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Fabric Guide: What is Modal Fabric? And Is It Sustainable?

Have you noticed a trend where the majority of underwear materials available in the market are labeled as “Modal”? What is modal fabric? Is it a good fabric? Is it limited to being used only in underwear production? These questions have prompted you to click on this article. We are pleased to offer you answers and assistance. Here, you will acquire a thorough and clear understanding of Modal.

What is Modal Fabric?

Modal fabric is a type of semi-synthetic textile derived from plant materials and produced using chemical processes. It is also referred to as High Wet Modulus (HWM) viscose. Known for its softness and smooth texture, modal fabric offers a luxurious feel comparable to silk. 

Its durability and resistance to pilling contribute to its popularity as a choice material for clothing. It’s worth noting that modal fabric is commonly used in the production of underwear and sportswear.

Modal is widely recognized as an eco-friendly alternative. It combines comfort, sustainability, and functionality, making it highly prized in the textile industry. Despite being slightly more expensive than fabrics such as pure cotton or polyester, modal fabric’s positive attributes attract discerning consumers seeking a conscientious choice.

The History and Origins of Modal Fabric

The history of modal fabric can be traced back to Japan in the mid-20th century. However, it is most commonly associated with Lenzing AG, an Austrian company that continues to dominate the modal fabric market today.

Modal can be seen as a variation of viscose, created from cellulose fibers extracted from natural wood pulp. Lenzing AG played a pioneering role in the production of modal fibers through their specialized manufacturing process known as “Lenzing Modal.” They treat the cellulose fibers with chemical substances and then transform them into continuous filaments using weaving machinery.

In the 1960s, Modal fibers entered commercial production and quickly gained popularity in the market due to their distinct properties, luxurious texture, and environmentally friendly production processes.

Currently, aside from Lenzing AG, the primary producers of modal fabric are predominantly located in countries such as China and India.

What is the Modal Fabric Made of?

Modal fabric is made using renewable beechwood. This may remind you of the paper production process, and indeed, the production process of modal is similar to papermaking. In the following section, we will guide you through the production process in detail.

The abundance of beech trees in Europe provides a sustainable source for modal production. The modal fabric also benefits from its strength and durability.

Beechwood is not the only material used. Chemicals are also involved in the production process, making modal a semi-synthetic fabric.

What is the Production Process of Modal Fabric?

1. Raw Material Preparation

Harvest beechwood or select other fast-growing trees with high fiber content. Prepare chemicals like sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide.

2. Wood Pulp Production

The prepared wood needs to be processed into small chips, and then chemicals like sodium hydroxide are used to extract the fibers and create wood pulp.

3. Cellulose Preparation

Mix the wood pulp with a sodium hydroxide solution to produce alkaline cellulose. These cellulose fibers undergo aging under specific temperature and time conditions. Then, they are soaked in a solution containing carbon disulfide for the xanthation process.

4. Fiber Production

After removing excess moisture and chemicals, the xanthate cellulose fibers are dissolved in a chemical solution to form a viscous solution. The solution is filtered to remove impurities. Using a spinneret, the solution is extruded into a coagulation bath to form modal fibers.

5. Spinning Yarn

The coagulated modal fibers are washed and dried to remove any remaining chemicals. Subsequently, the fibers can be spun into yarn and wound onto spools.

6. Fabric Production

Under strict quality control, the spun modal yarn is knitted, woven, or otherwise transformed into various fabrics, ready for use.

It was mentioned earlier that the production process of modal fabric is similar to papermaking. Did you notice any similarities? 

Both processes begin by making wood pulp in the initial stage. However, modal fabric extrudes the fibers through a spinneret, while papermaking involves forming the fibers into a flat sheet that is subsequently processed into paper.

While there are similarities between the two processes, it’s important to note that there are differences in both the manufacturing techniques and the final applications. The purpose of highlighting these similarities is to aid your understanding.

What Kind of Fabric is Modal?

Modal, along with viscose and lyocell, is a type of regenerated cellulose fiber. Modal fabric is renowned for its softness, smoothness, and breathability, making it a luxurious choice for many individuals.

There are variations of modal fabric that differ from regular modal. We’ll introduce you to some well-known types of modal fabric.

What is Lenzing Modal Fabric?

Lenzing Modal fabric is produced by the Lenzing Company using sustainable raw materials and eco-friendly closed-loop production processes.

Lenzing Modal fabric possesses a silky texture reminiscent of silk, an excellent drape, and the ability to beautifully shape various garments and textiles. It retains the softness, breathability, and other typical characteristics of modal fabric while offering enhanced durability and color retention.

Lenzing Modal fabric is renowned for its sustainability and is considered an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional fabrics.

