Last updated on January 24th, 2024 at 10:06 pm
What is modal? And why is everyone talking about it? Modal fabric is a semi-artificial fabric made from the wood pulp of beech trees. It is often touted as a sustainable fabric due to its absorbency, comfort, and moisture-wicking properties. It’s often combined with organic cotton to make some stretchy, cool clothing that’s great for warmer days.
But, is modal a sustainable fabric? That’s the big question, and we look at modal’s qualities on its own, as well as in comparison with some other sustainable fabric options.
Is Modal Fabric Natural?
What is modal and how is it made? Well, modal fabric is a semi-artificial fabric crafted from wood pulp, mainly that of beech trees. While the pulp is natural, the manufacturing procedure entails chemical compounds like sodium hydroxide, but it reduces the amount needed compared to rayon viscose. The resulting material is usually extra absorbent, comfortable, and moisture-wicking.
Here are some important points about the production process of modal fabric:
- The wood pulp is extracted from beech trees.
- Chemical compounds like sodium hydroxide are used in the manufacturing process.
- The amount of chemicals used is reduced compared to rayon viscose.
- The resulting fabric is known for its absorbency, comfort, and moisture-wicking properties.
It’s important to note that the production process of modal fabric involves the use of chemicals, but efforts are made to minimize the environmental impact. The fabric is known for its sustainability and is a popular choice for sustainable clothing materials.
Modal Fabric Pros And Cons
There are some important pros and cons to modal fabric:
|Soft, smooth, and luxurious texture
|More expensive than cotton or viscose
|Breathable, moisture-wicking, and comfortable
|Can shrink or stretch when washed or dried at high temperatures
|Eco-friendly, derived from sustainably managed beechwood forests
|Can lose its softness and color over time
|Durable, resistant to pilling, shrinking, and fading
|Uncertain sustainability of the production process
|Versatile, can be blended with other fibers
|Not widely available compared to other fabrics
Modal Fabric and Sustainability
Modal offers several environmental benefits. First, it is derived from wood pulp, with beech wood being the main source. This means that it is a renewable resource, as trees can be replanted to replace those used for production. Second, the production process of Modal fabric requires less water and energy compared to other fabrics, making it more eco-friendly. Additionally, Modal fabric is known for its biodegradability, meaning it can break down naturally without causing harm to the environment.
When considering sustainable materials for clothing, it’s important to look for certifications such as GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) and Eco-Stylist approved. These certifications ensure that the fabric meets certain environmental and social criteria, such as organic farming practices and fair labor conditions.
Advantages of Modal Fabric
There are numerous advantages of Modal fabric. First and foremost, Modal is a material derived from the processing of cellulose, which is extracted from wood pulp, mainly from beech trees. This makes it a more sustainable alternative to traditional fabrics.
Modal fabric is not only eco-friendly, but it also has some remarkable properties. It is highly absorbent, even more so than cotton, and has excellent moisture-wicking abilities. This means that it keeps you dry and comfortable throughout the day.
In addition to its practical benefits, Modal fabric is incredibly soft and has a luxurious feel. It is often compared to silk due to its smooth texture. So, not only are you making a sustainable choice by choosing Modal fabric, but you are also treating yourself to a comfortable and stylish garment.
If you’re wondering how Modal fabric compares to other sustainable fabrics, here’s a quick comparison:
Is Modal Fabric Breathable?
Yes, modal fabric is breathable, since it is made from beech tree pulp that allows air to circulate and moisture to evaporate. Modal fabric is often used for lightweight summer clothes and activewear because of its breathability and moisture-wicking properties. However, modal fabric is not as breathable as 100% natural fabrics like cotton or linen.
Is modal fabric stretchy?
Yes, modal fabric is stretchy. Modal, being made from beech tree pulp, has a lot of natural flexibility. However, modal is not as elastic as spandex or lycra, so manufacturers often blend modal with these fibers to create super-stretchy items like leggings.
Is Modal Fabric Toxic?
Modal fabric is not inherently toxic, but it can be contaminated by the chemicals used during its manufacturing process. Some of these chemicals include sodium hydroxide, carbon disulfide, and zinc sulfate, which are used to dissolve the wood pulp and turn it into fibers. These chemicals can cause skin irritation, respiratory issues, and even cancer if they are not properly handled or disposed of.
The most concerning chemical is carbon disulfide, which is a highly toxic and volatile substance that can cause nerve damage, blindness, and death if inhaled or ingested. Carbon disulfide is also a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Another chemical that is used in modal production is sodium hydroxide, which is a corrosive and caustic substance that can burn the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. Sodium hydroxide can also pollute the waterways and soil if it is not properly treated or recycled. Zinc sulfate is another chemical that is used to bleach the modal fibers and make them white. Zinc sulfate can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if ingested, and it can also harm aquatic life if it is released into the environment.
