The desire to create a higher wet strength rayon led to the development of modal as the second generation of this (Rayon) cellulosic fiber. Modal is a “high wet modulus” rayon, which has virtually the same properties as regular rayon plus high wet strength and extra softness, making it especially useful for body contact clothing such as lingerie and undergarments. Modal is wear resistant and can be machine washed and tumble dried without shrinking or getting pulled out of shape. It performs much like cotton and can be mercerized for increased strength and luster.
Modal is about fifty percent more water-absorbent per unit volume than cotton. It’s designed to dye just like cotton and is color-fast when washed in warm water. Textiles made from modal are resistant to shrinkage, fading and graying. Modal fibers have found a wide variety of uses in clothing, outerwear, and household furnishings. They are often blended with cotton, wool or synthetic fibers, and take and retain dyes well.
Modal fibers were developed in Japan in 1951 and Lenzing AG of Germany started selling its version of them in 1964. Lenzing Modal® is made from sustainably harvested beech trees and the company uses an environmentally friendly bleaching method for pulp.
Environmental Friend or Foe?
Modal & Rayon are produced from renewable cellulosic plants such as beech trees, pine trees, and bamboo. Both fibers are biodegradable. Specifically, Lenzing Viscose® and Lenzing Modal® are produced from sustainably harvested beech trees. The fiber yield per acre from the trees used in the Lenzing fibers is up to ten times higher than that of cotton. Also, cotton needs up to 20 times more water.
As early as 1963, Lenzing started recycling the chemicals from pulp production after the company switched from the calcium bisulphite method to an environmentally friendly magnesium bisulphite method.
Finally, we need to remember that much of the total environmental impact of textile goods comes from their care. Energy and water use can be decreased due to shorter washing machine cycles. So with this knowledge and careful shopping for respected eco-friendly labels, you can buy textiles from manufactured fibers that can be considered to be green.