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What is Modal Fabric? (Epic Guide)

Purchasing clothing made of modal fabric can provide you with better absorbency, lighter weight, and a better fit. Once as rare in the US and Canada as bamboo fabric, you can now find modal fabric clothing in many department stores.

This is a close look at a gray cotton modal fabric.

The semi-synthetic fabric modal frequently used in textiles and clothes comes from the beech tree. The pulp of the tree forms the basis of this rayon that provides a more durable fabric with greater flex than traditional rayon.

Developed during the 1950s, modal rayon gets used most often in making Modal underwear, but you can also find this stretchy, lightweight fabric used in housewares such as sheets and towels as well as pajamas. This fabric’s weave makes it stronger and more absorbent than pure cotton.

Blending modal fiber with other fibers such as the synthetic fiber spandex or natural cotton fiber produces a soft fabric considered a luxury item. It costs more than cotton fabric or viscose rayon. You can find it in three variations — Modal, Modal Air, and MicroModal fabric. The latter two options use a finer knit which increases its softness.

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Benefits of Using Modal Fabric

Modal fabric provides an ecologically sound fabric that uses an easily grown plant to produce the fabric. No concerns exist about old-growth trees or crop rotation or over-harvesting when it comes to this tree. After the beech pulp is obtained, it requires fewer chemicals to process into fibers. This biodegradable fabric beats even cotton for its ecological nature.

Modal provides a stretchier fabric that works better for making t-shirts and workout wear. The fabric also breathes better, so you can stay cool better when working out. Its softness provides an ideal fabric for bed sheets, underwear, and pajamas. It also features a more durable nature than other fabrics because of its long fibers that get tightly woven together. This makes the modal fabric stronger than other cloth and tougher to rip.

You might think your cotton towels thirst for water, but modal 50 percent more water than cotton. It works the same way with sweat, so you stay drier when working out.

You will find modal fibre easier to care for, too. This colorfast fabric doesn’t bleed in the wash nor does it shrink. You also do not have to worry about it pilling because its tight weave keeps it smooth. It makes great curtains and drapes because it hangs evenly and does not crease. These three items alone make it ideal for decorating. Since it avoids wrinkling, you can iron less.

Despite costing a little more than cotton or rayon, it remains affordable. You can buy modal fabric at your local crafts supply for between $14 and $20 per yard which puts it on par with bamboo fabric, another luxury fabric.

What Modal Isn’t

This is a close look at the tag with car instructions.

Modal isn’t perfect. It can cause allergic reactions due to the pollen on the tree when it gets pulped, beech tree, or sap. It also won’t help you retain body heat during the winter months. You might need to dry-clean it. You cannot use chlorine bleach on modal at all. Unless it is made of 100 percent pure beechwood fibers, you need to dry-clean the item.

Here’s another issue. You might not be getting what you thought because some brands label something modal when it is actually rayon or mixed with other wood pulp that was not sustainably grown. The US Federal Trade Commission has caught several companies mislabeling materials on purpose.

How Modal Gets Made

This is a close look at a white crumpled bed sheet.

The essential process is that farmers harvest the pulp from the beech and chip it to obtain the cellulose. The cellulose must be removed from the pulp before processing. Next, the cellulose sheets get soaked in sodium hydroxide to break them into smaller pieces. Soaking them in carbon disulfate next turn them into cellulose xanthate.

The cellulose xanthate then gets soaked in sodium hydroxide to form a liquid solution. The liquid gets run through a spinneret which creates fibers by spinning the liquid through multiple holes. Soaking the fibers in sulfuric acid turns them into yarn. The yarn gets washed, then bleached. After it dries, it is loaded onto spools, so it can be woven into fabric. Finally, it becomes a modal garment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We understand. Modal kind of snuck up on everyone. Certainly, the eco-movement has grown in the past few decades, but you probably did not expect to see an eco-fabric take fashion by storm ins such a way that everyone began using it while none of us buying the clothes even realized they had been made differently. Our underwear and sweaters simply became softer one day. Let’s address a few important questions about caring for this fabric.

How should you wash modal clothes?

Use cold water to machine wash modal items unless the label says they must be dry-cleaned. If machine wash is okay, then tossing them in the drier is too. Set the drier to low or medium heat. Remove it when it is still slightly damp and hang it up. Never use chlorine bleach.

What is the difference between modal and viscose and lyocell?

All three are types of rayon, but modal rayon loses its shape less often and is stronger than viscose. It uses less sodium hydroxide. Both modal and lyocell qualify as luxury fabrics, but lyocell is made with an organic solution making it more environmentally friendly than modal.

Where can you buy modal clothing?

You can purchase these fashions everywhere. Shopping at Amazon.com makes it easy to find modal clothes. You can also buy them at many better department stores like Nordstrom’s, Macy’s, Belk’s, and Foley’s.

How common are modal fashions really?

Honestly, you probably already own some modal clothes if you are a guy. You may not realize it though. If you wear Calvin Klein, Fruit of the Loom, or Gildan men’s undershirts, you own something made from this fabric. Those manufacturers use them in their ultra-soft t-shirts.

You can purchase either Calvin Klein Men’s Ultra Soft Modal Crew Neck T-Shirts or Calvin Klein Men’s Ultra Soft Modal V Neck T-Shirts from Amazon. The online superstore also carries Fruit of the Loom Men’s Everlight Modal Raglan Crew T-Shirt and Gildan Men’s Modal V-Neck T-Shirts, 3 Pack.

Women’s fashions also have begun using this now common fabric. For example, Banana Republic blends it with cotton in its slub shirts. Lenzing has devoted its entire line to modal wear, and you can buy it all at Toad & Co. It is that easy to find this eco-fabric used in clothing.

Why are beech trees considered sustainable?

Unlike many trees, the beech does not suffer from deforesting. This renewable resource grows quickly without relying on artificial irrigation. Beech trees propagate on their own making them more convenient for farmers to grow.

Does Modal shrink?

You can shrink any cloth if you try hard enough, but Modal resists shrinking 50 percent more than cotton. When designers blend it with cotton, it keeps the clothing shape better. It also does not twist like 100 percent cotton items do in the washer and dryer.

References:

The Sustainable Living Guide: What is Modal Fabric? A Complete Guide on Modal

Good on You: What is Modal?

Toad and Co.: Lenzing Modal Clothing

Lucky and Me: The Many Benefits of Modal Fabric for Kids