September 25 2021 – Diana Aldescu
Hello and welcome to the Fabric of the week show! Super glad to have you here on this crazy sustainability journey! Let’s dive in with the new fabric.
The star of this week will be Modal. As always, we’ll keep it 100% with you, discussing both cons and pros. We dug out information about how Modal is made and how sustainable it really is. Heads up, some cool things are coming up. Of course, we will be answering the final, ultimate question: is it worth buying Modal products? Let’s find out!
What are rayon fabrics?
And yet another rayon fabric. Let’s refresh our minds. Rayon fabrics are considered semi-synthetic. They are natural-based and go through a chemical process to get the final result. The process of obtaining these fabrics is man-made. Yet, they are considered sustainable due to their plant-based nature. So, rayon fabrics are the middle guys.
Origins of Modal
Modal goes a long way back, about 50 years ago. Back in the 1960s, Austrian manufacturers called Lenzing AG invented Modal. Ever since this fabric has had massive development. It deserved all the popularity it quickly gained. This fabric uses less water than other conventional fabrics such as cotton. Modal emerged as a great alternative fabric.
How is the Modal fabric made?
-Modal is spruced from sustainably managed forests in Austria and neighbouring countries.
-The trees are cut down to wood chips.
-In the wood chips production, 100% wood utilisation is used. That means every single little piece is used.
-These go through a wood pulp mill. This uses renewable energy, resulting in the pulp.
-The pulp then goes through fibre production where it gets spun-dyed. Finally, you get the desired colour and fabric with long-lasting softness.
Benefits of the Modal fabric
Modal has a lot of advantages and great properties. We picked some cool ones to share with you.
Stretchy: Modal is a very flexible fabric, making this material ideal for t-shirts.
Soft: Modal is super soft to the touch. It is used in pyjamas and bed sheets. Imagine walking around in a sweater that feels like fresh linen!
Water absorbent: Modal is almost 50% more absorbent than cotton. It absorbs any water (or sweat) it comes in contact with.
Eco-friendly: This fabric is made from regenerative plants. Similar to organic cotton, it also uses fewer chemicals in its production, compared to other rayons such as Viscose.
Biodegradable: Modal is 100% biodegradable!
Wrinkle-resistant: Modal doesn’t crease and can stay smooth with minimal ironing.
Durable: This fabric has a tight weave and long fibres, so it is a very strong fabric. Don’t be afraid to wear this garment as much as you want.
And now, some cons
Allergic reactions: People tend to experience allergic reactions from Modal. This happens more often than with other fabrics. Some of these effects are itching, redness and rashes. If you think you may be allergic to trees, pollen or sap might be worth avoiding this fabric.
Looking after your garment: Modal is a bit of a pretentious fabric. It requires dry cleaning to remain in its splendid form. This can be an inconvenience for some people.
Fabric can turn yellow: There is a risk that your Modal fabric may turn yellowish. This usually happens due to heat beyond regular body temperatures and sunlight.
Usage of chemicals: Modal uses chemicals in the production process. The chemical used in this process is called caustic soda. If regulations are not followed, this can cause painful burns and even lead to scarring. Inhaling caustic soda fumes can cause serious damage to the lungs.
Now comes the real questions…
Why is Modal sustainable?
Well, the most obvious fact - Modal is a natural-based material. Its source is breech trees and they grow easily and they don’t need much water. The environmental impact on soil is very low. As we mentioned, beech trees don’t need much water and are easily renewable, always a plus!
Modal’s production process is doing better when compared to other rayons. Although it uses a similar method to viscose, Modal is more environmentally friendly. It uses a closed-loop production system, meaning all chemicals are re-used. In fact, Modal uses non-toxic solvent during this process. Modal fibres are also fully biodegradable and can decompose in the soil.
Why is Modal not sustainable?
Modal has a lot of amazing properties, but like every other fabric, here is where Modal is a bit slacking. The two main concerns are deforestation and, of course, harmful chemicals.
If a fabric requires sourcing wood, there is the risk of destruction of native forests. It is very important to know from what countries the wood comes from. There have been occasions where some manufacturers have been accused of forest destruction. They were sourcing wood from endangered grounds. These areas are preserved from intensive industrial use to maintain their values. So, harvesting from these forests is a no, no.
Not a surprise with rayon fabrics, but here comes the usage of chemicals. We mentioned above, Modal uses concentrations of caustic soda in its production process. If the fumes caused by this chemical are released into the air, it can be harmful to everyone. It can harm animals that come in contact with it and of course the workers! They can experience serious medical issues such as liver damage and even blindness.
How are these issues addressed?
The good thing is that there is a better Modal out there. It is important to keep in mind the trademarked TENCEL™ Modal - these guys are the real deal. TENCEL™ Modal is harvested from sustainably managed sources. Often, you will see the logos of these guys - PEFC and FSC. They protect forests globally and locally. Their job is to ensure these forests will be around for generations to come. No endangered forests are touched in this process.
TENCEL™ Modal has been certified with TÜV Austria Belgium NV award. This certification proves that Modal is in fact biodegradable and compostable. It can fully revert back to nature under industrial, soil, home and marine conditions.
Are you not impressed yet? Ok, how about an EU Ecolabel. TENCEL™ Modal has also received this certification. This award is given to products that have a significantly lower environmental impact. These products are strictly analysed and assessed. Honestly, this is quite an impressive certification. The environmental footprint of TENCEL™ Modal is mostly positive and tiny. It is carbon-neutral and more positive than other conventional fabrics, such as cotton. It requires less land and water consumption.
As mentioned before, Modal uses a closed-loop system. But, did you know that it also received the European Award for the Environment? TENCEL™ Modal is a fabric with high resource efficiency and low environmental impact. Way to go, Modal!
So, should you buy Modal?
100% you should buy products made from Modal! This fabric has gained recognition from many, many certifications. Also, it’s been improving over the years. Plus, come on, it is one of the softest fabrics in the world! We are excited to see more products from Modal being made. But, keep in mind, TENCEL™ Modal is what you are after.
If the sustainability journey gets too tough, don’t forget we are here! Any questions you might have, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.