Similar to Lenzing Modal, other brands like Birla Modal and China Modal can also be found. These fabrics exhibit no significant differences in terms of appearance and performance. However, if you are keen on distinguishing them, variations may exist in their production locations, tree species used, fiber specifications, or fiber cross-sections.

What is Micro Modal Fabric?

Micro Modal fabric is a variation of modal fabric that distinguishes itself from conventional modal. It is typically woven using finer fibers, resulting in a fabric with a softer and denser texture. It combines all the advantages of traditional modal fabric while exhibiting a lighter and more luxurious quality.

Micro Modal fabric is commonly used in the production of high-end clothing, including comfortable and high-quality underwear and loungewear. Its incredibly smooth and comfortable feel has received widespread acclaim.

What is Cotton Modal Fabric?

Cotton Modal fabric is a blend of cotton fibers and modal fibers. It combines the breathability and softness of cotton with the durability and smooth texture of modal. It offers a more luxurious feel and greater resistance to shrinkage compared to pure cotton fabric.

The combination of cotton and modal fibers provides the fabric with excellent moisture-wicking properties, keeping the skin dry and comfortable for extended periods. It is an ideal choice for crafting sportswear, casual wear, and other garments.

By blending modal fibers with other fibers, the fabric achieves the benefits of multiple fibers at a more affordable price. You can also find blends of Modal with elastane, Modal with Tencel, Modal with polyester, Modal with silk, and more.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Modal Fabric?

Advantages of Modal Fabric:

  • Softness: Modal is often described as having a silky or cashmere-like feel, providing a luxurious softness that offers long-lasting comfort to the skin.
  • Breathability: Modal is an excellent material for sportswear due to its exceptional breathability, allowing the skin to “breathe” and helping to regulate body temperature.
  • Absorbency: Modal’s exceptional moisture-wicking properties create a favorable environment for the skin, reducing bacterial growth and keeping the skin dry and clean.
  • Durability: Despite its delicate texture, Modal is highly durable and resistant to pilling and abrasion, making it suitable for everyday wear.
  • Color retention: Modal fabric has good absorbency, enabling it to effectively absorb dyes while maintaining long-lasting color. It is also an excellent choice for household textiles.
  • Ecological friendliness: Modal fabric promotes biodegradability, and its closed-loop production process ensures environmental protection while minimizing energy consumption. It is a conscious choice for the environment.
  • Stability: Regardless of its intended form, Modal fabric maintains its shape and stability without altering its appearance. This provides added convenience for everyday use.

Disadvantages of Modal Fabric:

  • Shrinkage: Despite modal’s overall performance stability, it may experience slight shrinkage during the washing and drying process, particularly in high-temperature environments. Proper care can help minimize this issue.
  • Chemical use: The production process of modal fabric unavoidably involves the use of chemicals. Improper management not only affects the health of workers but also contributes to environmental pollution.
  • Potential allergenicity: Due to the incorporation of chemicals, modal fabric becomes a semi-synthetic material. It may cause skin issues for individuals with sensitive skin.
  • Price: The production process and luxurious texture of modal fabric result in a higher price compared to other synthetic fabrics and even slightly higher than traditional cotton fabrics. While it offers numerous advantages, cost-effectiveness should be considered if budget is a priority.

What is the Modal Fabric Used for?

As we know, modal fabric is extensively utilized in the production of underwear. It is gentle, soft, non-irritating, and skin-friendly, providing a friction-free experience. It effectively absorbs moisture, allows breathability, and prevents overheating. With its exceptional stability, modal fabric maintains its shape, making it an ideal choice for underwear.

Of course, it has other applications as well.

The unique properties of modal fabric make it a preferred option for creating various types of clothing. T-shirts, dresses, shirts, vests, pajamas, activewear, and casual wear, among others, offer a luxurious and comfortable feel when made with modal fabric.

Modal fabric is also highly suitable for crafting baby products. Its gentle and soft texture is friendly to delicate baby skin, offering a greater sense of security compared to other synthetic fabrics. Furthermore, modal fabric is more durable and exhibits consistent performance compared to natural fabrics, making it an attractive choice in terms of affordability.

It is commonly found in household items as well. Beyond loungewear, towels, bathrobes, bed sheets, pillowcases, and even some furniture coverings can be made from modal fabric. These products, woven from modal fabric, are highly absorbent, visually elegant, and add convenience and style to your home.

Accessories made from modal fabric, including scarves, shawls, hats, gloves, and even socks, are also popular in the market. The soft fabric, vibrant color presentation, and comfortable feel make them excellent options for purchase.

The versatile applications of modal fabric extend beyond what we have mentioned. If you have more ideas, you can seek reliable suppliers to bring your creative concepts to life. We eagerly anticipate witnessing modal fabric unlocking even more possibilities in your hands.

Is Modal Fabric Sustainable?

