despite all these, rayon manufacturing has become cleaner and safer in some areas over time.

e). Viscose vs. Lyocell

The distinctions between Modal, Lyocell, and Viscose are minor and stem from the production method and filament structure. Lyocell is a plant-based fiber similar to Viscose and Modal. However, it is produced in a slightly different process.

Lyocell uses a new solvent to extract the cellulose from the wood. Sodium hydroxide is substituted by a non-toxic chemical molecule called N-Methylmorpholine N-oxide. The organic solvent is easier to filter and reuse in a closed-loop process, making it more environmentally friendly.

2. Modal

The Modal method is used to create a type of rayon known as Modal. It is usually described as stronger or more tenacity than normal rayon. Modal is a type of rayon fiber with a greater wet modulus and a minimal tenacity value in the wet stage at 5% elongation.

It is very similar to other rayons. Thus it's important to distinguish it from other rayon-based fabrics. For example, polynosic fibers and high-wet modulus rayon (HWM rayon) are two Modal types.

Modal Rayon fabric, also known as HWM Rayon, was created in 1951 in Japan as a substitute for silk. In 1965, Lenzing introduced the first "high wet modulus" Modal fiber after years of research and development.

a). Modal Manufacturing Process

Modal fabric differs from Viscose and ordinary rayon in that it is stretched throughout the production process to align the molecules along the threads. Modal fabrics are made from cellulose extracted from hardwood plants such as birch, oak, and beech trees.

At separate stages of the typical manufacturing process, sodium hydroxide or caustic soda, carbon disulfide, and sulfuric acid are employed.

b). Properties

Modal fibers are treated slightly differently than ordinary viscose rayon after spinning to make the filaments stronger. HWM rayon is a viscose-based fabric that becomes stronger when wet. Therefore, tumble drying is not harmful to Modal.

Because of the fiber characteristics and decreased surface friction, the fabric pills less than cotton. Consequently, it is durable and sturdy while remaining soft and silky. In addition, it effectively wicks moisture and is simple to clean. However, because of the long fibers, it may pile.

c). Examples of Modal Uses
  1. Modal is a popular fabric for apparel and bed linens due to its excellent moisture-wicking profile.
  2. Modal fabric is available in high thread counts, making it suitable for use as a premium bed sheet.
  3. It is frequently mixed with other fibers to form a soft and long-lasting material.
  4. Its silky-smooth texture makes it one of the more opulent vegan materials, and it's commonly featured in higher-end sustainable clothing designers' outfits.
  5. It's also colorfast and soft, ideal for organic bras, fair trade jammies, and comfortable, eco-friendly t-shirts.
  6. The most typical Modal application is as a substitute for silk or cotton. However, you are more likely to see Modal rayon scarves and other similar products combined with silk than they are produced wholly of rayon.
  7. Modal fabric is primarily used in sportswear nowadays, although you may find it on undergarments and domestic fabrics.
  8. Modal fabric is widely used in sportswear, such as yoga trousers, cycling shorts, and even swimwear, because of its softness, thinness, and breathability.
c). Modal's Price

The cost of Modal fabric is higher than that of viscose rayon and cotton. However, it is comparable to the price of lyocell fabric, which is essentially equivalent to the cost of cotton.

Although this fabric is less expensive than silk, it is often slightly more expensive than solely synthetic fabrics such as nylon and polyester. The cost of modal fabric is highly dependent on the manufacturing procedures employed and the location where the fabric was made.

d). Modal vs. Rayon

The variations between Modal, Lyocell, and Viscose are minor, and they are due to the manufacturing method and filament structure. Viscose and Modal are created in the same way, with the same chemicals employed at each process stage.

After spinning, Modal fibers are handled slightly differently to make the filaments stronger, and the fibers are stretched to promote molecular alignment. As a result, Modal fibers are lighter and finer, and they can be tumble-dried without causing harm. Apart from that, Viscose is quite similar to Modal Rayon and should be thought of as a forerunner of Modal fabric.

Viscose rayon is made through a sophisticated procedure that includes multiple chemical treatments. As a result, viscose rayon is more damaging to the environment and employees than Modal rayon.

The Modal process is a substantial advancement above Viscose. Where the viscose rayon production was inefficient and wasteful, the Modal Rayon manufacturing process is simpler, faster, and easier. Several time-consuming and wasteful, and harmful processes have been eliminated.

While some manufacturers continue to produce rayon fabric, others have upgraded their techniques to produce more modern versions of this semi-synthetic fabric. Most producers have converted to making Modal, the direct development of viscose rayon. It is due to the inefficient and arduous production procedures required when making rayon.

Modal is processed under various conditions to provide a stronger and more stable fiber when wet than regular rayon. As a result, Modal is a type of rayon fabric that is more durable than conventional rayon and has a softer feel, similar to cotton. In addition, Modal is more flexible, can withstand repeated wash, and is less likely to shrink in the wash than most kinds of rayon.

Modal rayon is much softer than viscose rayon, making it a suitable substitute for silk. Most rayon manufacturers have moved from viscose rayon to Modal rayon due to the introduction of Modal fabric. The more Modal fabric is processed, the stronger and lighter the final product becomes.

e). Modal vs. Lyocell

Modal and Lyocell are sometimes mistaken. Although Modal is slightly softer and more delicate, both are pleasant, breathable, and absorb moisture. Like Modal, Lyocell converts wood pulp into a fiber that is then transformed into fabric. Lyocell is a natural rayon. As far as luxury fabrics go, the two are fierce rivals.

Lyocell fabric is even more environmentally friendly than Modal because it is created with an organic solution instead of sodium hydroxide, which is utilized in Modal. In addition, a closed-loop solvent system is used to produce Lyocell, which ensures no solvent is wasted or discharged into the environment.

The Modal Rayon production process, on the other hand, involves a solvent system that releases chemical waste into the environment. On the other hand, Lyocell fabric is made with non-toxic cellulose solvents in a closed-loop solvent spinning process.

f). Modal vs. Cotton

Modal has a smooth, cotton-like feel to it. Because of its enhanced molecular alignment, it may be tumble-dried without causing harm. However, the fabric pills less than cotton because of the fiber characteristics and decreased surface friction. In addition, Modal is 50% more absorbent than cotton!


All of these materials have a lot in common. The most significant distinction is that Modal is finer and lighter than the others. It also produces stronger fibers, making it perfect for use in sporting gear that sees a lot of action.

The chemicals used to turn the plants they start with into fiber are the only true distinction between Viscose and Lyocell. However, there is almost no difference between these textiles regarding how they feel and perform. However, if environmental friendliness is a priority for you, Lyocell has several advantages over the other options.

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