Viscose vs Rayon: Are They the Same Material? A Comparison

Viscose vs Rayon: Are They the Same Material? A ComparisonPin

Comparing fabrics and materials is now a regular segment on our site, where we look at two different materials and the differences between them. We do this in order to learn more about them and to understand their qualities, their purpose and use.

Our main focus is the use of these materials and fabrics in jackets and how they affect their performance and quality.

So far, Polyester has been the most featured fabric, due to it being the one most commonly used in technical and outdoor garments.

Today we will add another comparison to our ever increasing list, in which we will be looking at Viscose and Rayon.

We picked these two materials to clear some misconceptions about their differences and especially their similarities.

Are Viscose and Rayon the same material?

Let’s find out!


1. Rayon Fabric

Let’s begin with Rayon, because it is the material from which viscose derives from. Viscose and Rayon are similar because viscose fabric is considered as being a type of rayon, but it is not identical to it. We will look at the difference further down when we discuss viscose fabric’s manufacturing.

Rayon is a fiber that can be considered neither natural, nor synthetic, but it is man-made. The reason for this is in its raw material from which it is made from.

Rayon is a cellulose-based regenerated fiber, originally created to resemble the texture and feel of silk, which is why it is widely considered as artificial silk. However, depending on the processing that the fibers go through and their thickness, rayon can be made to resemble linen and cotton, too.

Despite being made from purified cellulose, which is a natural material harvested from wood pulp, Rayon’s chemical processing is what makes it different from natural fibers such as cotton, wool or silk. The latter require no (or very little) chemical processing to be spun into yarn for textile use, whereas rayon and man-made fibers depend on these processes to be turned into the yarn used for clothes and other textile products.

cut woodPin

Rayon’s history dates over 100 years ago, around the late 1800s, when a number of scientists were looking into creating a silk alternative.

Count Hilaire de Chardonnet was the first to patent the “artificial silk” made from nitrocellulose fibers, but it was Georges Audemars, in 1885, who called the cellulose-derived fibers “Rayon”.

Rayon, as a fabric, is typically used for both clothing and household textiles, usually curtains and sheets. Due to its versatility it has also been used in the medical field for surgical products, and for making tire cords, too.

Its main characteristics include the breathability, ease in dying and being colorfast, easy and cost-effective manufacturing and its high versatility in production and use, making it a fabric that can be utilized to make a number of different products, as we mentioned above.

As with all things, Rayon has some downsides, primarily its low durability and risk of shrinking.

Its manufacturing process can potentially be harmful to the environment if not properly conducted and the fabric itself is prone to damage from light exposure.

Rayon Fabric - History of Rayon Fabric

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Other comparisons that you might like:
Polyester vs Rayon Fabrics: Differences and Comparison
Nylon vs Polyester: Differences and Comparison

2. Viscose Fabric

A type of Rayon, as mentioned above, Viscose was originally created in 1883 by Edward John Bevan and Charles Frederick Cross.

Where it differs with Rayon, aside from some characteristics, it is mainly in the manufacturing process.

While Rayon’s raw materials can be either bamboo or wood cellulose, Viscose is derived from wood cellulose and plant fibers, which are made into a viscous liquid that then undergo a series of chemical processes.

The organic viscose liquid is what makes both rayon fibers and cellophane, hence why Viscose fibers are considered as being a type of rayon, technically speaking.

Similar to cotton in structure and feel, Viscose is primarily used in household textiles, such as draperies, furniture covers, napkins, bed lining and also clothing.

It is an antistatic fabric that is also quite absorbent to both moisture and color, which makes it very easy to dye.

Viscose is also hypoallergenic and highly breathable, a fabric capable of keeping you cool in warm weather and also useful in providing a basic level of insulation in cold temperatures.

Viscose’s main issues as a fabric come down to its tendency to shrink during washing and wrinkling with frequent use.

It is a durable fabric, albeit not up to par with other fibers such as Polyester or Nylon, and it weakens in wet conditions due to its ability to absorb moisture at twice the rate of cotton.

Being a fiber that is derived from natural raw materials, it also exhibits a tendency to develop mildew when not properly dried and looked after.

The production of viscose fibres at Kelheim Fibres GmbH

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3. Use in Jackets and Outdoor Clothing

Typically, Rayon and Viscose are mostly used as “indoor” fabrics. They make up our curtains, tablecloths, napkins, bed linings and blankets.

But, they are also fabrics used in clothing, especially so Viscose. Due to its soft and comfortable feel, viscose can be found in different types of tops, such as blouses and shirts, as well as smaller accessories like scarves.

The glossy appearance of the fabrics gives them an expensive look, despite being quite affordable in general.

When it comes to how they are used in jackets, it’s not too common to come across these fabrics, but there are some jacket designs out there that are made from Viscose or Rayon and they have beautifully utilized the natural glossiness of the fabrics.

Most typically biker and bomber jackets are the styles that rayon and viscose make up the preferred upper fabric.

man wearing bomber jacketPin

4. Which One is Better?

To say which one is better would be difficult because these fabrics are so similar in how they wear, feel and perform that the differences are miniscule and completely negligible.

General Qualities

With that being said, both of them exhibit hypoallergenic qualities, more so bamboo rayon, so look out for that if you or your loved ones suffer from allergies.

Another quality to look for is the ability to keep you cool in warm temperatures, in which regard bamboo rayon is considered to be the better option, but viscose does not really fall far behind.

In terms of durability, viscose tends to be the worse option due to the manufacturing process, whereas other types of rayon fibers are slightly more durable.

Both are soft and comfortable materials to wear, but viscose is the better of the two. Because it was made with the purpose of imitating silk, as opposed to rayon’s cotton-like feel, viscose is smoother, softer and drapes much better.

You might also like: Polyester vs Acrylic Fabric: Comparison and Differences

Maintenance and Care

Regarding maintenance and care, both of them require careful washing and cleaning due to the delicate nature of the fibers.

They do not fare well in high temperatures and are prone to shrinking, which is why ironing is also something to avoid if possible.

Machine washing is an option, as long as a gentle and delicate cycle is used, but handwashing would be the better option to avoid damage.

Cost and the Environment

Regarding cost, both of them are similar. Depending on the blend, raw material used (such as bamboo) and design, the cost will vary, but generally speaking, they are very affordable fabrics.

When it comes to environmental concerns, they are also quite similar because, despite the affordability and overall sustainability due to their raw materials, rayon and viscose undergo chemical processes that are not the most friendly to the environment.

5. Conclusion

We discussed Rayon and Viscose as two fabrics that are often considered as being one and the same and their names are used interchangeably.

While they are very similar in composition and overall qualities, there are differences between the two that should be taken into consideration.

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