Tencel is comparable to viscose and consists of semi-natural fibers. The source of tencel is wood pulp (usually wood pulp from Eucalyptus). Tencel consists of lyocell fibers and is actually the same as lyocell. Tencel is only a brand name which is owned by the company Lenzing Fibers in Austria. Lyocell is a relatively new material and was brought to consumers in 1991. It is officially a type of viscose. Tencel is an improved version of lyocell fabric and has a low ecological footprint with biodegradable and renewable fibers.
The characteristics of tencel are quite similar to those of viscose but tencel wrinkles less and is much stronger when the fabric is wet. Because of its natural (cellulosic) source, the fabric has also many similarities to other natural cellulosic fibers such as cotton. Tencel fabric is absorbing, comfortable, breathable and has a luxurious appeal.
Tencel is only produced by the Lenzing company in Austria.
The environmental impact of tencel on soil is relatively low. In order to grow cotton, for example, 5 times more land is used than for the cultivation of tencel. The trees which are used for tencel are cultivated in responsibly managed forests or sustainable farms.
There is not much water needed during the cultivation of eucalyptus trees. However, during the process of turning wood pulp into tencel fibers a lot of water is used. The water usage is estimated at 500 to 600 liters for one pound of fibers.
The processing of tencel is comparable to the processing of viscose. However, the “lyocell process” is much more environmental friendly than the “viscose process”. The lyocell process has a closed loop which means that the chemical solvent is re-used again. Besides, the Lenzing company uses a non-toxic solvent during the tencel process. In general, less toxics and water is used than during the viscose process.
Tencel fabric hardly absorbs any dyestuffs. The environmental impact depends upon the kind of dyestuff which is used.
Tencel is a relatively expensive fabric. In general, it is more costly than viscose, cotton or most other ecological fabrics.