Friday, 21 March 2014

T shirts made from trees

I bought a few things at the recent Marks and Spencer Sale.  Among them were a couple of Tencel T shirt (less than half price).

Tencel sounds like one of those fancy technical synthetic materials that cling and don't absorb moisture.  In actual fact, Tencel is not synthetic at all - it is made from wood pulp and is what is termed a cellulosic fibre.  It is deemed to be a manufactured cellulose fibre because the wood is chemically processed and then extruded in the same way as synthetic fibres such as nylon or polyester.

It belongs to the same family as Rayon/Viscose fibres, discovered over a century ago.  All those bamboo clothes that have been promoted heavily in recent years are also in the same family.  Bamboo clothes are made from Rayon/Viscose using bamboo instead of wood.

Tencel, or Lyocell to use its generic name, is actually a third generation manufactured cellulose fibre and is claimed to be far more environmental friendly than similar fibres. It uses the lyocell process in which the chemical solvent is continually re-used in contrast to the much older viscose process which involve more toxic chemicals which are released into the environment after use.  Bamboo, although heavily promoted on environmental grounds, typically uses the viscose process

Tencel shares many properties with other cellulose fibres such as cotton, linen, ramie and rayon, being soft, absorbent and biodegradable.  It drapes without clinging or building up static.  There is evidence that 100% tencel fabrics inhibit the growth of bacteria.

I try to avoid synthetic fibres for clothing in contact with my skin.  For shirts and underwear I normally go for fibres such as cotton, silk and wool.  I bought a couple bamboo T shirts a few years ago, which I do like.  Having discovered the advantages of Tencel/Lyocell over bamboo, I will buy the former in future.

Despite its superior characteristics, Tencel clothing is often less expensive than Bamboo.  The advertising/marketing hype seems to have worked and bamboo is regarded as a premium product, whereas many people have not heard of Tencel.  I certainly hadn't before the M&S sale.

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