What Am I Wearing? Rayon

Have you ever wished you knew more about what materials you were actually wearing? Where did it come from? Is it safe? Here is your one stop guide to some of the most common fabrications,  what their impact is on the environment, and how to make it last.


Rayon is used to imitate tons of different materials and is actually one of the most versatile fibers. It was developed in 1846 and was first created in the US in 1911. It was called Artificial Silk until 1924. Rayon began as a cheaper alternative to silk.

In a nutshell, rayon is a fabric made from purified cellulose fibers (found in plant cell walls), which are typically created from wood pulp. The fiber is dissolved into a chemical solution and then spun into threads.

Although rayon is derived from natural materials, it requires certain chemicals to process the cellulose fibers, so it’s considered to be a semi-synthetic fabric.

 Rayon has a very big family; having sister materials like Modal and Viscose. We will cover these fibers at a later date. 




  • Most versatile fabric, used in nearly all types of clothing and home decor
  • Can imitate nearly any fabric type from silk to wool and beyond
  • Breathable
  • Moisture absorbent
  • Can be blended easily with many other fibers


  • Difficult to wash
  • Often requires dry cleaning
  • Non-Durable; can stretch, shrink, or bleed color if washed with a standard machine.
  • Washing instructions very depending on what its fabrication is blended with.

Environmental Impact

Rayon and some of its sister fabrics are the least environmentally friendly fabrics available today. The production of rayon, as well as its required dry-cleaning, make it dangerous from production to end use. Many of the concerns rest in the treatment of the people producing it, toxic chemicals, and deforestation. 

Sustainability is a spectrum and although Rayon will quickly biodegrade in soil (sometimes in as little as 3 weeks!!) it still has a huge environmental impact during productions and on the people surrounding it.

How To Care For It

With Rayon being so versatile, the care instructions may vary from garment to garment. In decades past, rayon was a dry-clean only product but with newer science developments we have found Rayon to be more often washable if blended with other washable materials. Big picture; always read the label, wash on cold, hang to dry.

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