Viscose Fabric: The Good And The Bad

Viscose fabric has become increasingly popular in recent years for clothing and home furnishings. But there are debates around how sustainable and ethical this fabric is. If you’re wondering whether viscose is ultimately a good or bad choice, here’s a quick answer: Viscose has some benefits over natural fabrics like cotton, but the manufacturing process raises concerns around pollution and working conditions.

This article will dive deeper into the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision.

We’ll start by explaining what viscose fabric is and how it’s made. We’ll then look at some of the advantages it offers over natural fabrics. However, we’ll also examine the environmental and ethical problems with viscose production.

To wrap up, we’ll discuss whether viscose can be an eco-friendly choice and provide some tips for buying responsibly-sourced viscose.

What Is Viscose Fabric?

Viscose fabric is a popular type of textile that is commonly used in clothing, upholstery, and other applications. It is known for its soft and smooth texture, which makes it a comfortable choice for a variety of garments.

Viscose fabric is also known for its ability to drape well, giving garments a flowing and elegant look.

Background on Rayon and Viscose

To understand what viscose fabric is, it is important to have some background knowledge on rayon. Rayon is a synthetic fiber that is made from cellulose, which is derived from wood pulp or other plant-based materials.

It was first developed in the late 19th century and quickly gained popularity due to its affordability and versatility. Viscose, on the other hand, is a type of rayon that is specifically made from cellulose extracted from bamboo, beech trees, or cotton linters.

Viscose fabric is often referred to as “artificial silk” due to its luxurious appearance and feel. It shares many similarities with silk, such as its softness and breathability, but at a more affordable price point.

This makes viscose fabric a popular choice for those who want to achieve a high-end look without breaking the bank.

Viscose Fabric Production Process

The production process of viscose fabric involves several steps. First, the cellulose is extracted from the chosen plant material through a chemical process. This cellulose is then dissolved in a solvent to create a thick liquid solution.

The solution is then forced through tiny holes in a spinneret, creating long filaments of viscose. These filaments are then treated with chemicals to solidify them and remove any impurities.

Once the filaments have solidified, they are spun into yarns, which can then be woven or knitted into fabric. The resulting fabric is soft, breathable, and drapes beautifully. It can be dyed in a wide range of colors and is often used in the production of dresses, blouses, skirts, and other lightweight garments.

It’s worth noting that while viscose fabric offers many benefits, there are some drawbacks to consider. Viscose fabric has a tendency to shrink when washed, so it is important to follow the care instructions carefully.

Additionally, it can lose its shape over time and may require ironing or steaming to maintain its appearance.

The Advantages of Viscose

Soft, Silky Feel

One of the major advantages of viscose fabric is its luxurious and soft feel. Viscose is often referred to as “artificial silk” due to its smooth and silky texture. It drapes beautifully and feels incredibly comfortable against the skin.

Whether used in clothing or home furnishings, viscose adds a touch of elegance and sophistication.

Absorbency and Breathability

Viscose fabric has excellent absorbent properties, making it ideal for warm weather clothing. It can easily absorb moisture from the body, keeping the wearer cool and comfortable. Additionally, viscose is highly breathable, allowing air to circulate freely through the fabric.

This makes it a great choice for garments that need to be breathable and lightweight, such as summer dresses or shirts.

Versatility and Drape

Viscose fabric is known for its versatility and ability to drape beautifully. It can be easily manipulated into different styles and shapes, making it a favorite among designers. Whether you’re looking for a fabric that flows gracefully or one that can be structured for tailored garments, viscose can deliver.

Its versatility also extends to a wide range of colors and prints, allowing for endless design possibilities.


Compared to natural fibers like silk or cotton, viscose fabric is more affordable. It offers a similar luxurious feel and appearance at a fraction of the cost. This makes it a popular choice for those who want high-quality fabrics without breaking the bank.

Whether you’re a fashion enthusiast or a home decorator, viscose fabric provides an affordable option without compromising on style or quality.

Wrinkle Resistance

Viscose fabric has good wrinkle resistance, meaning it tends to hold its shape well and doesn’t easily wrinkle or crease. This makes it an excellent choice for travel or for those who prefer low-maintenance garments.

With proper care, viscose items can maintain their smooth and wrinkle-free appearance, allowing you to look polished and put together without much effort.

The Environmental Impacts of Viscose

Viscose fabric, also known as rayon, is a popular choice for clothing and textiles due to its softness and versatility. However, it is important to consider the environmental impacts associated with the production of this fabric.

High Water Usage

One of the main concerns when it comes to viscose fabric is its high water usage during manufacturing. The production of viscose involves soaking wood pulp in chemicals to create a cellulose solution, which is then extruded into fibers to make the fabric.

This process requires a significant amount of water, leading to water scarcity issues in some regions.

According to a report by the Changing Markets Foundation, it takes about 150 liters of water to produce just one kilogram of viscose fabric. This is significantly higher than the water usage for other fabrics like cotton or polyester.

The excessive water consumption associated with viscose production can put a strain on local water sources and contribute to water shortages in areas already facing water scarcity.

