What is Rayon Fabric: The Ultimate Guide

Owing to the eco-friendly nature of the cellulose used to manufacture it, the utilization of rayon fabric in the textile industry continues to proliferate immensely. It is, however, a puzzling fabric but the underlying guide will walk you through its properties, to elevate your understanding.

What is Rayon Fabric?

Rayon is a prominent textile material made partly from unadulterated cellulose and uplifted cellulose. This makes it characteristically, semi-synthetic. Typically, this cellulose is extracted from wood pulp drawn from trees like eucalyptus and pine.

Rayon Fabric

The Origin of Rayon Fabric

Although early steps in the production of rayon fabric were made in the mid-19th century, it was not until the late 19th century that a more conventional form of rayon was developed. Originally referred to as Chardonett silk, this form of rayon was commercialized in 1911.

Commercialization was catalyzed by the invention of the viscose process, which gave birth to viscose rayon. As the years went by, more technologies were born, giving rise to other types of rayon including Lyocell rayon and High Wet Modulus Rayon. These advanced rayon forms are still in use up to date.

Advantages of Rayon Fabric

  • Breathability: It offers great comfort by facilitating air circulation. Warm-weather clothes made from rayon are convenient and elegant.
  • Softness: The material is intricately treated making it gentle. Its softness can be felt when rayon garments come into contact with your skin.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Clothing items made of rayon fabric are elegant and silky. This is because its smoothness and aesthetic appeal mimic that of authentic silk.
  • Drapability: Rayon fabric can mimic different shapes including flowing shapes. This qualifies its use in gown making and curtain manufacturing.
  • Fade Resistant: Rayon fabric clothing can withstand fading and staining despite the use of rough detergents and impure water or exposure to the sun.
  • Easy Care: Quite often, rayon is treated further to elevate its strength. This minimizes wrinkling chances, consequently easing the maintenance routine.
  • Cost-Effective: Rayon fabric offers most of the advantages offered by silkier fabrics and still costs less.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Today, rayon is manufactured using authentic cellulose and the manufacturing process incorporates eco-friendly practices like recycling.
  • Versatile: Rayon fabric can assume various shapes, designs, and sizes, making it perfect for use in multiple textile applications.

Rayon Fabric Features

Rayon fabric is highly revered in clothes manufacturing due to its unique features. It is unlike any other fabric hence its widespread use. Here are the primary properties that make rayon fabric a staple in the textile industry.

  • Soft: Owing to its extreme softness and comfortability, it is often referred to as artificial silk. Its softness can be equated to that of authentic fibers.
  • Moisture-absorbent: Rayon can soak up varying amounts of wetness, for instance, sweat, leaving the wearer warm and cozy.
  • Shiny: Outfits made of rayon fabric have a shiny appearance and this is because rayon resembles silk. This adds a touch of elegance to the outfits.
  • Breathable: Rayon contains micro-pores, which facilitate air circulation, thereby cooling the wearer’s body on sunny days.
  • Easily Dyed: Rayon fabric garments can be customized to feature distinct colors and patterns. This makes rayon a preferred choice for stylists.
  • Bio-degradable: The primary ingredient in rayon fabric is cellulose, which is characteristically compostable. It can decay over the years, unlike artificial fabric.
  • Low Static Electricity: This feature is a result of the low friction tendencies of rayon fabrics. Rayon outfits hardly cling to the wearer’s body.
  • Drapability: Owing to the slinky nature of the semi-synthetic fibers utilized to produce rayon, it is often deployed in the manufacturing of draping or loose clothes.

Rayon Fabric Manufacturing

For the elegant rayon fabric material to be born, numerous ingredients must be amassed and taken through a series of chemical processes.

In the case of rayon, natural cellulose garnered from plant-based sources, especially pine and bamboo, is the main ingredient. The conversion of raw cellulose into shiny rayon fabric can be accomplished using numerous methods.

Viscose Process

The viscose process has been in use since rayon fabric was commercialized. Essentially, this process generates viscose by transfiguring cellulose from plants. This is accomplished in the following steps:

Step 1: Cellulose Extraction

Cellulose is the primary ingredient in rayon manufacturing. It is typically sourced from wood pulps drawn from bamboo, eucalyptus, or other natural sources. This can be achieved using chemical or mechanical means. The extracted cellulose is then processed using caustic soda and carbon disulfide to generate cellulose xanthate.

Step 2: Viscose Generation

Subsequently, the cellulose xanthate generated after the cellulose has been chemically treated is preserved for a while or aged. This results in the formation of a viscous liquid that is yellow in color. This is referred to as the viscose.

Step 3: Spinning

The resulting viscous liquid is then squeezed into a coagulating bath, where it is transformed into rayon filaments. The coagulating bath often utilizes sulfuric acid to congeal the viscose.

Step 4: Excess Alkali Removal

With the rayon strands well-formed, a neutralization process is initiated. This process involves washing the rayon threads to dislodge unwanted chemicals amassed in the previous steps. To dislodge the surplus alkali from the filaments, weaker acids may be deployed.

