Best Alternative To Merino Wool
Travel Fashion Girl help! A reader asks:
Everyone recommends merino wool for layering and winter wear, but I am allergic to wool. Any suggestions on merino wool alternatives?
Merino wool is perfect for travel, as it is super light for packing and comfortable for keeping you nice and toasty when sightseeing. But merino wool is not to everyones taste, and when traveling during the harsh winter temperatures you still need to choose fabrics that will protect you against the cold without feeling or looking too bulky.
What Is Viscose Rayon
Viscose Rayon is a soft, semi-synthetic or generated cellulose fiber from wood pulp, with a natural cellulosic fiber-like structure closely similar to cotton. Its properties are more similar to natural fibers such as cotton or linen compared to other petroleum-based synthetic/thermoplastic fibers like polyester or nylon. This makes viscose rayon as one of the most preferred synthetic fabric by textile industries to make dresses, shirts, shorts, jackets, lining and many others outwears. Despite being useful, viscose rayon is known to cause mild to severe allergic reactions among individuals following frequent or prolonged exposure.
What Are The Symptoms
Look for redness, scaly skin, or itchy areas. Sometimes they pop up within hours after you put on your clothes, or they may take days or weeks to appear. Some people can wear the same item for years before a rash breaks out.
Symptoms often begin in the folds of your skin or other areas that make contact with your clothes and whatâs in them. That includes:
- The crooks of your arms
- Behind your knees
- Any place where your clothing is tight
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Were Living In A Material World
Not that long ago, people stuck to the natural fabrics: wool, cashmere, cotton, silk, linen, and hemp.
But if you take a look at your clothing labels today, youre likely to find materials like rayon, polyester, acrylic, acetate, and nylon. On top of that, your shirts and slacks may be treated to be wrinkle-free or stain-resistant.
Is Modal Fabric Warm
Not really and as we were just explaining, modal is not the type of material you want to be wearing if you are working or doing a lot of errands where the air conditioning is excellent.
The reason for that is modal will let your body heat escape even under cooler conditions so you will not have that layer of warmth to protect you from that cooler air. That means under those conditions you should have a sweater at your desk or hiding in your purse to make sure you do not get a chill or catch a cold.
Modal has lots of positive aspects about it but keeping you warm on cool days is not one of those top attributes. Be prepared and make sure you have a backup plan when you have to work under cooler conditions yet want the drape and luxurious feel that modal brings.
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The Sustainability Of Modal Fabric
While Lenzing leads the way, there are other companies that produce this type of rayon.
The production of modal takes place in countries like China, India, Indonesia, and Pakistanbut without the strict standards used by Lenzing.
In some areas of the world, the production of modal fabric occurs with government standards that are more lax than in others. This can have an impact on sustainability and worker conditions, given the heavy use of chemicals in production.
In fact, the modal supply chain has been linked to logging in tropical rainforest areasat a rate thats predicted to double by 2025.
Thats right, while beechwood pulp produces most modal fabric, rainforest pulp has been used as well. While environmentally responsible processes that use sustainably sourced wood are responsible for Lenzing modal fibers, many other manufacturers dont do the same.
Every year, our clothing comes from more than 120 million trees that have been cut down. The biodegradability of modal means that it is one of the more sustainable options out there.
But, to ensure that its one of the best fabrics for our planet, it should come from a trusted manufacturer who uses sustainable sourcing practices.
How Is Modal Fabric Made
Modal fabric is made by harvesting cellulose from beech trees, turning the cellulose into a mash using a series of chemical rinses, and then using spinnerets to turn the product into fibers.
Are you ready for some science? Heres a more in-depth look at the production process. This will help you understand what sets this fabric apart from natural and synthetic kinds of cloth.
As the first step of the production process, manufacturers process cellulose out of beech tree chips. This hardens into large sheets perfect for processing in vats of chemicals.
The cellulose sheets soak in a chemical preparation called sodium hydroxide. Viscose rayon also undergoes this production process but requires far more of the toxic chemicals. This turns the hardened cellulose into a mash.
The next step in the production process applies a rinse of another chemical called carbon disulfide. This creates a pulp called sodium cellulose xanthate. At this point, the actual chemical structure of the original beechwood changes.
This leads to the semi-synthetic nature of this cloth.
One last soak in sulfuric acid creates a substance that manufacturers can extrude into fibers or turn into yarn using spinnerets.
Though it begins life as a plant, modal does not have natural fibers. Its manufacturing process more closely resembles the process used to make polyester, a fully synthetic fabric.
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When Should I See My Doctor
If your skin doesnât clear up in a few weeks, or if the problems come and go, itâs time to talk to your skin doctor. Also check with the doctor if the rash covers a large area, is really painful, raw or intensely itchy, or seems to be spreading instead of getting better. They can make sure you donât have an infection on top of the dermatitis.
How Modal Fabric Is Different From Other Fabrics
Being a variation of rayon, the modal fabric exhibits quite a few similarities with similar fabrics like cotton, viscose and lyocell.