Therefore, it is important to choose modal fabric that is certified by reputable organizations, such as OEKO-TEX or GOTS, that ensure the safety and quality of the fabric.
How does modal impact the environment?
The source of the wood pulp is a crucial factor that determines the environmental impact of modal fabric. Some modal producers, such as Lenzing, use beech trees that are grown on land that is not suitable for other agricultural purposes, and they also use a closed-loop system that recycles and reuses the chemicals and water used in the production process. This reduces the amount of waste and pollution generated by modal production. However, some modal producers may use wood pulp from endangered or ancient forests, which can cause deforestation, biodiversity loss, and habitat destruction. Therefore, it is important to choose modal fabric that is certified by credible organizations, such as FSC or PEFC, that ensure the responsible and sustainable management of the forests.
CanopyPlanet publishes an annual Hot Button report to score all man-made cellulosics manufacturers globally. The 2023 report has the highest score by Birla Cellulose, Lenzing at second place, and Tangshan Sanyou and Xinxiang Chemical Fiber (Bailu Group) tied for third.
Modal Fabric Vs Cotton
Modal fabric and cotton fabric are both made from natural fibers, but they have some differences in their production methods, properties, and environmental impacts:
Modal fabric is a type of rayon fabric that is made from beech wood pulp. The wood pulp is dissolved in a chemical solution and then spun into fibers. Cotton fabric is made from cotton plant fibers that are harvested, cleaned, carded, combed, spun, and woven into fabric.
Modal fabric is softer, smoother, and more absorbent than cotton fabric. It also has more stretch and breathability than cotton fabric. Cotton fabric is more durable, warmer, and hypoallergenic than modal fabric. It also has good moisture-wicking and breathability properties.
Modal fabric has a lower environmental impact than cotton fabric, as it requires less water, energy, and land to produce. However, modal fabric may involve the use of harmful chemicals, such as carbon disulfide and sodium hydroxide, that can pollute the water and air. Cotton fabric has a high environmental impact, as it requires a lot of water, pesticides, and fertilizers to grow. Cotton farming can also cause soil erosion, deforestation, and biodiversity loss.
Is Modal Synthetic?
Modal is a type of rayon, which is a synthetic silk that was invented in the late 19th century. Modal is not entirely synthetic, as it is derived from natural cellulose, but it is not entirely natural either, as it undergoes a chemical process to turn the wood pulp into fibers. Therefore, modal is considered a bio-based or regenerated fiber that falls somewhere between natural and synthetic fabrics.
Innovations: TENCEL Modal
TENCEL Modal is a type of modal fiber, which is a type of rayon made from cellulose extracted from wood. Modal fibers are known for their softness, breathability, and color retention. TENCEL Modal is a brand name of modal fibers produced by Lenzing, an Austrian company that specializes in sustainable and innovative fibers. Lenzing also produces TENCEL Lyocell and TENCEL Lyocell Filament, which are other types of cellulosic fibers with different properties and applications.
Lenzing is one of the most environmentally friendly textile producers in the world, and TENCEL Modal is one of its flagship products. TENCEL Modal fibers are made from beech wood sourced from sustainably managed forests, and are processed using an integrated pulp-to-fiber system that recovers and reuses the solvents used, minimizing the environmental impact of production. TENCEL Modal fibers are also biodegradable and compostable under various conditions (certified by TÜV Austria Belgium NV), and are certified carbon neutral products.
One of the latest innovations in TENCEL Modal is the Indigo Color technology, which incorporates indigo pigment directly into the fibers using a one-step spun-dyeing process. This technology delivers superior color fastness and reduces the use of water, electricity, chemicals, and heat energy compared to conventional indigo dyeing. TENCEL Modal fibers with Indigo Color technology are also awarded with the EU Ecolabel for meeting high environmental standards throughout their life cycle. This technology is designed to help elevate the sustainability and quality of denim products, and has been recognized by the ITMF Award for Sustainability and Innovation in 2022.
Modal and Other Semi-synthetic Cellulosic Fibers
Modal vs Viscose
Modal and viscose are both semi-synthetic fabrics made from cellulose, but they have some differences in their properties and production processes:
|Beech tree pulp
|Various wood pulp sources
|Fiber strength (when wet)
Modal is generally stronger, softer, more breathable, and more eco-friendly than viscose, but it is also more expensive and less widely available. Viscose is cheaper, more versatile, and easier to dye, but it is also less durable, less flexible, and less sustainable. Both fabrics have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on the application and preference of the user.
