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Tencel VS Silk: Similarities and Differences

When it comes to soft, smooth and comfortable fabrics, tencel and silk are frequently mentioned. Both types of fabrics have faithful followers. But have you ever compared them in full detail? This post is born to cast light on the similarities and differences between tencel and silk. Let us dive deeper into the details.

What Is Tencel? A Semi-natural Fabric of Wood Pulp

Tencel is at first a trademark of lyocell fabrics, one type of rayon fabrics. It was branded by Courtaulds company in the 1980s but now is known as one of the trump cards of Lengzing company. It utilizes 100% natural wood pulp garnered from eucalyptus, bamboo, etc, as raw materials and then converts these regenerated cellulose into fibers by chemical treatments.  

Touted as “future fibers”, the process of Tencel manufacture has been reformed into a closed-loop system, with most chemicals and solvents kept and recycled again and again. 

So, more precisely, Tencel is actually a type of lyocell made by Lenzing, and its outstanding properties and sustainability make it an epitome. Consequently, its name has been extended to indicate the whole type and similar counterparts.

What Is Silk? A Natural Fabric of Animal Protein

Silk, on the other hand, has been on the throne of “fiber queen” for multitudes of years. Its production can be traced back to China during the New Stone Age, divided into sericulture, reeling and spinning processes. People harvested a kind of long fibers from the pupae of silkworms, the larvae of Bombyx Mori. Via special treatments, these fibers can be woven into silk fabrics. With numerous merits, silk has been commercially coveted for centuries and is still all the rage now.

Tencel VS Silk: What are Similarities?

For readers in a rush or result-oriented, you can get the gist of similarities between tencel and silk through the following form.

Similarities of tencel and silk

Origin: Natural Materials

Tencel and silk are all made of natural resources. Tencel is a type of wood pulp fabric, also called regenerated cellulosic fabric. It proceeds its base from various natural wood, pre- or post-treatment cellulose waste, and recycled cellulosic fibers. Silk is a type of animal protein fabric. It mostly originates from the cocoons of reared silkworms. Diverged from entirely synthetic fibers, such as polyester made of petroleum, they possess several exclusive virtues.

Texture: Soft and Smooth

Silk’s exceptional softness and smoothness are known to all. Its naturally long and slender fibers through tight weaving assume an unparalleled texture. However, the new fiber, Tencel is also silky and smooth not a halfpenny the worse. Though of shorter fibers, tencel is made of superfine fibers extruded and sprayed by machines. These fine fibers form a supple and slippy surface by compact and orderly structures.

Moisture-wicking

Both animal protein fibers and plant cellulose fibers have excellent moisture-wicking properties, especially compared to synthetic fibers. Additionally, they are all capable of absorbing excess moisture and transferring part of it to the surface of the fabric – able to release some moisture back into the air. This is also the reason why both Tencel and silk provide comfort to the touch and feel. For another, you may have seen the debate on which performs better in wicking moisture. The answer is not decided yet. Normally, silk sellers support their products while Tencel manufacturers hold a contrary opinion. This is a question remaining unsolved and waiting for more scientific verifications.  

Wrinkle Resistance 

Tencel and silk are all not so resistant to wrinkling. They both become weaker when in wet conditions. To reduce the crease or recover the smoothness, you should iron or steam them at a safe temperature. Silk fabrics, particularly lightweight ones can not avoid marks under folding, squeezing, and rolling.  Per contra, heavy silk is less prone to creases. You may have heard bedclothes stores hyper their Tencel as wrinkle-resisted fabrics. It is barely the real case you meet with your Tencel clothing and bedding.

However, each type of fabric has a range of functions and quality. Poor manufacturing crafts and loose regulation of production may also be the culprits of the vulnerability to wrinkling, in addition to the tendency of fiber itself.   

Drapebility

Silk and Tencel have the brilliant ability to drape and shape well. In the past, the noble class had a crush on silk clothing just for its potential to produce complicated styles and highlight their identities. In recent years, Tencel has aroused a heated discussion – when the famous French actress Léa Seydoux entered the red carpet of the 92nd Academy Awards in a stunning, luxurious Tencel gown. Further, Tencel as a newly sprouted fabric may uncover more in the draping performance.  

Sustainability

Though an ongoing dispute on which is better, silk and Tencel are renowned for their sustainability. Owning to the present abuse of chemical fibers, the textile industry has a tendency to pose a threat to the already overexploited petroleum. Moreover, most traditional chemical fibers, represented by polyester, are hard to degrade and cause much pollution. Developing natural fibers and regenerated fibers such as silk and tencel is an effort to pursue sustainable and circular development of the textile industry.  