Step 5: Ripening

For elevated tensile strength, the rayon fabric strands generated are further treated using distinct chemicals.

Step 6: Cutting and Drying

The post-treated rayon filaments are then subjected to regulated heat to flush out unwanted moisture. They are subsequently subdivided into smaller pieces in adherence to the design specifications. The end product is high-quality rayon fabric.

The Viscose Process for Rayon Manufacturing
The Viscose Process for Rayon Manufacturing


  • The process is comparatively economical.
  • It relies on plants, which are biodegradable to source cellulose. This minimizes the negative impact on the ecosystem.
  • The resulting fabric is of top-notch quality and can be easily dyed.

Cuprammonium Process

Although it is not as popular as the viscose process, the cuprammonium process generates very soft rayon fabric.

Here, the extracted cellulose is processed using aqueous ammonia and copper hydroxide. The resulting solution is then coagulated to form filaments of cuprammonium rayon. These filaments are subsequently neutralized, washed, ripened, and dried to generate rayon fabric.

Cuprammonium Process for Rayon Manufacturing
Cuprammonium Process for Rayon Manufacturing
  • Process generates soft rayon with excellent drapability
  • Quality and texture of the resulting rayon is top-notch

Lyocell Process

The lyocell process is one of the most recent rayon fabric manufacturing methods. It utilizes innocuous solvents to treat the cellulose.

Besides, the most utilized solvent is typically N-methylmorpholine-N-oxide. The treated solution is then transformed into filaments through the spinning process. These rayon threads are subsequently purified, dried, and cut to generate rayon fabric.

Lyocell Process
Lyocell Process
  • This process utilizes eco-friendly solvents.
  • The resulting rayon fabric exhibits impressive moisture-absorbing capabilities.
  • The process permits the re-use of the solvents.

Types of Rayon Fabric

At the start, it was just viscose rayon fabric. However, as the years went by, newer methods of manufacturing rayon fabric were invented and this gave rise to other rayon types. Here is a breakdown of the main rayon fabric types available today.

Viscose Rayon

Viscose rayon fabric is the oldest form of rayon currently in use. It is extensively used across various industries because it is silky and has a luxurious look. It is manufactured by treating cellulose using caustic soda and carbon disulfide.  Viscose rayon is often employed to produce warm-weather garments because of its breathability feature.

Viscose Rayon
Viscose Rayon

Lyocell Rayon

Lyocell rayon fabric was introduced to the market in 1972. Its manufacturing process is designed to favor environmental conservation by recycling used solvents.

This closed-loop process produces high-level rayon characterized by a smooth and silky texture. Lyocell rayon garments are revered due to their moisture-wicking feature, which cools the wearer.

Lyocell Rayon
Lyocell Rayon

Modal Rayon

Modal rayon fabric came into existence in 1951 and it has become quite prominent over the decades. Its manufacturing process greatly resembles that of the viscose rayon hence they both share numerous characteristics.

It is, however, primarily manufactured using cellulose drawn from beech trees. Its super-soft feel has prompted its extensive use in undergarment manufacturing.

Modal Rayon
Modal Rayon

High Wet Modulus Rayon

High wet modulus rayon is a unique fabric type customized to favor wet conditions. Additional treatment is employed to boost the robustness of this material as well as its water and chemical resistance.

As such, it is prominently used to manufacture surgical dressings and industrial paraphernalia.

High Wet Modulus Rayon fiber
High Wet Modulus Rayon fiber

Disadvantage of Rayon Fabric

  • Wrinkling: When washed, rayon fabric clothes can become wrinkly, necessitating ironing, which can be burdensome.
  • Shrinking: Washing rayon garments with hot water can reduce their size and this often leads to shape loss.
  • Environmental Concerns: Conventional rayon manufacturing processes like the viscose process utilize chemicals, which can harm the ecosystem if improperly used and disposed of.

Choosing the Best Rayon Fabric

The use of rayon fabric transcends various textile applications, ranging from undergarment-making to industrial gear manufacturing. This fabric is greatly revered courtesy of its affordability and smoothness.

However, it is available in a range of different forms and qualities but by considering the following factors, you can rest assured you will pick the best rayon fabric.

Intended Use

Rayon fabric comes in different types characterized by distinct features. You should carefully consider the qualities of a specific type in contrast to the demands of your application. For example, if you are seeking a fabric to make a sporting outfit, consider the rayon’s moisture absorbency and its breathability.

Design and Color

Rayon fabric can be customized to exhibit different colors and color combinations. Different fabrics can also feature distinct designs. Your pick should be centered on a design and color that complements your intended use.

Expected Lifespan

Although the lifespan of rayon fabric is primarily determined by the nature of its use, you should settle on quality fabrics. High-quality rayon can hold out against high temperatures, moisture, and other tough conditions.


Owing to differences in properties, texture, and quality, the varying types of rayon fabric attract different prices. You should give preference to high-quality fabric that sits within your budget.

