What is Tencel®?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tencel® is the registered trade name for a type of lyocell, a biodegradable material made from wood pulp cellulose. Fabric sold under the this brand specifically is manufactured by Lenzing AG. This material started to grow in popularity in the late 1990s and is now used in a variety of ways. Though the exact characteristics of the material depend on how it's processed, it tends to be durable and soft. Often said to be environmentally friendly, it is fully biodegradable and made from trees managed for sustained harvest.

Tencel® is also used in fabric for clothing.
Tencel® is also used in fabric for clothing.


This material is very versatile, since it can be manipulated to have a variety of textures. Early Tencel® garments were often compared to rayon in look and feel, but it is now made in a variety of textures including a silky, peach skin, or moleskin feel. Blends with other fibers such as wool, cotton or linen can produce a variety of textures. Garments made with this fabric generally drape well, resist wrinkles, and are fairly durable. Additionally, the fabric is very breathable and moisture wicking, which can make it good for those with sensitive skin.

Yarn can be spun from Tencel®.
Yarn can be spun from Tencel®.


Most garments made with this material are machine washable. If washed in cold water, they shrink slightly with the first washing, but then won’t shrink in future washes. The cloth also dries quickly, so drip-drying is an alternative to using a dryer. If other fabrics are used in a garment it may require dry cleaning, even though the Tencel® itself does not.

Baby wipes made with Tencel®.
Baby wipes made with Tencel®.


Tencel® is used in a variety of applications, including men's wear, sheets, and blankets. Since it's absorbent and dries quickly, it is also suitable for towels. Clothes made from this material are often recommended for traveling because they are light and keep their shape well. Tencel® is also available as fabric for sewing, as yarn for knitting or crocheting, and as fiber for spinning. Besides it use as a cloth, it is also used in making bandages, baby wipes, oil filters and carpeting for cars, as well as conveyor belts and plastic parts. In powder or fiber form, this material is used in making specialized papers, as an additive for building materials, and in making foam mattresses.

Manufacturing Process

The fabric is considered a natural rather than synthetic product because it is made from plant material. To make Tencel® wood chips are mixed with a solvent to produce a wet mixture. This is then pushed through small holes to form threads. These are chemically treated, lubricated, and then combed and cut into usable lengths. The lengths of fiber are then spun into yarn and woven into cloth.

Environmental Impact

Manufacturers of the product say that the solvent used, amine oxide, is non-toxic and recycled during the production cycle. Though it is dyed with conventional dyes, which can harm the environment, less dye is needed than for a similar amount of cotton. Studies also show that processing of Tencel® requires less energy and water than that of cotton, and the trees used are usually grown without pesticides. Despite this, shipping the raw materials needed to make Tencel® throughout the world does require a lot of energy, as does the production process.

Tencel is used in making bandages.
Tencel is used in making bandages.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


For what it's worth, I bought sheets from Sleep Number made of "Lycocell." I hate them.

They have a "moleskin" texture, which I find unpleasant. I know everyone's different, so I'm not saying someone else wouldn't like them, but I absolutely hate them. I can't wait till they wear out so I can buy something else.


I'm doing a university project about sustainable fabrics. I was just wondering how much does tencel cost when producing garments in factories, do you know? And is it more expensive than cotton?


Is the dyeing procedure the same for viscose as for knit fabric?


Excel is the substitute for tencel. I have excel denim and t-shirts and they it feel wonderful.


I would like to know is Tencel a poly or synth?


what is the rebuttal to be given to the client when they ask that why it is white in color?


Is Tencel eco friendly and can it be compared to a high quality bamboo? Thank you. --Barry


I have a ring sling made out of Tencel and it is awesome. It is cool in hot weather. Wicks moisture away.


Please advise if the word 'Tencel' can be used in composition description on the label or is it a copyright of someone?


What kind of characteristics does tencel have? what are the advantages of this fabric? What makes it very expansive? Which country is largest producer of these garments? please reply if possible. Thanks


Can Tencel be printed on using direct-to-garment printing and heat press transfers?


I have a shirt made of tencel. it is from Reverse by Nike. it is great! drapes very well, and the touch is very nice. :)


Please provide information regarding its applications and versatility as well as its unique features.


Hello. May i know some info about tencel, whether tencel is 100 percent made from wood pulp cellulose or some percentage chemical /other things added to manufacture it?

--Durai Murugan


I have a Tencel shirt that I just bought for over a hundred dollars. If I need to clean it how should I do so if I don't want it to shrink? It will be too small then.

Any ideas?



I'm researching about Tencel, so i would like to know something about it. Could you send to me some information about it. Thanks!

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