Lyocell is a fabric that has taken the world of sustainable fashion by storm. If you have recently purchased a sustainable and eco-friendly clothing item, you are likely to come across a “LYOCELL” or “TENCEL” label on it. But since this is a relatively new fabric that has gained popularity in recent years, it is reasonable for you to have questions like “Does lyocell shrink?” and “How can I take care of it?”
Lyocell is a semi-synthetic fiber, similar to rayon, and is used as a substitute for silk and cotton. Just like any other fabric, lyocell will also shrink when washed in a dryer. What is essential to know is how much it will shrink and what difference it will make to the quality of the fabric.
In this article, I will help you discover all you need to know about this new fabric in fashion town. How much it shrinks after a wash, how you can maintain it, and what benefits it adds to your life and your wardrobe.
Does Lyocell Shrink?
Yes, lyocell also shrinks when it undergoes a few initial washes. However, eventually, if the material is washed well and maintained properly, lyocell can hold on to its shape.
Although, if you do not handle the garment with care and are not mindful of all the instructions given on its manufacturing label, you might make the garment prone to more shrinkage.
One of the benefits of lyocell is that because it is a soft and delicate fabric, it tends to become much softer and smoother after continuous washes.
Multiple factors must be considered while dealing with a lyocell garment, which is covered in the later parts of this article. But, before that, let’s take a look at what makes lyocell so soft, delicate, sustainable, and unique.
What Is Lyocell?In 1972, lyocell was first developed by a US-based company named American Enka (now defunct). Back then, it was called Newcell. Later, in the 1980s, Courtaulds Fibers commercialized the fabric.
Lyocell belongs to the family of rayon fabric. It is a regenerated cellulosic fiber produced by dissolving sustainably grown wood pulp with non-toxic solvents and chemicals. Bamboo, birch trees, eucalyptus, and oak trees are some of the pulp’s sources.
The pulp solution is later forced through tiny holes to produce long, thin fibers. These fibers are then separated into what is now known as lyocell.
The manufacturing process of lyocell is a highly meticulous yet sustainable one. It is one of the reasons why lyocell is considered a soft, comfortable fabric that will fit you well and make you feel good every time you wear it.
How Much Does Lyocell Shrink?
As lyocell is a delicate material, it can shrink up to 3% to 5% after the first few wash cycles. After that, when you wash it more frequently, the material’s capacity to shrink decreases over time.
It is crucial that you read the cleaning label on your lyocell garment and wash it accordingly. If the instructions are ignored and the garment is mishandled, there is a higher likelihood of your garment shrinking. Not only will the garment reduce significantly in size, but its quality will be affected, too.
Does Lyocell Shrink When Washed?
Even after you follow the proper steps and handle the product with care, lyocell will shrink up to approximately 5% after the first wash. However, the benefit of fabrics like lyocell is that it resists further shrinking if properly handled.
The caring procedure of Lyocell involves washing it at the right water temperature. Let’s see how cold and hot water affects the shrinking capacity of this eco-friendly material.
In Hot Water
Washing Lyocell under hot water will make it shrink more than usual. Unless you are intentionally trying to shrink the garment to make it sit nicely on your body, avoid continuously washing it under high-temperature water.
High temperature is not considered friendly for Lyocell products. Even if you hand wash the garments in hot water, their chances of shrinking will increase over time.
Lyocell garments are naturally soft and delicate on the skin. If you wash them excessively in hot water, they will lose these main characteristics that set them apart.
It is recommended that you always stick to the cleaning guidelines mentioned on the product’s label. While it is true that lyocell fabric will shrink from 3% to 5% only for the first few washes and will then become resistant to shrinkage, the fabric may have certain vulnerable areas. These sections of the fabric may shrink even further if exposed to high heat for too long.
In Cold Water
Regardless of the water’s temperature used for the first few washes, your lyocell garments will still shrink a minimum of 3%. However, apart from this initial shrinkage, cold water is considered appropriate for washing garments.
Whether you hand-wash your clothes or throw them in the machine at a gentle cycle, always use cold water. Your garments will be less likely to shrink, the colors will remain vibrant and intact, the chances of creasing and wrinkling will reduce, and your electricity cost will also be cut down.