Care Instructions

Different types of rayon fabric demand different care practices. For instance, some may become wrinkly when washed in a laundry machine, thereby necessitating ironing.

Before you make a choice, carefully scrutinize the care instructions.

Comparing Rayon to Other Fabrics


Aspect Rayon Cotton Linen Silk
Texture Extremely soft. Almost as soft as wool Smooth and gentle when worn. Can be rough on the skin since it is coarsely textured Very smooth and luxurious
Breathability Has micro-pores, which facilitate air circulation Breathable and very pleasant for hot weather. Extremely breathable Breathable but not as effective as the rest
Durability Moderately durable and its lifespan can be impacted by hot water Quite durable and can last numerous rigorous washes Relatively durable but prone to wrinkling The least durable and is often impacted by sunlight
Drapability Accommodative of hanging designs Favors drape designs Naturally draped it is widely used to make gowns Often used on luxurious draped clothing
Care Instructions Necessitates delicate care like gentle handwashing Extremely easy to care for. Can be washed with a machine and ironed Needs special handling. Machine washing may necessitate ironing Needs to be looked after with great care e.g. gentle machine washing

Caring Tips for Rayon Fabric

Rayon fabric is synonymous with softness hence rayon garments should always be handled with great care. Proper care not only prolongs the service life of these garments but also retains their aesthetic appeal.

  • Gentle Wash: When washing rayon clothing, you should use the moderate cycle on the laundry machine or wash gently by hand to mitigate agitation.
  • Separate Washing: You should always clean rayon fabric garments separately from other fabrics. This averts friction, which can lead to pilling.
  • Rinse with Cold Water: Rinsing with hot water can leave your rayon clothing with wrinkles or shrink their size.
  • Place in a Mesh Bag: Before you insert your rayon fabric clothes in a washing machine, place them in a mesh bag for an extra layer of protection.
  • Do Not Cramp Them Together: When using the washer, avoid compressing or overloading your rayon garments to mitigate friction.
  • Iron on Low Heat: When ironing your wrinkled rayon fabric clothes, ensure the iron box is on low heat to avert shrinking.
  • Always Follow the Given Care Instructions: You should adhere to the care instructions provided on the label attached to the rayon garment.

Common Rayon Fabric Uses

  • Industrial Applications: The tensile strength of rayon fabric has prompted its extensive utilization in the manufacturing of filters and conveyor belts among other industrial uses.
  • Home Textiles: Rayon has an aesthetic appeal that makes it perfect for producing household fabrics like curtains, and bedding.
  • Medical Gear: Thanks to its comfortability and moisture absorbency, rayon fabric is often used to make surgical attires and other medical gear.
  • Blends with Other Fabrics: The versatility of rayon permits its use in collaboration with other fabrics like wool and cotton.
  • Linings: Garments made from coarse fabrics are often lined at the edges using rayon since it is smooth and affordable.
  • Apparel Making: Owing to its softness and breathability, it is widely exploited to manufacture a myriad of clothing items e.g. dresses and shirts.
  • Hygiene Supplies: Rayon fabric is gentle on human skin hence its wide usage in the production of hygienic products like sanitary towels.
  • Accessories: Rayon is smooth and light in weight. This qualifies its application in manufacturing stylish accessories like handkerchiefs.
  • Arts and Crafts: It can be styled and designed uniquely by dyeing it with creative colors and imprinting unique designs making it ideal for art and craft projects.
  • Sportswear: Rayon can soak up moisture and it allows air circulation, making it perfect for manufacturing stylish sportswear.


Does Rayon Fabric Fade?

Although rayon fabric has high color retention capabilities, it can fade when subjected to excessive sunlight frequently. This is because UV rays mess up chemical compounds. Additionally, fading can be prompted by the use of harsh cleaning agents like bleach.

Does Rayon Fabric Affect People with Allergies?

No. Rayon is principally made of natural cellulose, which makes it hypoallergenic, unlike fully synthetic fabric. The chemicals employed in its treatment are also non-hazardous and the rayon filament is purified in the production process. However, allergic reactions may be witnessed if allergenic dyes are used on the rayon.

How Long Does Rayon Fabric Last?

Rayon fabric is moderately long-lasting. If cared for as per the provided care instructions, it can last longer, without losing its shine and smoothness. However, if rayon garments are exposed to harsh conditions like extreme sunlight, their lifespan can be reduced.

Is Rayon Fabric Prone to Wrinkling?

Rayon fabric clothing rinsed in hot water may have wrinkles once dried. Similarly, washing and drying rayon garments in a laundry machine can cause wrinkling.

However, this can be mitigated by rinsing the garments using cold water and avoiding overloading. Wrinkled rayon attires can be ironed on low heat to straighten them.

More Resources:

Rayon Features and Properties – Source: Britannica

Rayon Fabric – Source: WHOWHATWEAR

Rayon – Source: Wikipedia

Custom Rayon Fabric – Source: Sinosilk

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