What Is Tencel? 

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Tencel is a trademarked name that describes fabrics that are made from lyocell or modal fibers. Tencel has become a popular material in all sorts of textiles, from clothing to bedding. Tencel fibers are known for being versatile, eco-friendly, incredibly soft, and sustainable.

Tencel is a natural albeit human-made fiber. Manufacturing Tencel results in very little waste  because both the water and the chemical solvent used are recyclable, and the wood pulp  comes from sustainably harvested forests.

What Is Tencel Fabric Made Of?

Tencel is made from the wood pulp fibers of a bamboo, eucalyptus, oak or birch tree, which  come from sustainably harvested forests. That pulp is dissolved in a chemical that helps to soften the fibers. It is then pushed through a machine (called an extruder) that heats the pulp and spins it through a smaller opening where, once on the other side, fibers are made. The lengths of these threads are then made into yarn.

helix tencel bed sheet

Is Tencel a Natural Fiber?

Although Tencel starts as wood pulp, which is a natural fiber, it is technically considered man- made because of the process in which the wood pulp is turned into Tencel fiber. This wood pulp often begins its life, for example, as a Eucalyptus tree, but through processing become some of the softest and coolest sheets on the market. Tencel products are also certified biodegradable.

Is Tencel the Same as Lyocell?

Tencel is the trademarked name for lyocell. Similar to the common reference of “Chapstick” (which is a Pfizer trademarked name) for lip balm.

What Does Tencel Feel Like?

Tencel is known for its similarity to cotton in that it is incredibly soft, smooth, lightweight and  versatile. On the skin it glides and drapes smoothly with very little wrinkling.

Helix Tencel Sheets Featured Image

Benefits of Tencel

Tencel has a number of benefits that include:

  • Breathability and Cooling Properties: 50% more breathable than cotton, according to  Lenzig Ag, who developed the fabric. If you are a hot sleeper, take note: Tencel sheets can help you stay cooler while you sleep. Unlike synthetic fabrics, it allows heat and moisture to dissipate.
  • Durability: Tencel fiber has an ordered, three dimensional arrangement, whereby the crystalline sections are continuously dispersed along the fiber’s axis. This provides both superior wet strength and excellent dry strength. Because of this, it shrinks less when  washed than other cellulose fibers like rayon or cotton.
  • Hypoallergenic: It’s great for people with sensitive skin or allergies because of its  smooth fiber. It’s recommended by the National Eczema Society for people who suffer  from allergies.
  • Luxurious Feel: Tencel feels light, smooth and silky on the skin, which is why it is so  great for intimate wear, bedding, and athletic wear.
  • Biodegradable: As long as Tencel is not blended with other synthetic fabrics, it is  biodegradable. Studies show that through home compost, it can fully biodegrade and  that about 50% of the material is broken down after three months.

What Is Tencel Fabric Similar To?

Tencel is similar to but unlike rayon, which is manufactured using the same technique. The difference being, Tencel has very little waste, because both the water and the chemicals solvent  used are recyclable and the wood pulp is sustainable. The whole process is considered more  environmentally sound for the planet and for the workers than most other fabrics on the market  today.

Tencel vs Cotton

Compared to cotton, Tencel feels cooler to the touch, silkier on the skin, and it doesn’t wrinkle.  Like cotton, Tencel does shrink about 3-5% when washed. If you are considering buying cotton sheets, you may want to reconsider and take a look at some Tencel alternatives.

Tencel vs Bamboo

Both bamboo and Tencel are known for their soft, smooth feel and moisture-wicking ability.  Tencel sheets do have a noticeably less matte and more lustrous look than bamboo sheets, and  they tend to be softer and have better drape than bamboo.

Tencel vs Linen

Tencel is generally more versatile than linen and it is used in a wider variety of textiles because  of its unparalleled softness and durability. Tencel and linen both have superior moisture wicking  ability, but Tencel does not wrinkle like linen. For those of you who love linen sheets but don’t  have the time to iron them or the money to send them to the cleaners, then Tencel sheets are  for you.

Tencel vs Percale

Percale and Tencel are both exceptional for people who run hot and tend to perspire, because  of the moisture-wicking abilities of both. When it comes to sheets, the best percale sheets get softer with each wash and they are great sheets for those of you who love that clean, taut,  tucked in feel at night. Tencel, on the other hand, is soft from the moment it exits the package. It doesn’t need to be pressed, it drapes beautifully on the bed.

feeling soft tencel bed sheets

How to Wash Tencel

Similar to cleaning bed sheets made from other materials, keep your Tencel sheets soft by washing them in cool water, on a delicate setting, when  available. You can lay them flat or tumble dry them on low heat. An added benefit of already eco-friendly Tencel, is that you don’t have to add fabric softeners to the wash; they are already as soft as it gets.

Should I Buy Products Made with Tencel?

Yes, Tencel is a super durable and sustainable fabric made for those of you who care about the  environment. If you love ultra soft, moisture wicking fabrics, but don’t like the wrinkled look and are too busy to iron, then Tencel is for you.resource


Does Tencel shrink? 

Tencel can shrink if put in the dryer or washed in warm water. It will not shrink if it is washed in cold water and air dried away from direct sunlight. You can wash it by hand or in a washing  machine on the delicate cycle with cold water, and then lay it flat to dry.  

Is Tencel breathable? 

Yes, Tencel helps to regulate your body’s temperature with its moisture-wicking abilities, and that helps to keep you cool in hot weather and comfortable while you sleep.  

Does Tencel wrinkle? 

No, you can say goodbye to your irons once Tencel is in your life because it is one of the rare fabrics that doesn’t wrinkle easily. If you scrunch it up in a pile for a long period of time, the creases that are formed will easily fall out.  

Is Tencel sustainable?

Yes, it is. It is made from responsibly sourced wood pulp and has a certification from the Forest Stewardship Council. Also, 99% of the chemicals that are used to break down the wood pulp  are recycled. 

Is Tencel stretchy? 

Tencel can be made into a stretchy or stiffer textile because of the use of controlled fibrillation during manufacturing. This means that it can be engineered to form thinner or thicker threads  when the fibers are being made to keep the fabric from excess pilling. This makes Tencel highly versatile and useful for making breathable sheets, stretchy athletic wear or stiffer shirts.

Karri Jinkins

Karri Jinkins is a freelance health writer, podcaster and certified Ayurvedic Medicine Health Counselor. She teaches people about nutrition, herbs, yoga and mindfulness in order to help them improve their lives.