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Fantabulous Information About Rayon Fabric That You Never Had

Buzzle Staff Apr 7, 2019
Rayon, invented over a century ago, was the first step in making man-made fiber. This fabric is very versatile and has many uses. Let's check out the properties, uses, and history of rayon fabric, through this information.

Did You Know?

The word 'rayon' means ray of light in French. A nationwide contest was held to name the fabric. None, from more than 10,000 suggestions, was chosen. Finally, a committee member asked people to shed some light on the problem, resulting in the name rayon.
Rayon is a perplexing fabric for most people. It is neither an artificial fabric nor a natural one. So what is rayon? Basically, it is a semi-synthetic fabric. It is made from cellulose, which is a natural material, but it undergoes tremendous processing as well.
Rayon has the distinction of being the world's first man-made fabric. It was first made as a cheaper replacement to silk.
It can be compared with silk in appearance, but it also has some of the characteristics of cotton. The invention of rayon was a long and interesting process. We'll see all about the history, properties, and types of rayon in the upcoming sections.

History of Rayon Fabric

► The history of rayon can be traced back to 'artificial silk' made by George Audemars in 1855. He discovered that nitrocellulose dissolves in organic solvents like ether and acetone. The resultant fiber was extremely flammable, and the process was expensive. Thus, its commercial production was stopped.
► Frank Hastings Griffin was instrumental in turning artificial silk into rayon. Rayon became usable in industrial products due to his invention of a stretching-spinning process. The spunize process invented by Nathan Rosenstein turned rayon fiber into a fabric form.
► Finally, the production became cheaper when Paul Schützenberger realized that the reaction of cellulose and acetic anhydride forms cellulose acetate. Hydrolyzed cellulose acetate is soluble in solvents like acetone, which are cheaper.
► Rayon was patented in 1894 by Charles Frederick Cross, Edward John Bevan, and Clayton Beadle. They called it 'viscose'. It was the reaction product of carbon disulphide and cellulose. Their method was much more viable commercially, as it involved the use of wood.
► 'Courtaulds Fibers' produced rayon commercially for the first time.

How is Rayon Made?

► The production of rayon is a very lengthy process. Cellulose is first steeped in caustic soda, and then it pressed to remove all the excess solution. The resulting sheets are shredded to form white crumbs. Then the white crumbs are oxidized in a process called aging.
► Then they are mixed with carbon disulphide to form cellulose xanthate. The resulting product is basically yellow-colored crumbs. These crumbs are dissolved in caustic soda to make viscose, after which, they are allowed to set for some time. Then they are filtered and degassed.
► In a process called extruding, they are passed through a spinneret, and fall in sulfuric acid. The result is rayon filaments, which are then stretched and washed to remove any chemicals.

Types of Rayon

Viscose Viscose is called viscose rayon, or just viscose. Most of the time, rayon and viscose are considered to be the same. It is used to make dresses, shirts, skirts, upholstery, and has some industrial applications too. It is also used to make cellophane.
It has been seen that the popularity of pure viscose as a clothing option is decreasing off late, as better, modified versions of rayon are being developed.


High Wet Modulus (HWM) rayon has high strength, and is more popular. It is popularly known as modal. It is made only from the cellulose obtained from beech trees. It is popularly used to make towels, underwear, bed sheets, and pajamas. It is super-absorbent, almost 50% more than cotton.
It has many advantages over cotton; it does not shrink, and holds colors really well. But it is prone to stretching and piling. Modal fabric has been trademarked by the Lenzing AG company.


It is a sub-category of rayon, according to the US Federal Trade Commission. It was commercially sold as Tencil in the beginning.
It has many advantages over viscose and cotton, but its production is costlier as well. Lyocell is primarily used for clothing. It is absorbent, strong even when wet, has a soft feel to it, and is resistant to wrinkles as well.
It dyes really well, and can carry vivid colors with ease. It can be machine-washed, as it is stronger than viscose rayon. It can be blended with a variety of fabrics like cotton, nylon, silk, linen, and wool.
It is also used in the production of medical dressings, conveyor belts, and baby diaper wipes.

Rayon Fabric Characteristics

✔ Rayon is a semi-synthetic fabric that is soft and gives a very natural feel.
✔ It has a nice flow and drapes really well.
✔ It is very breathable and absorbent.
✔ It dyes easily and holds colors brilliantly.
✔ A silk-like look and aesthetic appeal make it much desired.
✔ It does not produce static, and is resistant to damage.
✔ It can be easily blended with different fabrics.
✘ It tends to get yellow as it ages.
✘ It has the lowest elastic recovery in any fabric.
✘ It loses strength when wet, and shrinks more than cotton.
✘ It is prone to piling.
✘ It is very flammable.
✘ It is easily damaged by acids, and is prone to silverfish and termites.
Rayon makes an amazing fabric, with its silky texture and great quality. Since it loses its strength when wet, it does require special care. Instead of opting for 100% rayon, you can always go in for blends, as they give the best of both the fabrics.
People who are allergic to formaldehyde may have a rayon fabric allergy. You can always wash the fabric once to avoid any allergies. Always read the label carefully when buying rayon, to know the specific washing and care instructions for the piece in question.