Rayon vs. Viscose vs. Lyocell Bamboo - What’s the Difference?

The history of bamboo began around 12,000 BC when people created eating utensils and drank its juice to prevent various inflammatory diseases. Although bamboo has always found its purpose amongst people throughout the years, it was not until 1864 that Philipp Lichtenstadt decided to create a new and useful process (PDF) for disintegrating the fibre of bamboo so that it may be used in manufacturing cordage, cloth, mats, or pulp for paper.” 

Nonetheless, regardless of the material’s widespread existence, it has only been in recent years that bamboo bedding began picking up steam as moisture-wicking, hypoallergenic, and sustainable fabric, alluring more and more people to experience its coziness. 

But are all bamboo fabrics alike? Or, more specifically, is there any difference between rayon, viscose, and lyocell bamboo? Let’s have a look.

Rayon vs. Viscose vs. Lyocell Bamboo: Comparison Guide

Regardless of whether you’re looking for those luxuriously comfortable bamboo bed sheets or a decorative, crème de la crème bamboo quilt, you probably want to know the exact type of fabric they’re made of. 

Bamboo Rayon vs. Viscose

The Federal Trade Commission considers bamboo rayon and viscose the exact same thing, stating that North Americans use the term rayon, whereas Europeans (and everyone else) prefer viscose. 

However, there do seem to be some fundamental differences between them. The principal distinction is, without a doubt, the manufacturing process, with each of them using a slightly different one. 

The Bamboo Rayon Process

Bamboo rayon derives from the main substance found in plant cell walls: cellulose, which is why it is commonly known as a regenerated cellulose fiber. 

When cellulose is broken down by a solvent, usually sodium hydroxide (commonly known as caustic soda), it creates a mushy viscous substance that is pressed down through a spinneret to create bamboo fibers. These fibers are then turned into threads that, when woven together, create bamboo rayon.

Bamboo Viscose Process

While bamboo rayon is primarily produced from pure cellulose, viscose is primarily made from pulp. Pulp is a lignocellulosic fibrous material resulting from cellulose fibers separated from wood through either mechanical or chemical processes. While viscose is the only process that might use a mechanical process, both textiles use the same chemical process.

Core Differences Between Bamboo Viscose & Rayon Fabric

Also known as artificial silk, rayon resembles silk fabrics, whereas viscose shows similarities with cotton but also looks like silk and drapes wonderfully. When it comes to coziness, viscose is a touch softer than rayon. 

In order to make these differences clearer, we decided to compare rayon and viscose in the table below. 

Category

Rayon

Viscose

Raw Materials

Mostly made of cellulose 

A combination of cellulose and wood

Fabric Category

Semi-synthetic fabric

Same: neither artificial nor natural

Main Features

Versatile use, delicate, easy to dye;

Naturally hypoallergenic, delicate, moisture-wicking, retains shape very well;

Softness

Quite soft

Softer than rayon

Cost

A touch cheaper than silk

Similar to rayon


Bamboo Lyocell vs. Viscose

So far, we hope that we established that manufacturers first dissolve the cellulose material from the bamboo plant into a solution to produce bamboo fabrics. They then press this solution into fibers through a spinneret to create diverse threads and fabrics. As the materials are quite similar, viscose and lyocell textiles are made via slightly different methods and solvents that dissolve the plant’s pulp.

Bamboo Viscose

To dissolve the plant-based material, bamboo viscose uses steam and sodium hydroxide, which is a highly caustic base and alkali that decomposes proteins even at normal ambient temperatures.

Bamboo Lyocell Process

Bamboo lyocell is similar to viscose but uses an organic solvent to dissolve the bamboo pulp, which is, in most cases, amine oxide


This reaction happens within a closed-loop system, which means that the process allows both water and amine oxide to be reused in the following batch of the manufacturing process. This environmentally-friendly process creates a truly organic fabric without altering the bamboo’s cellulose that you can peacefully sleep on for years on end. 

Final Takeaway

Each textile is special in its own way and serves a unique purpose. Though rayon, viscose, and lyocell use slightly different methods, most bamboo properties are maintained in each fabric. This means that deciding amongst the materials is mostly a personal choice. Some are looking for more comfort and durability than viscose might offer, while others prefer hypoallergenic and moisture-wicking properties. 

FAQ

What process leaves a lesser carbon footprint: viscose, rayon, or lyocell?

As the lyocell process is done in a closed-loop system, it leaves less of a carbon footprint. 

Is bamboo rayon fabric more moisture absorbent than lyocell?

Not necessarily. Since both rayon and lyocell bamboo’s moisture-wicking properties come from the hydrophobic and hydrophilic character of bamboo fiber, both fabrics can absorb moisture equally.

Are modal and lyocell the same?

Although the modal fabric is quite similar to lyocell when considering comfort and softness, it has a slightly more delicate touch.

Do viscose bamboo and bamboo linen require the same care?

Yes. Both fabrics require washing on gentle cycles as well as using lukewarm water and mild detergent.

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