Chemical Pollution Risks

Another environmental concern related to viscose fabric is the potential for chemical pollution. The process of converting wood pulp into cellulose involves the use of various chemicals, including caustic soda, sulfuric acid, and carbon disulfide.

These chemicals can be harmful to both the environment and workers involved in the production process.

Carbon disulfide, in particular, is a volatile and toxic compound that can have serious health impacts. According to the World Health Organization, exposure to high levels of carbon disulfide can cause neurological and cardiovascular disorders.

Additionally, the release of these chemicals into water bodies during manufacturing can lead to water pollution and harm aquatic life.

Deforestation Concerns

Viscose fabric is primarily made from wood pulp, which raises concerns about deforestation. The demand for wood pulp to produce viscose has led to the clearing of large areas of forests, particularly in regions like Indonesia and Brazil.

Deforestation not only contributes to climate change but also leads to the loss of biodiversity and disrupts local ecosystems.

A study by Canopy, an environmental nonprofit organization, found that around 150 million trees are cut down every year to produce viscose fabric. This alarming rate of deforestation calls for more sustainable practices in the industry, such as using alternative, more eco-friendly sources of cellulose for viscose production.

The Ethical Considerations of Viscose

When considering the ethical implications of viscose fabric, it is important to examine the labor conditions in its manufacturing process. Unfortunately, there have been numerous reports of poor working conditions and low wages in the production of viscose.

Factory workers, often located in developing countries, may face long hours, unsafe working environments, and inadequate pay. This raises concerns about the human rights and well-being of those involved in the production of viscose fabric.

Labor Conditions in Manufacturing

The manufacturing of viscose fabric involves several steps, including the extraction of cellulose from wood pulp and the chemical processing that transforms it into fibers. These processes require a significant amount of manual labor, which puts workers at risk if proper safety measures are not in place.

Additionally, the demand for cheap and fast production often leads to exploitative labor practices, with workers being subjected to long hours and low wages.

It is crucial for consumers to be aware of these labor conditions and consider the ethical implications of supporting a fabric that may be produced under such circumstances. By purchasing viscose fabric from companies that prioritize fair labor practices and worker safety, consumers can help drive positive change in the industry.

Lack of Recycling Options

Another ethical concern associated with viscose fabric is the lack of recycling options. While viscose is often touted as a sustainable alternative to synthetic fabrics, its end-of-life disposal can be problematic.

Unlike natural fibers such as cotton or wool, viscose cannot be easily recycled due to the chemical treatments it undergoes during manufacturing.

As a result, a significant amount of viscose fabric ends up in landfills, contributing to environmental pollution. This raises questions about the sustainability of viscose as a fabric choice and highlights the need for more environmentally-friendly disposal methods or innovative recycling technologies.

Consumers who prioritize sustainability should consider the environmental impact of their fabric choices and opt for materials that have a clear recycling process in place. It is important to support brands that are actively working towards more sustainable practices and investing in research and development to find solutions for recycling viscose fabric.

Can Viscose Be an Eco-Friendly Choice?

Viscose fabric, also known as rayon, is a popular choice for clothing and home textiles due to its softness and breathability. However, its production process raises concerns about its environmental impact. Can viscose be an eco-friendly choice? Let’s explore some factors to consider.

Look for FSC, PEFC or OEKO-TEX Certified

When shopping for viscose products, look for those that carry certifications such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), or OEKO-TEX. These certifications ensure that the wood used to produce the viscose fiber comes from sustainably managed forests, reducing the negative impact on ecosystems and biodiversity.

By supporting brands that prioritize responsible sourcing, you can contribute to the conservation of forests and promote sustainable practices in the textile industry.

Choose Lyocell Over Viscose

Lyocell, a type of rayon made from wood pulp, is often considered a more eco-friendly alternative to traditional viscose. The production of lyocell involves a closed-loop process that recycles the chemicals used, resulting in less waste and pollution.

Additionally, the wood used for lyocell production is typically sourced from sustainably managed forests.

Compared to viscose, lyocell has a lower environmental impact and is also known for its softness and durability. Many clothing brands now offer lyocell garments, providing consumers with a more sustainable choice without compromising on quality.

Support Brands Using Closed-Loop Processes

Another way to make a more eco-friendly choice when it comes to viscose is to support brands that use closed-loop processes in their production. Closed-loop manufacturing systems recycle and reuse chemicals, minimizing the release of harmful substances into the environment.

Some brands have invested in innovative technologies that allow them to recover and reuse solvents and chemicals during the viscose production process. By choosing products from these brands, you can contribute to reducing the environmental impact of the textile industry.


Viscose fabric isn’t perfect – the manufacturing process raises reasonable concerns around sustainability. But it also offers advantages over natural fabrics in cost, durability, and comfort. By being a conscious consumer and choosing certified, eco-friendly viscose, you may be able to enjoy viscose’s benefits without contributing to the issues around it.

But weigh your priorities and values to decide if viscose aligns with them. And consider switching to more sustainable textiles like organic cotton, hemp, lyocell, and recycled synthetics whenever possible.

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