Modal vs Lyocell
Modal and lyocell are both types of rayon fabrics that are made from natural wood pulp. But this is where they differ:
|Uses sodium hydroxide, a toxic chemical, to dissolve wood pulp
|Uses a non-toxic solvent in a closed-loop system to dissolve wood pulp
|Not easily biodegradable or regenerated due to harsh chemicals
|Fully biodegradable and easily regenerated without harming the environment
|Durability and strength
|Less durable and strong than lyocell
|More durable and strong than modal
|Comfort and texture
|Luxuriously soft and smooth
|Silky and smooth
What Is The Difference Between Modal And Rayon?
Modal and rayon are both types of regenerated cellulosic fibers, which means they are made from cellulose extracted from wood pulp. However, they have some differences in their properties and production methods:
- Modal is derived exclusively from beech trees, which are more sustainable and water-efficient than other wood sources. Rayon can be made from various types of wood, such as bamboo, pine, or eucalyptus.
- Modal is stronger and more durable than rayon, especially when wet. Rayon tends to lose its strength and shape when exposed to water or moisture.
- Modal is softer and smoother than rayon, and has a higher luster and color retention. Rayon has a silk-like appearance and feel, but can fade and wrinkle easily.
- Modal is more eco-friendly than rayon, as it uses less chemicals and energy in its production process. Rayon requires more toxic solvents and bleaching agents, and generates more waste and emissions.
Modal is a type of rayon, specifically a second-generation rayon that has improved qualities over the first-generation rayon, also known as viscose. Lyocell is another type of rayon, a third-generation rayon that is even more sustainable and innovative than modal. TENCEL™ is a brand name of lyocell fibers produced by Lenzing, an Austrian company that also produces TENCEL™ Modal.
Brands Using Sustainably Produced Modal
1 // 1 People
2 // Neu Nomads
3 // nat’v basics
4 // Patagonia
5 // ARMEDANGELS
6 // Tentree
7 // Mara Hoffman
8 // Encircled
9 // Threads 4 Thought
10 // Amour Vert
11 // OhSevenDays
12 // Whimsy + Row
13 // Toad&Co
14 // TAMGA Designs
15 // Ecoalf
16 // CASAGiN
Frequently Asked Questions About Modal
1 / Is modal an environmentally friendly fabric?
Modal fabric is a semi-synthetic fabric made from beech tree pulp that is used primarily for clothing and household items. Modal is considered to be more eco-friendly than cotton because beech trees don’t require much water to grow and the production process uses less water and chemicals.
2 / Is modal fabric sustainable?
Modal fabric is often touted as a sustainable fabric, but it is important to note that the manufacturing process of Modal fabric involves the use of chemicals. While the pulp used to make Modal fabric comes from natural sources like beech trees, the chemicals used in the production process raise concerns about its overall sustainability.
3 / What are the advantages of modal fabric?
Modal fabric has several advantages. It is known for its softness, absorbency, and moisture-wicking properties, making it a comfortable choice for clothing. It is also considered to be more eco-friendly than traditional rayon viscose fabric, as it requires less chemical treatment during production.
4 / What are the disadvantages of modal fabric?
Some disadvantages of modal fabric are that it is more expensive than cotton or viscose, it can shrink or stretch when washed or dried at high temperatures, and it can lose its softness and color over time.
5 / Is modal a healthy fabric to wear?
Modal fabric is a healthy fabric to wear because it is very breathable, moisture-wicking, and soft on the skin. Modal fabric is also resistant to pilling, fading, and shrinking, which makes it durable and easy to care for.
6 / Is modal better than cotton?
Modal fabric is better than cotton in some aspects, such as softness, breathability, moisture-wicking, and eco-friendliness. However, cotton is better than modal in terms of cost, availability, and versatility. Cotton can also be blended with other fibers to improve its properties, while modal is usually blended with cotton or spandex to reduce its cost and increase its strength.
This post was about modal fabric and its sustainability
Modal is a more sustainable fabric than most other options out there. It can be made from wood pulp from sustainably grown beech trees, and while the manufacturing process does involve chemicals, it’s less toxic compared to other fabrics. Modal fabric is known for its absorbency, comfort, and moisture-wicking properties, as well as its durability.
With its eco-friendly characteristics, Modal fabric is a crucial component of a more sustainable fashion industry. So, if you’re looking for a sustainable fabric that combines comfort and environmental consciousness, modal is a great option to consider.
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