If you tend to wash your lyocell garments regularly because of excessive use, you can safely place your bets on cold water.
However, if you are still unsure about the water temperature in which you should wash your lyocell fabrics, always stick to the instructions given on the garment label.
Does Lyocell Shrink In the Dryer?
By now, it must have become clear to you that lyocell is sensitive to heat. So, if you consistently use a dryer for lyocell, over time, it will shrink significantly.
The more you expose it to high temperatures or agitate it in any process, be it washing or drying, the fibers will try to return to their natural form, thus shrinking the garment.
The primary reason lyocell shrinks when you put it in a dryer is that it is exposed to high heat while enduring strong friction and agitation inside the dryer. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you air dry or dip dry your lyocell garment the old-fashioned way. The process will take longer, but it will do more good than harm to your garment.
How To Wash and Dry Lyocell Fabric So It Doesn’t Shrink
Lyocell is widely used in activewear because it can wick moisture, retain elasticity, and allow breathability while feeling amazing on the skin. You can wear lyocell on the hottest day and you will not get sweaty, smelly, and uncomfortable. It is excellent at absorbing moisture, is antibacterial, and is basically the fabric of your dreams.
The best part about lyocell fabric is that no matter how much use it undergoes, it doesn’t need to be washed as frequently as other materials, like cotton or polyester. Lyocell fabric is created to sustain prolonged use and still feel as good, fresh, and comfortable as it did when you first wore it.
When it comes to washing and drying your lyocell garment, the procedures are relatively simple, convenient, and easy to follow.
How To Wash Lyocell
Hand Wash If Possible
Lyocell is a sustainable material that can be used again and again. The safest method to wash a Lyocell garment is by hand washing them. This means you can upcycle a piece of clothing multiple times while extending its life cycle.
Hand washing lyocell helps ensure that the garment retains all its features. Hand washing is also a relatively gentler process compared to machine washing. Besides, think of all the water you save when you choose hand washing over machine washing.
Another benefit of hand washing is that you save up a lot of money on electricity, and who wouldn’t want that?
Make sure to use a gentle detergent while washing your clothes. Use only cold water throughout the washing process. Soak the garment in a bucket of cold water for at least 30 minutes before you finally rinse it with a light fabric conditioner.
Avoid wringing the water out and instead gently press the excess water from the fabric. This will help avoid causing wrinkles.
Gentle Cycle In The Machine
If you don’t have the time and the energy to hand wash the garments yourself, the second-best option is to wash them in a machine at a gentle cycle.
Using the gentle or delicate machine cycle is the equivalent of hand washing the garments. The cycles are short, you can choose the desired temperature of the water, and the spin inside the machine is very low.
Machine washing is ideal when you have a stubborn stain on your garment that refuses to leave. Avoid drying the garment in the machine as that will expose the lyocell fabric to a high level of agitation and heat.
How To Dry Lyocell
Air drying or drip drying is the best way to dry Lyocell clothes. After the garments are thoroughly washed and cleaned, hang them out in the open. The natural sunlight and breeze will disinfect the clothes, reduce creases and wrinkles, and give the clothes a natural and beautiful fragrance.
I cannot emphasize enough how delicate Lyocell garments are. So, when they are left in a dryer, they are susceptible to wear and tear, eventually making them lose their quality and value. Air drying is gentler on the clothes than tossing them inside a machine.
Another great reason you should be air drying all your Lyocell garments is that it is free. You do not have to invest in bulky, expensive machines that will weaken your clothes over time.
Avoid Squeezing and Twisting the Fabric
Squeezing and twisting the Lyocell fabric can negatively impact the quality of the garments. Lyocell is a delicate fabric and thus must be handled with care. If you squeeze or twist it too aggressively, the clothes will lose their elegance, develop wrinkles and creases that will be difficult to remove, and may sustain tears.
Iron On Low Heat
Although I would suggest that you avoid ironing your lyocell garments if you have to use one, make sure the iron is on the lowest setting.
Heat is lyocell’s worst enemy. The more it is exposed to heat, the more damage it will sustain. If you keep the iron directly on the material for more than a few seconds, you will end up scorching the fabric. That is how delicate and sensitive Lyocell is to heat.
