What is Modal Fabric? Manufacturing Process, Properties, & Applications

Md Mahedi Hasan

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Modal fabric feels like a warm embrace from your favorite blanket. The source is rare tree fibers and is soft. It is like silk but more breathable. Also, It’s ideal for clothing. It keeps you comfortable and relaxed even when it’s scorching outside. 

Furthermore, the vibrancy of colors feels lovely against the skin. That also makes the fabric worth purchasing. Consider this article a knowledge hub for modal fabric, and dig deeper to know more about it!

What is Modal Fabric?

Modal fabric refers to a type of rayon considered a semi-synthetic used in the consumer textile. It is made from beech tree pulp used for clothing and household items. Modal is another plant-based, durable, and luxurious textile. Also, it is expensive compared to cotton or viscose.

Image: What is Modal Fabric
Image: Modal Fabric

Modal’s origin country is Japan. Since the 1950s, modal has been there in the market. In the current scenario, the Austrian company Lenzing AG produced in most modal. It has a trademark for the fabric.

What is Modal Fabric Made of?

Modal fabric is made of cellulose from hardwood trees. Trees like birch and oak. The raw tree material enters into a complex manufacturing process. Beech trees are the source of modal fabric because they are a natural and sustainable source. 

Image: Beech and Oak Tree
Image: Beech and Oak Tree

Beech forests are there in Northern and Central Europe. Cellulose from beech trees hardly requires artificial irrigation or any sort of planting. Apart from Europe, some modal fabrics come from Austria and neighboring countries.

The Manufacturing Process of Modal Fabric

The modal fabric manufacturing process is similar to the process of manufacturing viscose rayon. Since the model is an updated viscose rayon version, it eliminates the wasteful aspects of viscose production. Modal rayon is a superior product structurally compared to viscose rayon. 

Modal fabric is manufactured in 7 stages. For instance:

Stage 1: Trees Harvesting

The modal fabric production process starts with the harvesting of trees. Then, they are rendered into cellulose.

Image: Trees Harvesting
Image: Trees Harvesting

Stage 2: Cellulose Extraction

Trees are broken into chips. Then, these chips go through the purification process to extract cellulose content.

Image: Cellulose Extraction
Image: Cellulose Extraction

Stage 3: Sheets Steeping

The extracted cellulose then gets formed into sheets. These sheets are steeped in caustic soda. The caustic soda can be sodium hydroxide.

Stage 4: Crumbs Break Down

Sheets break down into crumbs. Then, they get immersed in carbon disulfide to create sodium cellulose xanthate.

Stage 5: Fiber Creation

The cellulose xanthate then gets immersed in caustic soda. This step to create a syrupy solution may seem repetitive. The process is forced through a spinneret to create fibers.

Image: Modal Fiber Creation
Image: Modal Fiber Creation

Step 5: Yarn Formation

The modal fabric then gets immersed in sulfuric acid. The objective is to form a stretched yarn. The yarn is washed, bleached, and loaded onto spools.

Image: Yarn Formation
Image: Yarn Formation

In the end, it can be said that The modal yarn is subjected to pre-shirking, wrinkle, and fire resistance. It goes through several treatments applied to the woven nature into a fabric.

Types of Modal Fabric

There are two different types of Modal fabric in total. Such as: Viscose Rayon, and Lyocell. They are:

  1. Viscose Rayon

This type of rayon is a cellulose-based textile. It enters into worldwide mass production. Viscose rayon was expensive to produce. The invention of the viscose process makes an easy approach for the factories to implement.

Image: Viscose Rayon Modal Fabric
Image: Viscose Rayon Modal Fabric

It is similar to modal rayon. It is considered to be a predecessor to the modal fabric. The manufacturing process of viscose rayon is complex. It involves a chemical treatment process. One of the opposing sides is that viscose rayon is well-considered to harm the environment.

  1. Lyocell

Lyocell is a one-of-a-kind fabric created from trees. It is the only organic rayon. It distinguishes itself by producing tree fibers that are unaffected by chemicals. 

Modal rayon generates chemical waste, and lyocell uses a waste-free technique. It protects the environment. The closed-loop approach employed in lyocell manufacturing ensures that no solvents are wasted or released into the environment. 

Image: Lyocell Modal Fabric
Image: Lyocell Modal Fabric

The Austrian company Lenzing AG leads global lyocell manufacture. This eco-friendly, unaffected fiber production distinguishes lyocell as a distinct and ecologically conscientious textile industry choice.