Silk and Tencel are also pioneers in the renovated endeavor of more sustainable production. For example, the “clean silk” renounces the use of about 800 chemical substances and the “activated silk” makes use of silk noils as raw materials. Besides, the “organic silk” optimizes the sericulture – no chemical fertilizers and insecticides. Tencel is a regenerated cellulose fabric and is thus biodegradable and compostable. Though semi-synthetical fibers, tencel in the high-end production line is carbon neutral. For example, the cornerstone of Lenzing, TENCEL™ collects discarded cellulose and uses a sophisticated closed-loop system – to produce close-to-zero wastage. Unlike traditional viscose, it abandons chemical solutions making pollution and turns out more eco-friendly. That being said, some advocate that tencel is more sustainable than silk. However, I deem this conclusion lame – Lenzing’s circular production system is confined to its own fabrics and “Tencel” can refer to an immense scope of rayon fabrics.

Tencel VS Silk: What are Differences?

As usual, let us take a quick comparison first. 

Differences of tencel and silk

Appearance

Tencel and silk are both revered for their elegant and luxurious appearance. But they differ slightly in the sense of gloss. This difference can be discerned easily within a close distance. Silk is shimmering for the natural sheen of silk fibers. They can refract light at every angle with a triangular prism inner structure. Tencel, more or less, imitates the gloss assumption in manufacturing. However, it is not able to replicate the natural luster and is visibly dimmer than silk, taking a matte effect. 

Ethicality

As for ethicality, tencel reigns supreme over silk. Regularly, one cocoon can be reeled into one silk filament and a silk thread or yarn consists of about 50 silk filaments. You can catch a glimpse of the formidable quantity from this fact. Consequently, it takes over 2000 cocoons to produce one pound of silk. For some, especially animal cruelty associations, silk is inhuman and immoral. For another, tencel often gathers its materials from eucalyptus, a fast-growing plant in non-arable areas. It is also common to reuse cotton waste and dead wood. Compared with killing thousands of silkworms, Tencel is obviously more ethical and cruelty-free.

Breathability

As a natural fiber, silk cruises to victory in breathability. Its porous structure renders a fluent circulation of water and air, reducing excess heat and moisture. Tencel, though of natural origin, leans towards synthetic fibers in permeability. It breathes more slowly than silk and offers a less cool feeling. 

Hypoallergenic Property

Silk is extremely friendly to human skin as its composition of animal protein. It causes less irritation to the skin and thus is suitable for people troubled by allergies. Furthermore, its fine fibers and tightly woven structure prevent the accumulation of dust and mites. In contrast, Tencel’s manufacture involves lots of chemical substances. Do they turn into products without residue of chemicals? And will these chemicals pose a stimulus on people? Further investigation is needed. All in all, silk is safer for the skin and more hypoallergenic.

Affordability

Tencel has an edge on the price. Silk has been pursued for centuries and was once specially supplied for the aristocracy. Even now, it still remains the essence of luxury. In contrast, Tencel is much cheaper to come by because of its low production cost. However, there is another thing. As a new fiber, Tencel is not yet available everywhere, so you may take some time to do your survey if you want to purchase it.

Care & Maintenance

Care & maintenance are unavoidable for any fabric. Both silk and Tencel are not easy to care for and wash. As we mentioned above, they are prone to wrinkles and creases. However, Tencel inherits one property from its half-synthetic nature – Machine washable. As you may know, silk hates water and some of it even gets stained by water. It prefers gentle and meticulous hand washing. So the upkeep of Tencel in general is handier and of less hassle. Some silk products may advertise themselves as machine washable. But extra attention and care are necessary in the process. Or your expensive silk will get a new appeal – nothing left of texture, luxury and elegance.

FAQs

Is Tencel Better than Silk? Is Tencel as good as silk?

It is really hard to answer these questions as each type of fabric boasts its properties. From some perspectives, Tencel is better than silk, such as cost-efficiency and humanism. Also, in some aspects, Tencel is as good as silk, such as texture and sustainability.

What are the disadvantages of Tencel?

To sum up, Tencel is vulnerable to hard and sharp touch and not resistant to abrasion. More importantly, Tencel tends to be harder when wet and needs more careful maintenance than cotton and linen. It is also not very elastic and has weak tensile strength for its short and identical fibers.

Tencel VS Lyocell?

Tencel is actually a trademark of lyocell, and it is more precise to call it Tencel lyocell. Now this name is used more widely than before. Sometimes, when people mention tencel and lyocell, they refer to the same thing. Therefore, it is very hard to make a comparison between these 2 things.

Final Thoughts

Both Tencel and silk are good substitutes when it comes to clothing and bedding. You can take them into account when you give up your default to old choices. In conclusion, they are fine fabrics that make our lives better.  Founded in 2016, Sinosilk has been an important site for quality fabrics. We not only offer the best fabrics like silk, Tencel and silk Tencel blends but also provide custom services and one-stop solutions. Come with us if you need these fabrics and we will give you all you want!

More Resources

What is silk?– Source: Sinosilk

What is Tencel fabric? – Source: Sinosilk

Tencel vs cotton– Source: Sinosilk

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