What Is Modal Fabric And How Sustainable Is It?

A good guide to know all about modal

Explore in this Article

  1. What is modal used for?
  2. What is modal fabric made of?
  3. How good is modal for the environment?
  4. So, is modal sustainable?
  5. The conclusion

Modal is a semi-synthetic fabric well-known for its softness, ease of care, and, most importantly, biodegradability. Many sustainable fashion brands and customers prefer modal fabric since it is breathable and adds comfort to clothing. Modal fabric, first developed in the 1950s, is a part of the second generation of rayon known as ‘high wet modulus rayon,’ which makes it more resistant to stretching and shrinking than traditional or viscose rayon.

You may wonder – where does this semi-synthetic material, modal, fit into fashion, with so many sustainable fabrics on the market today, such as linen and organic cotton? Or perhaps you’re curious to know ‘what is modal fabric made of?’ So, let’s find out more.

Related: Why Organic Cotton Is A Better Choice?

What is modal used for?

Modal is most commonly used as a great substitute for cotton or silk. Modal fabric rose to prominence in ‘activewear.’ It is also widely used to make bike shorts, swimwear, and even yoga pants. The popularity of modal fabric in the sports industry can be attributed to its durability and exceptional elasticity. This cotton alternative is widely used for almost everything on a daily basis since the eco-friendly fabric is absorbent and breathable. It includes your pajamas, underwear, bathrobes, bed sheets, and much more. Read on to learn the answer to the question, “is modal sustainable?”

Related: 10 Sustainable Underwear Brands For A Better Period

What is modal fabric made of?

Modal goes through a different manufacturing process than viscose and lyocell, though it is similar to both materials. So, precisely what is modal fabric? Modal is breathable and silky smooth to touch, with impressive shrinkage and pilling resistance. It is approximately 50% more water-absorbent per unit volume than cotton. It has similar properties to other cellulose fibers in absorbing dye and retaining color when washed in warm water. Spinning reconstituted cellulose from beech trees is used in the manufacturing process. The thread is made by pulping wood fibers into liquid form and forcing them through tiny holes. This thread is then woven together to create modal fabric, which can be used alone or in a textile blend with other materials such as cotton.

How good is modal for the environment?

This semi-synthetic fabric, popular in activewear, can be eco-friendly or sustainable under certain conditions. So, is the fabric truly a part of sustainable fashion? To answer your question, there are two major environmental concerns to be aware of when it comes to modal. First, because modal is made from tree fibers, consumers should be mindful of the trees’ origins and the consequences of processing them into the fiber.

And, for modal fabric to be better, you need to know that it was sourced from renewable forests and that the chemical processing was done following the highest standards, including minimizing chemical emissions to air or water.

So, is modal sustainable?

Modal uses less water, takes up less space, and requires fewer trees to be cut down than other textiles. On the surface, all of these characteristics suggest that this sustainable textile fabric is an environmentally-friendly choice. However, most textile factories that use the yarn to create modal fabric are not as eco-friendly as the fabric itself. Many manufacturers use far more chemicals and water than is necessary to make this fabric. So, even though the yarn is sourced sustainably, many modal textile manufacturers are not!

However, the Austrian company Lenzing, one of the most well-known modal producers, markets its version as TENCEL™ Modal. A global certification system also protects its TENCEL™ Modal. Nevertheless, Lenzing’s eco-friendly manufacturing processes for this semi-synthetic fabric are not yet commercially available to others. As a result of these less-toxic technologies, Lenzing can achieve high recoveries of process ingredients, conserving resources and lowering emissions. However, this means that other modal fibers on the market are frequently less transparent since they’re not derived from renewable sources.

Related: How To Tell If A Brand Is Ethical Or Sustainable? 8 Ways To Avoid Getting Greenwashed

But, here’s the catch

TENCEL™ Modal has a primarily positive environmental footprint — it is carbon-neutral, requires less land per tonne than cotton fibers, and consumes ten to twenty times less water than cotton. As a result, many brands regard modal as an eco-friendly fabric in sustainable fashion.

Related: How Is Sustainable Clothing Different From Regular Clothing?

So, here’s a quick rundown of brands that use this eco-friendly fabric, aka ‘sustainably-sourced modal.’

Whimsy + Row

modal fabric

Whimsy + Row uses deadstock fabric and limits each garment to short runs, to reduce packaging waste and protect precious water resources. In addition, they have a variety of trendy pants made of 92% modal that you should add to your carts right away!

The R Collective

modal fabric

The brand extensively uses eco-friendly materials, reducing the number of chemicals, water, and wastewater used in production. It also ensures that fair living wages are paid throughout its supply chain, which is quite impressive. Their sustainable clothing made of modal is what brought this fantastic brand here.

Amour Vert

modal fabric

Customers can see for themselves how adaptable TENCEL clothing can be at Amour Vert. This company has used modal to make the entire Dream Collection, and the results speak for themselves. In addition, for every tee purchased from their store, a tree is planted to offset carbon emissions.

A quick guide to modal fabric aftercare

It’s critical to take care of your modal clothing after purchasing it, once you understand ‘what is modal fabric,’ and then select from these sustainable fashion brands. Furthermore, washing your modal clothing in cold water is best, and hang it to dry. Fortunately, unlike other rayon fabrics, the semi-synthetic fiber does not quickly lose its shape and does not require dry cleaning. But always double-check every item’s washing instructions, as they may differ.

The conclusion

Environmental standards vary significantly between countries and manufacturers. To ensure that you can answer the question “is modal sustainable?” choose brands with open production practices. But keep the following in mind:

  • Modal is only marginally more environmentally friendly than viscose unless the brand is very clearly offering only TENCEL™ Modal.
  • More accurately, it specifies that the source fibers come from FSC or PEFC-certified forests and are processed in a high-quality facility with strict environmental standards.
  • Of course, it should be made without the high percentage of chemicals used in the production process.

On a separate note, here are some more of the best sustainable clothing brands to consider: 10 Ethical And Sustainable Clothing Brands To Shop

Also, check out our guide for a closet cleanout, if you want to get rid of old clothing you don’t really need or use anymore.

We hope you love the products we recommend! All products featured on GoodGuilt are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn a commission on the sale. Oh, and FYI — prices are accurate and items in stock as of the time of publication.

Subscribe to our newsletter

To receive updates on all things good and guilt-free!