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What Is Viscose? – A Guide to Understanding This Rayon Type

Viscose is a popular semi-natural fiber. You will find it in dresses, upholstery, carpets, and even your bedding. If you haven’t heard of it before, then you must have known it by the name of rayon. But what is viscose?

Here is all you need to know about this fabric that is ruling the market.

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What Is Viscose?

We know it is a fabric. But what is viscose made of? It comes from wood pulp. The pulp gets spun into yarns to transform it into a fabric.

You might think viscose is eco-friendly since it is manufactured from plants. However, it is made by treating cellulose with chemicals. Viscose comes with a lustrous finish like silk and feels as soft as cotton. Interestingly, it was developed as a cheaper alternative to natural fibers. 

History of Viscose

You can trace the story of viscose to nineteenth-century Europe. The French scientist and industrialist Chardonnet had invented the first commercial viscose material. However, it was highly flammable. So, it didn’t survive in the market for long, and there was a search for a safer material.

It was in 1892 that a group of three British scientists discovered and patented the production process. And the first commercial production started not before 1905.

But, what is rayon made of?

How is Viscose Produced?

Viscose is made from wood pulp. The most commonly used trees are pine, birch, and eucalyptus. However, you can also make viscose from bamboo.

Here are the steps in the viscose manufacturing process.

  1. First, the plant is chipped to get the wood pulp.
  2. The pulp is then dissolved in chemicals to form a brown solution.
  3. It is followed by bleaching and cleaning.
  4. Now, it is treated with sodium disulfide and sodium hydroxide.
  5. The solution is then passed through a machine called a spinneret. It leads pulp fabric to the formation of filaments.
  6. You can then spin these filaments into viscose yarns which can be woven into the fabric.

Characteristics of Viscose

Viscose has the properties of both cotton and silk. While it is as soft as cotton, it has a shiny appearance like silk. Moreover, it is super lightweight. So, you can manage it easily.

The reason for the popularity of viscose is its breathability. It does not trap heat and allows air to pass. Apart from that, it also absorbs your sweat like a pro. So, you will stay cool on a hot summer day.

Pros and Cons of Viscose

Not everything is good about the material. Let us look at the viscose fabric’s pros and cons.


  • It is super lightweight and airy since it has natural origins.
  • Its absorbent nature makes it perfect for you if you sweat a lot.
  • Viscose is a breathable fabric and suitable for summer days
  • It retains the color even after endless washes
  • It can drape well like silk.
  • It is inexpensive compared to cotton and silk.


  • This rayon fiber shrinks after washing.
  • It is delicate, and the fibers may break apart if you handle it roughly.
  • I am drying it in the sunlight for long hampers the fabric quality.
  • Viscose retains dyes. So, you will have a tough time removing stains from it.
  • It is not eco-friendly and sustainable since a lot of chemicals are used while manufacturing.

Uses of Viscose Rayon 

What is viscose used for? 

It is a versatile fabric and has a wide range of uses. You can find it everywhere, from clothes to bedding.


You can wear clothes made from viscose rayon material on both formal and informal occasions. They are super comfortable and also have a lustrous touch. Dresses made of viscose are available in multiple colors and shades since it retains dyes very well.


Viscose sheets can be your perfect companion if you sweat a lot while sleeping. It will wick off all the sweat keeping you cool. Furthermore, it doesn’t trap your body heat.

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Curtains and Window Drapes

The silky smoothness makes viscose an excellent choice for curtains. They can give your room an enthralling look that will capture people’s attention.


You have seen those thin transparent sheets used in food packaging. Yes, they 6 are made of viscose. Its low permeability keeps air, water, and microbes away.

How to Care for Viscose Rayon?

Viscose fabric care is not easy. You have to be careful and follow all the instructions of the manufacturer.

  • Always go for dry cleaning if you want the fabric fto last long.
  • Do not opt for spot treatment as it may lead to stubborn stains.
  • Viscose washing is not recommended. Putting it in a machine might make it rough.
  • If you have to wash it, hand washing in cold water is the best option.
  • Make sure you use a mild cleaning agent.
  • Do not squeeze the fabric. That might stretch it.
  • While drying, it is better to avoid direct sunlight for long hours.

What Are the Other Types of Rayons?

Apart from viscose, modal and lyocell are the two other types of rayon.

Now, you might wonder what the difference is between rayon and viscose. But viscose is a type of rayon. All the rayon fibers are manufactured from wood pulp. However, there is a difference in the process. 

Modal and viscose are manufactured similarly. Only the former is stretched while spinning. So, the fibers are longer and finer. Lyocell has a different manufacturing process. Unlike the other two, it gets treated with an organic compound. Therefore, it is eco-friendly.

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Viscose Rayon vs Silk

Characteristics Viscose RayonSilk
FeelSoft and silkySmooth and soft
Breathability Super breathable and allows air to passLess breathable than viscose-rayon
PriceCheaper alternative to silkWay more expensive than viscose-rayon
ShineLustrous More lustrous and reflects light
CleaningBest when hand washed; avoid machine washingDry cleaning is the best option
Eco-friendliness Not eco-friendly as it contains chemicalsBeing a natural fiber, it is eco-friendly

Viscose Rayon vs Cotton

Viscose rayon feels as soft as cotton. However, a comparison between rayon vs cotton will reveal their differences.

CharacteristicsViscose RayonCotton
OriginMade from wood pulp or celluloseMade from natural cotton fibers
Feel and Breathability Soft and breathable; wicks away moistureSuper soft and breathable; doesn’t wick away moisture
Versatility Versatile fabric that can be blended with any materialEqually versatile and can be mixed with other fabrics
WashingHand washing viscose is recommended to maintain the qualityMachine washable
Eco-friendlinessContains chemicals and hence is not eco-friendlyEco-friendly as it is a natural fiber

Viscose Rayon vs Polyester

A comparison of rayon vs polyester will reveal the similarities and differences between these two types of fabric materials.

CharacteristicsViscose RayonPolyester
OriginMade from cellulose treated with chemicals; thus it’s semi-syntheticMade from petroleum treated with chemicals
PillingMore likely to peel than polyesterResistant to pilling
WrinklingMay wrinkle after repeated washingDoes not wrinkle even after multiple washes
Moisture-wickingNot ads moisture-wicking as polyesterWicks away moisture like a pro

Viscose Rayon vs Modal

Both of them are types of rayon. So, they are made from the same material i.e. wood pulp. However, they don’t feel like the same fabric material. That is because their manufacturing processes are slightly different.

Characteristics Viscose RayonModal
BreathabilityLess breathable than modal More breathable because they are stretched during the manufacturing process
Eco-friendlinessNot eco-friendly since it contains chemicalsMore eco-friendly because the concentration of sodium hydroxide is less


Is viscose environment-friendly?

No, chemicals, chemical processes, and dyes are used while manufacturing viscose. So, it is not eco-friendly.

Is viscose a synthetic or natural fabric?

Viscose is a type of rayon. Now, is rayon a natural fiber? The answer is it’s semi-natural. That is because viscose is made from wood pulp treated with chemicals.

Is viscose better than cotton?

Viscose is as soft as cotton fabric. But does viscose breathe? Yes, it is breathable. However, cotton blends are more comfortable.

Is viscose stretchy?

No, viscose is not stretchy. However, it can be stretched when combined with other materials.

Does viscose shrink in the wash?

Viscose can shrink in the wash. However, the chances of shrinking are reduced if you turn the material inside out.

How to iron viscose?

Make sure you set the iron to steam and spray some water over the material. Then place it inside out. Otherwise, the heat can damage the viscose lining.