In the search for eco-friendly and sustainable textiles, fabric manufacturers worldwide continue to look for innovations in synthetic fibers. One such product is modal fabric.
Is modal fabric the environmentally-minded cloth you have been looking for? This article will run through some of the essential information about the fabric.
What is Modal Fabric?
Modal is a semi-synthetic fabric produced from the cellulose in beech trees. It is under the rayon (also known as viscose) family of fabrics.
Modal undergoes different processes that make it superior in some aspects to the standard rayon product. It is more flexible and durable than rayon, though its intensive production process makes it more expensive than its affordable alternative.
Modal fabric was first invented in Japan in 1951. However, many brands of different nationalities produce their own modal fabric. There are also several innovations and upgrades done to the formula by enterprising textile companies.
You can find modal fabric in the clothing and household industries. It can be blended with different fibers to improve the durability and stretch of other garments. Modal is prized for its softness, flexibility, and strength, and is considered an eco-friendly luxury product by many.
How is Modal Fabric Made?
Modal fabric goes through the following steps of production:
Extracting the Cellulose from Beech Wood
Beech trees specially grown for modal production are harvested. The wood is broken down through a wood chipper and added to chemicals that extract the cellulose from the pulp.
Treating the Cellulose Sheets
The cellulose is formed and dried into sheets. They are treated with sodium hydroxide. The cellulose sheets are then broken down into smaller pieces and treated in carbon disulfate.
Filtering and Spinning
The resulting sodium cellulose xanthate is bathed in sodium hydroxide. The solution is then filtered and made to pass through a spinneret. This is how the long modal fibers are created.
Yarn Formation and Finishing
The fibers are then treated in sulfuric acid, and their yarn form is subjected to washing and other desired treatments for the product. The modal yarn is then spooled and ready to be weaved or blended with other fibers.
How is Modal Fabric Used?
Modal fabric is typically used in apparel. It is popularly used in loungewear, in particular. It is also used in casual wear where it provides some stretch and has a beautiful drape. The gentle and soft fabric holds its shape up very well.
Because of this soft property, household items like bath robes, bedsheets, and towels can be made of modal.
It is also popularly used in activewear, requiring some freedom of movement and breathability. This includes swimwear, underwear, biking shorts, yoga leggings, and more.
Where is Modal Fabric Produced?
Modal fabric was first developed in Japan in the 1950s. There are still some manufacturers located in the home country.
However, much of the production is currently done in China. The biggest producer of modal in the world is the Austrian Lenzing Group. The global textile company has most of its production in China and makes the country the number one producer of modal fabric.
What Different Types of Modal Fabric Are There?
The different types of modal fabric available in the market today are variations created by its largest producer, Lenzing AG. According to Masterclass, Here are some of the types and brands they have available:
- Lenzing Modal – this is the flagship modal fabric of the Lenzing company.
- China Modal
- Modal Air
These variants of modal fabric have their spinoff benefits in their modifications of the original fibers.
Features of Modal Fabric
Here are some of the features of the modal fabric.
There is a reason many luxury undergarments and loungewear are made from modal. They provide a similar soft and smooth texture to the skin comparable to what cotton or even silk has.
Modal is great for hanging around, even in warm climates. It allows air to pass through and keeps the wearer cool and comfortable.
The absorbent feature is good for two reasons: it keeps the fabric nice, dry, and comfortable, and it means that it takes dyes very well, resulting in beautiful colors and prints that last long.
The natural fibers of modal, while they have been treated, can be degraded over time, making them less likely to go to landfills.
The Benefits of Modal Fabric
The unique qualities of modal fabric lend a lot of benefits to its consumers.
First, modal fabric is incredibly soft and smooth on the skin. It benefits young skin, and those will skin conditions and annoying allergies.
Modal fabric is also highly breathable, making it an excellent material for intensive activities that will make you work up a sweat and for those who live in warm climates. The absorbent qualities of the fabric will make sure you are dry and comfortable throughout the day.
Modal fabric is also available in various colors and designs, thanks to the fabric being able to take to the dyes and prints very well.
Modal is typically blended with other fibers to provide strength to the fabric and a luxurious feel.
Modal vs Cotton
There are many people who compare Modal and Cotton because of their look and feel. While they have similarities, it’s still possible to know which one is which. Here are some characteristics and the winner for each category.
Softness and Smoothness: Tie. Both modal and cotton have a great feeling on the skin.
Durability: Cotton. Cotton can take a lot in use and in washing. Modal needs more washing care or it will tear.
Eco-friendliness: Modal. Modal uses chemicals in their production, but it is disposed of properly. It uses renewable tree material and less water than the cotton process.
The Main Drawbacks of Using Lenzing Modal Fibers
While modal is pretty durable, it’s not as tough as other natural and synthetic fibers. Everyday use is alright, but the fabric can only take warm water, gentle tumbling, and gentle detergent during the cleaning process.
Modal is also breathable but not a good insulator, and you need to pile on other clothes to keep warm.
How Much Does Modal Fabric Cost?
Due to its very special manufacturing process, modal is more expensive than cotton or rayon. After all, you need to factor in the beech tree raw materials that were specifically propagated for creating modal. The special chemicals and industrial equipment add up to the cost too. Producers are also expected to clean up the waste properly and safely, which costs money.
Is Modal Toxic?
Modal fabric uses sodium hydroxide in the process of making its fibers. This acidic solution is rinsed out of the resulting fibers, so there is no need to worry about it making its way on your skin. This is especially true when the modal is produced by a well-known company with good manufacturing practices.
Is Modal Good for Skin?
Modal fabric is really smooth and soft, making it an alternative to cotton. It can even feel like silk on the skin. There’s a reason modal fabric is so popularly used for loungewear and underwear. Its soft and smooth texture, breathability, and versatility for many different garments make it ideal for the skin.
Is Modal Good for Bedsheets?
Bedsheets made of natural fibers have always been considered a luxury. Modal is another sought-after fabric for bedsheets because of its breathability and durability in terms of keeping its shape and style. Although it needs some extra care in the washing arena, it is generally a well-loved bedsheet option.
Is Modal Good for Sensitive Skin?
Modal fabric has been pointed out to be an excellent choice for people who have eczema. Eczema or atopic dermatitis is a skin condition that flares up with irritants. Modal is a good choice due to its natural fibers, breathability, and moisture absorption. Its softness and smoothness are also a plus.
Is Modal Good for Working Out?
Yes, modal is an excellent fabric for working out. It provides a good stretch that allows the body to move in different directions. It is also sweat-wicking, which does not let sweat pile on and stain your clothes. This leaves you moisture-free and comfortable throughout your activities.
Is Modal Breathable?
This semi-synthetic fabric features soft fibers and a weave that allows air to pass through. This is what makes modal fabric ideal for undergarments and underwear. It is also suitable for active sports and places with a warm climate.
Caring for Modal Fabric
Given its solid fibers and tight weave, the modal fabric can be machine washed and dried, though this may vary from garment to garment.
It’s best to use cold water to maintain the modal fibers’ integrity and dry them on the lowest heat setting. If you want modal to last long, it’s best to keep everything in moderation.
Modal fabric tries to straddle the line between eco-friendliness and luxury. It provides silky smoothness in a natural, compostable form.
It is definitely a worthy alternative to cotton and silk. With more innovations underway, it could be an ideal fabric for an even more comprehensive range of apparel and household usage.