What is lyocell? Washing tips and fun facts

Lyocell is a silky-soft and plant-based fabric, but it needs some TLC to maintain. So what is lyocell fabric, and how do you wash it?

Updated 20 April 2023


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time5 minutes

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Check the care labels of your clothes, and chances are you’ll see ‘lyocell’ pop up a few times. It’s not used quite as frequently as materials like polyester or cotton, but its popularity is certainly on the rise. So, what is lyocell material, and how do you care for it properly?

What is lyocell fabric?

Lyocell fabric is a form of rayon, made from plant-based and environmentally-sustainable materials, making it generally a more eco-friendly choice than synthetic fabrics like polyester. The ‘closed-loop’ process that’s used to make it even works to recover and decompose all the emissions or solvents used in production, so it’s a great fabric for the environmentally-conscious. It’s also great for sensitive skin, has anti-bacterial properties and is incredibly durable!

What is lyocell made from?

It's a man-made fabric, but it is still plant-based — so what is lyocell made of? The main product used to make it is wood pulp (usually eucalyptus wood) which is sourced from sustainable tree farms to maintain that eco-friendly status. It is then processed using man-made solvents and products, first into a sticky viscous substance and then into white fibres which are spun into yarn. This is why it’s both a natural and artificial fabric!

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  • How to wash lyocell fabric: a complete guide

    On laundry day, it's best to be cautious with lyocell. Washing by hand or dry cleaning are usually the safest options for how to wash lyocell fabric, as it is very delicate and can be damaged easily. If in doubt, check the label: specific lyocell care instructions for your garment should be listed there. This should let you know if yours should be dry-cleaned, hand-washed or if it can go in the machine; plus, there'll be guidance on tumble drying and ironing.

    1. 1

      Hand wash lyocell items whenever possible

      Choose a gentle washing detergent like Persil Non-Bio and swirl it into a bowl of cool water, rinse with fresh water, then add Comfort fabric conditioner to the final rinse for an extra-silky result. Check out our guide to washing clothes by hand for more tips!

    2. 2

      If you're using a machine cycle, keep it gentle

      If you need to use a machine wash for your lyocell, washing on the gentle or hand wash setting and keeping the temperature low will help to prevent machine damage. Using a Comfort fabric conditioner in the washing cycle will also minimise the friction in the machine and help your items last longer.

    3. 3

      After washing, hang your lyocell items up to air dry

      The high heat and activity inside a tumble dryer are not friendly to lyocell items. Hang them up to dry in the sun instead to protect the fabric and leave them extra fresh and breezy.

    4. 4

      Does lyocell shrink?

      When and how does lyocell shrinkage happen? When washed gently, you can expect lyocell to shrink around 3% in the first wash and then resist shrinking from there on. However, lyocell does shrink more drastically when it is exposed to high temperatures during washing or drying. This is why it is so important use in cool water, whether you are hand-washing or machine-washing, and avoid drying in the tumble dryer.

    5. 5

      Turn your iron down to the lowest heat

      We'll say it again: lyocell is sensitive to heat! If you need to iron your lyocell fabric, always choose a low heat setting. Never turn it all the way up or you’ll just end up burning your clothing.

Hopefully, knowing a bit more about what lyocell material is made from, and how to wash lyocell garments, you'll feel ready to introduce this clever and future-friendly fabric to your wardrobe.

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