Modal fabric is biodegradable, but sustainability encompasses more than just this aspect. It needs to demonstrate sustainability from various perspectives.

Typically, modal fabric is derived from fast-growing beech trees. However, improper logging practices can still have negative ecological impacts. With sustainability becoming a growing concern, modal manufacturers now prioritize responsibly managed forests as their source of raw materials.

The production of modal often involves a closed-loop process, where the chemicals used are recycled and reused. This environmentally conscious approach not only protects the environment but also considers the well-being of workers.

Furthermore, the water and energy consumption during modal production is relatively low. These factors reinforce modal as a sustainable choice.

Is Modal Fabric Toxic?

Modal fabric is non-toxic. The concerns surrounding it mainly stem from the use of chemicals during its production process.

Modal fabric production employs a closed-loop manufacturing process that minimizes environmental harm and strives to eliminate chemical residues from the fabric. Although trace amounts of chemicals may remain in the fabric, they do not pose significant risks to human health. 

Furthermore, current modal fabrics adhere to stringent safety standards throughout their production and processing.

If you have concerns about the safety of using modal fabric, you can seek out reputable manufacturers and look for the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certification. This certification confirms the fabric’s safety for both human use and the environment through rigorous testing.

How to Wash Modal Fabric?

Caring for modal fabric is typically similar to caring for cotton, and it doesn’t require excessively delicate treatment. However, it is important to review the care label before washing, as certain blended fabrics may have specific requirements. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Use a gentle detergent for both hand washing and machine washing.
  2. Avoid overcrowding and wash similar colors together.
  3. Utilize a laundry bag.
  4. Fabric softener is not required.
  5. Allow the fabric to air dry or tumble dry on low heat.
  6. If necessary, iron the fabric at low temperatures.

What is Modal Fabric vs Cotton?

– Modal is a semi-synthetic fabric made from cellulose extracted from beech wood and is a type of viscose.

– Cotton is a natural fabric made from cotton seeds.

 

– Modal is smooth, soft, gentle on the skin, and has a luxurious appearance.

– Cotton is naturally soft but lacks a silky texture.

 

– Modal fabrics are highly breathable and have excellent moisture-wicking properties.

– Cotton is naturally breathable and moisture-wicking.

 

– Modal fabrics are more durable, stable, and maintain their shape for a long time.

– Cotton, although a durable natural fabric, is prone to shrinkage and pilling.

 

– Modal has good wrinkle resistance and retains its wrinkle-free appearance even after washing.

– Cotton wrinkles easily and requires ironing.

 

– Modal can retain vibrant colors for a long time.

– Cotton can also hold colors well, but they may fade after repeated washing.

 

– Modal fabrics are more environmentally friendly and sustainable, consuming less energy.

– Cotton, especially traditional cotton, requires significant resources and is not conducive to ecological conservation.

Modal vs Polyester

Modal fabric and polyester are both synthetic fabrics. However, Modal is a semi-synthetic fiber derived from cellulose extracted from beech wood.

Both fabrics offer excellent wrinkle resistance and durability, allowing them to withstand daily use, frequent washing, and maintain their shape over time.

Compared to polyester, modal fabric is softer, more breathable, and has superior moisture absorption capabilities. Moreover, modal is a more environmentally friendly option as it utilizes sustainable materials and consumes less energy.

Polyester is made from non-renewable resources, making it less environmentally friendly. Nevertheless, its practicality is undeniable, and it is often more affordable in terms of price.

FAQs:

Does modal fabric shrink?

Modal fabric typically does not shrink easily. To minimize the risk of shrinkage, it is recommended to follow the care instructions provided by the manufacturer for washing and storage.

Is modal fabric stretchy?

Modal fabric has limited stretchability, but it can be blended with Lycra or other stretch fibers to enhance the fabric’s stretchiness.

Is modal fabric breathable?

Breathability is a key characteristic of modal fabric. This lightweight and breathable fabric allows moisture from your body to evaporate quickly, keeping you cool and comfortable.

Is modal fabric warm?

Modal fabric may not provide sufficient warmth in cold weather. It helps regulate body temperature and prevent overheating. If you require warmth, blending it with other materials or using it as a layering fabric for insulation may be necessary.

Conclusion

Are you ready to delve into the world of modal fabrics after reading this blog? We suggest starting with small accessories if you prefer a more cautious approach. 

Sinosilk is a professional supplier of customized scarves and can provide you with modal scarves. You can also explore modal blends and customize silk modal scarves. The shape, length, and design can all be customized according to your preferences. All you have to do is take the first step now – contact us!

More Resources:

What is Silk – Source: Sinosilk

What is Polyester – Source: Sinosilk

What is Viscose Fabric – Source: Sinosilk

What is Cotton – Source: Sinosilk

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