Properties of Modal Fabric

Modal fabric has specific properties. Modal fabric is as delicate as silk. It allows your skin to breathe while keeping colors vibrant even after washing. It’s tough, doesn’t shrink, and originates from trees in well-managed forests. For instance:

Fabric NameModal Fabric
Manufacturing MaterialsCellulose from trees. A combined form of organic and synthetic materials.
Fabric DurabilityDurable
Fabric BreathabilityHighly Breathable
StretchabilityHigh
Fabric ShineBetter
Fabric Drape AbilityGood
Heat Retention AbilityLow
Prone to WrinkleLow
Prone to Shrinking Low
Prone to CreaseLow
Prone to Pilling Resists Pilling
Water-resistant AbilityLow
ApplicationSportswear, Accessories, Home Textile

Characteristics of Modal Fabric

Modal fabric comes with exclusive features. Such as

Breathable 

The fabric weave of Modal is breathable.

Retains Color

Modal fabric can hold color and dye well and for a longer period.

Botanical Origin

Modal fabric is of botanical origin. It means it is composed of cellulose from trees and other synthetic ingredients. 

Soft to the Skin

Modal offers an incredibly soft touch against the skin.

Environment Friendly

Since the modal fabric is made from regenerative plants, very few chemicals exist in production. 

Sustainably Produced

From the source to the manufacturing process, modal fabric goes through a more sustainable production method than rayon.

Naturally, Stretchable

Modal fabric has a better grip on flexibility. It is what makes the fabric ideal for items like t-shirts and other athletic wear.

Durable

Modal is strong and stable due to its tight weave and long fibers.

Ideal Product for Drape

Modal fabric drapes well compared to silk and rayon.

Applications of Modal Fabric

With Modal, you can make various kinds of applications. Such as:

  1. Alternative to Silk, Cotton, and Lyocell.
  2. Clothing Items: Yoga pants, sportswear, Bike shorts, and Swimwear.
  3. Household Textiles: Bath towels, towels.
  4. Accessories: Scarves, handkerchief.
  5. Medical Textile

Modal applies to many areas due to its versatility, comfort, and moisture absorption.

FAQs

Is Modal Better than Cotton and Polyester?

Modal, Cotton, and Polyester have significant differences in their making, appearance, overall benefits, and quality. For instance,
Modal is a soft and breathable fabric. It is easy to care for as well. It can be prone to pilling when compared to cotton.

Meanwhile, cotton is a durable fabric that lasts longer.
Polyester has one of the unique features: it is resistant to wrinkles and shrinking.

Consider your purpose of use while comparing among them. Cotton is a natural fiber, but modal is also a sustainable fabric. Polyester, being synthetic, is easy to care for but not environment-friendly. So, ultimately, it depends on your usage and purpose.

What is Modal fabric like?

Modal fabric is incredibly soft when compared to other fabrics. It has a smooth feel against the skin, making it comfortable to wear in any weather. Besides, Modal fabric is breathable, which will keep you cool in warm weather.

Is Modal Fabric Stretchy?

Modal fabric is stretchy. But when it is compared to the elastane of spandex, it may not seem stretchy enough. The fabric is stretchy because of the well-constructed fiber and woven nature. Because of its stretchiness, the modal is ideal for athletic wear and t-shirts.

Is Modal Fabric Breathable?

Modal fabric is super breathable due to its fabric weave. Hence, it is great for sportswear, t-shirts, base layers, and other clothing items as well. 

What is Modal Fabric Similar to?

Modal fabric is similar to lyocell. Lyocell is an organic form of rayon. It is eco-friendly and an organic solution that can replace the sodium hydroxide. Besides, the model’s luxurious softness and smooth texture against the skin seem to be quite similar to Silk.

What are the pros and cons of Modal Fabric?

Modal fabric has both advantages and disadvantages.

In short, the pros of modal fabric are:
1. Soft and breathable.
2. Moisture wicking.
3. It has a beautiful drape.
4. It can hold color for a long time.

Cons of Modal fabric are:
1. Less Durable.
2. Prone to pilling when it gets washed.
3. It requires delicate care.

What Does Modal Fabric Feel Like?

Modal Fabric feels soft, luxurious, and smooth against the skin.

Conclusion

In the end, we can say that Modal fabric is a form of rayon made from beech tree cellulose that is famous for its extraordinary softness comparable to silk or cashmere. It has excellent breathability and moisture-wicking properties, making it suitable for activewear and undergarments. It is renowned for flowing clothes due to its lush drape and bright color retention. 

While modal provides comfort and elegance, it is less durable than cotton and requires special care. Despite its environmentally favorable origins, its manufacturing involves chemicals, which raises some environmental issues. Overall, the modal has incomparable softness, breathability, moisture absorption, and graceful drape, making it a popular choice for various apparel items.

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