If you iron your cloth, make sure it is clean, set at the lowest heat setting, and only used over wrinkles and creases.
Lyocell Fabric Care
Lyocell fabric garments are as diverse, exquisite, and unique as it gets. But when a piece of fabric has so much to offer, you undeniably need to put in extra effort and love when caring for and to maintain them.
You may either come across a garment made 100% out of Lyocell or a blend of Lyocell and other fabrics. In both cases, the garment must be treated according to the instructions printed on the garment’s label. In addition to those instructions, here are a few tips that you must take into consideration.
- If you are going to machine wash the garment, make sure to use a gentle cycle.
- Because lyocell is a delicate fabric, hand washing is always preferred over machine washing. Always use cold water and a gentle detergent to wash the dirt off your garment.
- Before drying the garment, make sure you soak it in cold water for at least half an hour. To maintain the fabric’s smooth and soft texture, you can use a light fabric conditioner to give it a final rinse.
- Drip drying the lyocell garment is preferred over machine drying it. When you drip dry your garment by hanging it after the wash, you avoid causing any creases or wrinkles. Besides, the high heat induced inside a dryer can affect the quality and material of the fabric.
- Avoid ironing your garment as much as possible. It is very likely for the fabric to get scorched up if it comes in direct contact with high heat. But, in cases where you need to remove a few creases here and there, only use a warm iron and do not keep it pressed down on one spot for more than a second or two.
Store the garments properly in suitable storage bags or hang them in your closet, where they are protected from bugs and insects.
BONUS TIP: If your garment has become stiff over time and you wish to soften it, throw it in the machine with a damp towel. Put the gentlest cycle on at the lowest possible temperature, and you will be able to soften the product in no time.
How to Shrink Tencel Lyocell
Have you ever bought a garment thinking it was made out of Lyocell, but instead its manufacturing label mentioned Tencel as the main fabric?
Before we get into how you can shrink Tencel lyocell, let’s first take a quick look at what Tencel is.
What is Tencel Fabric?
If you’re wondering whether there is a difference between Tencel and lyocell, there isn’t. Tencel is a brand name of Lenzing AG, an Austrian company.
After World War II, Lenzing AG had shifted focus to sustainability and biorefinery due to environmental concerns. This eventually led to their pilot lyocell plant being established in 1990, followed by a full-scale lyocell production plant in 1997 in Heiligenkreuz, Burgenland, in Austria. Expanding into the global market, in 2004, Lenzing AG acquired Tencel company, which included the entire sales team and two production sites, one of which was in Alabama in the US and the other in Grimsby the UK.
Today, Tencel has become a leading brand of lyocell fiber. The brand has gained so much popularity that, over time, the brand name Tencel became synonymous with lyocell.
Shrinking Tencel Lyocell
Now, if you’re wondering, does Tencel shrink? Yes.
If you want to intentionally shrink your Tencel lyocell garment to a suitable size that fits you, I must tell you that the material will shrink to a maximum of 5% after its first wash.
However, if you do not take due measures to handle the material properly, you may witness a little more shrinkage, but it rarely happens.
There are other methods you can try to shrink your lyocell garment down:
- Soak the lyocell garment in cold water, then wash and dry it under an extremely high temperature. You can use a manual drier with the maximum amount of heat coming to dry your garment.
- After the initial shrinking stage has passed, you can hang your garment under direct sunlight and check whether the garment shrinks any further. A drawback to this method is that direct exposure to sunlight and harmful UV rays may fade away the colors of your garment.
I certainly hope that this article will make your journey with sustainable clothing much more enjoyable and effortless. Lyocell is a fantastic eco-friendly and biodegradable alternative to synthetic and non-vegan fabrics that are detrimental to the environment.
While lyocell is undeniably sustainable, comfortable, breathable, gentle, and everything you expect from high-quality fabric, it is a delicate material that requires good care and proper maintenance.
And while lyocell will shrink and minutely decrease in size despite how careful you are, this doesn’t take away from the fact that it is a significant improvement over the other materials available in the market.
Buy the fabric and test it yourself. I assure you, it will not disappoint.