The differences between them are very subtle. Most of these dissimilarities are related to their structures and environmental impacts. Lets discuss them in details now!
More Comfortable Than Cotton
While cotton is usually the most prominent choice for water-absorbent fabrics, modal can actually prove to be an even better option by offering even more absorption.
Because of this feature, you can feel more comfortable in the summer no matter how much sweat you have to deal with throughout the day.
Your body will stay drier in the modal fabric than in cotton. As a result, it will be a much more comfortable option for work, home and everything in between. The beechwood pulp structure allows more room to breathe in these garments as well.
Eco-friendlier Than Cotton
The modal fabric is a little eco-friendlier than cotton. The Lenzing modal is developed using sustainable methods that help to keep the environment safe. Besides, their methods lead to producing ten times more fiber than that of cotton.
As a result, the company can see more profit with modal while also helping mother earth.
Stronger and Lighter Than Viscose
Even though the production of both viscose and modal fabric follow similar processes, the latter turns out to be stronger than the other.
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Toxic Chemicals In Commonly Used Fabrics And Your Health
Thats right I did say 2000! Many of these chemicals are harmful to human and environmental health. This is even more alarming when we think of the fact that our skin is our largest organ. More so, it can be worse for our skin to absorb dangerous chemicals than for our digestive system to do so, as our digestive system has the liver to help manage toxins.
According to the Extension Toxicology Network, chemicals can be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream, causing toxic effects. As fabric both rests against our skin and is often treated with so many chemicals, it becomes a major way for toxins to get into the body. As a result, people have experienced all sorts of negative effects, including hormonal dysfunction, behavior problems, immune system problems, digestive system problems, reproduction problems, skin problems, cancer. and the list goes on!
Natural Vs Synthetic Fabric
Another factor that impacts the sustainability of fabric is whether it is made of natural or synthetic fibers. As you probably remember, modal is a bio-based fabric made from cellulose harvested from beech trees, making it partially natural and partially synthetic. Usually, natural fibers do less harm because they require fewer toxic chemicals than synthetic fabrics to manufacture.
If you have sensitive skin or certain allergies, you may have issues wearing some synthetic fabrics because of the chemicals used during production.
Honestly, though, you can get into the weeds over this debate because both sides offer valid arguments. You will also see environmentalists argue that some natural fibers do more harm because they require so much water to grow!
The bottom line with a bio-based fabric like modal is that it is intended to do less environmental harm and use far less toxic chemicals than previous synthetic fabrics such as viscose rayon or polyester. It also uses less land and less water than many natural fabrics.
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What Is The Impact On The Environment Of Producing Modal
Hearing that modal is produced from trees, you are probably wondering if there is an environmental impact in the production of this fabric. All rayon fabric, not just modal, is made with wood pulp. But modal and all the other rayon fabrics cannot be considered natural fibers simply because they are mixed with a number of chemicals during the processing process.
At least when it comes to Lenzing Modal, the Austrian company claims that they have a positive environmental footprint. According to them, their environmental footprint is carbon neutral. They claim that the carbon footprint of producing modal is less than that of cotton. For example, the production of modal requires considerably less land per ton and it consumes between ten to twenty times less water.
So, it can be said that modal fabric is environmentally friendly, too. Or, at least, that is how many different brands that use this fabric in their products see it.
Pros And Cons Of Modal Fabric
Now that you know a bit more about modal, where it comes from, and what makes it special, lets sum up the pros and cons of this bio-based fabric. This kind of cloth is:
- Remarkably soft and drapes like silk.
- Breathable and does not stick to you or cling.
- Moisture-wicking and regulates your temperature.
- Absorbent and has thousands of micropores capable of soaking up lots of moisture
- Durable and resists wrinkling, staining, or stretching.
- Depending on how it is made, sustainable and far more eco-friendly than many other types of cloth.
- That said, it is not as breathable as some natural kinds of cloth.
- It also costs more than some other kinds of cloth, though it usually doesnt cost as much as specialty fabrics like silk or Pima cotton.
- This fabric can cause allergic reactions because of the chemicals used to make it.
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What Causes Textile Contact Dermatitis
Textile fibre can be natural, synthetic or a combination of the two materials. Natural fibres include silk, wool, cotton and linen. Synthetic or man-made fibres include rayon, nylon, polyester, rubber, fibreglass, and spandex. Although all fibres can cause irritant and allergic contact dermatitis, it is rare for them to cause allergic contact dermatitis.
Allergic skin reactions to clothing is most often a result of the formaldehyde finishing resins, dyes, glues, chemical additives and tanning agents used in processing the fabric or clothing. Cases of allergic contact dermatitis have been reported for the following fabric additives.
- Formaldehyde resins used in fabrics to make them wrinkle-resistant
- Para-phenylenediamine used in textile and fur dyes
- Azo and anthraquinone based dispersal dyes. These dyes are loosely bound to the fabric structure and can easily rub off onto the skin. They are rarely used in textiles nowadays
- Flame retardants
Metallic fasteners and elastic in clothing can also cause contact dermatitis where they are in contact with skin. Metallic stud fasteners on blue jeans are a common cause of nickel dermatitis.
