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Material Guide: What is Viscose? · SupplyCompass

Material Guide – Viscose: What is Viscose and how is it produced?

4 min read Aug 28

Header Image: Unsplash

by Aly Tobin in Materials

What is viscose?

Viscose is a regenerated cellulose fibre that is the earliest man-made semi-synthetic cellulosic fibre and was first commercially available in 1905. It was first marketed as artificial silk that is cheaper and more durable and is currently the third most commonly used textile fibre globally. Viscose most commonly comes from hardwood forests, and more specifically from fast-growing regenerative trees such as eucalyptus, beech, pine, bamboo, soy, sugarcane, and from cotton linters. Although harvesting methods vary drastically depending on the type of trees and the location of harvest, most trees are harvested where they are grown and then peeled and cut into logs. The cellulose is then transformed into dissolving wood pulp and sold to producers for either filament or fibre production.

Is viscose the same as rayon?

It is sometimes referred to as rayon, though it is a merely a type of rayon; the other types being modal, lyocell and cupro, each differing from each other based on manufacturing process and properties of the fabric.

How is viscose produced?

1. Wood Harvesting

Trees are cut down, stripped of bark and turned into wood chips. Logs are
debarked, either wet or dry and this bark may be burned or used for biofuel.

2. Pulp

At the pulp mill, wood chips are turned into a brown pulp after being cooked with sodium hydroxide, sodium sulfide and sulfur dioxide and then bleached to clean.

3. Dissolving

The pulp then goes through a purification process. The wood pulp is mixed with caustic soda and processed with sodium hydroxide and carbon disulphide.

4. Filaments

The pulp is then put into a sulphuric acid bath to dissolve and eventually
solidify the pulp. The solidified solution can then be put through a
spinneret to create a new regenerated cellulose filament.

5. Yarn

Finally, the filaments are spun into yarn.


In 2016-17, Viscose made 91% of cellulosic production, but only 29% of this was sustainably sourced.

The Textile Exchange Preferred Fibre and Materials Report, 2017

To learn more about the environmental impact of viscose, as well as alternatives to viscose such as Tencel, Orange Fiber, Refibra and SeaCell (made from seaweed), download our free guide.

Sustainable Material Guide: Viscose

Sustainable Viscose guide

Learn more about viscose by downloading our free Sustainable Viscose Guide

Download now

Aly Tobin
Guest Contributor

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Aly is a footwear and accessories designer with a particular interest in sustainable and ethical fashion. She graduated as valedictorian graduate from London College of Fashion with a specialised focus on disassembly and circularity within footwear design. Aly has experience working with both leathers and non-leathers and works closely with factories in Europe. Since graduating she has worked for Stella McCartney, Two Degrees, McQ Alexander McQueen and Ganni.


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