How Does It Compare To Other Textiles
Its important to realize that in many cases, the modal fabric composition will depend on the other fabric that its paired with . Its often blended with another fabric to ensure long-lasting use and ultimate comfort.
Modal is different from other types of fabric, for reasons that go beyond sustainability.
Modal vs Viscose:
The production process is relatively similar. Modal fabric is processed more, resulting in a stronger and lighter final product. We would recommend avoiding viscose if you can, given the huge amount of water and toxic chemicals used in production.
Modal vs Lyocell:
Modal is often confused with Lyocell given their similarities and Lenzing makes both. Modal is slightly softer and more delicate but both are comfortable, breathable and absorb moisture.
Similar to Modal, Lyocell converts wood pulp into a fiber, which is turned into a fabric. However, the closed-loop solvent spinning manufacturing process for Lyocell uses non-toxic cellulose solvents
Modal vs Cotton:
Modal is more expensive than even organic cotton.
However, it is also a more eco-friendly and durable alternative. Modal is also 50% more absorbable than cotton, too!
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Is Modal Fabric Toxic
It is possible to put modal in this category as it is supposed to be better than rayon and rayon is made from toxic chemicals. Modal is also made from chemicals and they may be as toxic as rayons.
Those chemicals include carbon disulfate, sodium hydroxide, and sulfuric acid. The presence of these chemicals may have you thinking twice about wearing a modal made outfit.
It is the same process to make modal as rayon is made and if the fabric is advertised as Anything static resistant, stain-resistant, permanent press, wrinkle-free, stain proof, or moth repellent then you may be wearing toxic chemicals to your next formal event.
Modal Clothes Environmental Impact
Some people call modal a sustainable fabric of the modern age, while others question its ethical production and environmental impact. Both have strong bases for their views.
As for the fabric itself, it can be said as an extremely eco-friendly product. But its production process is what raises some questions in people. Lets talk about it first.
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More Government Regulation Needed
According to journalist Elizabeth Grossman, there is no specific U.S. Federal agency overlooking specifically the chemicals which come with clothing. There is the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission which has set up rules to protect children from some chemicals in childrens clothing. There is also the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act which also regulates chemicals in clothing. However, there is nothing specific to just managing the chemicals in clothing.
This would be very helpful because it would lead to more insight into toxic chemicals and the effects they are having, and less mystery around the products. Some companies are taking steps to make their procedures more eco-friendly and better for human health. Toxic chemicals in fabrics is really an issue affecting everyone.
Stay Safe By Wearing 7 Natural Fabrics
If youre chemically sensitive or just want to surround yourself with healthy fabrics, listen to Doris Brunza a fashion designer who worked in the Garment District in New York City for 20 years. She knows about finding natural fabrics that dont cause reactions because shes chemically sensitive.
Brunza points out that nearly all fabrics, including organic fabric, are treated with chemicals at some point during their processing.8 Still, some choices are better than others.
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List Of The Cons Of Modal Fabric
1. More people have allergic reactions to modal fabric than other textiles.It is not unusual for someone to have an allergic reaction to the material when they wear modal fabric for the first time. Itching, redness, and rashes are the most common experiences reported when using this textile, but there have been severe issues in rare cases as well. Some have reported skin blistering, while headaches, swollen glands, and disorientation are possible as well. If you have allergies to other trees, pollen, or sap, then you may want to avoid using modal fabric until you know for certain that you wont react to it.
2. The durability of modal fabric is not as good as other materials.Modal fabric is prone to issues with pilling and stretching. Youll want to hand-wash your items made with this textile to avoid significant changes to the structure of the material. This disadvantage can also lead to runs in the fabric if you catch it with a sharp fingernail, a doorknob, or any common household hazard. Thats why you often see the products made with this material designed to be underwear or pajamas.
The Rainforest Action Network accuses some of the less reputable manufacturers in this space of forest destruction to create this textile. Some of the product has come from plantation Woodstock growing in clear-cut areas that were then used for monocrop timer plantations.
Types Of Modal Material
Today you can buy regular modal, micro modal, and a variety of modal blends. Manufacturers frequently blend several kinds of fibers to create a unique blended fabric that capitalizes on the best features of each type of cloth.
If you compare modal vs. micro modal, both materials go through the same manufacturing process, with one difference. Micro modal features even finer yarns in its weave and uses more threads per square inch. This creates a very lightweight cloth.
On its own, modal makes excellent intimate apparel and socks. Typically, though, manufacturers blend it with either cotton or spandex to create products like bedding and athletic wear.
Modal and cotton particularly blend very well together. Cotton provides additional breathability, while modal brings durability, higher absorption, and more softness to the mix. Modal also helps cotton avoid shrinkage during washing and drying.
Spandex or lycra and modal make a great stretchy blend perfect for running, yoga, or working out! This creates a silky smoothness you wont find in most leggings or tank tops.
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