Are There Any Differences Between Viscose and Rayon?

If you have been out purchasing fabrics for your latest sewing projects, you would have noticed that most fabric shops have these two types of material: fabric and rayon. Both fabrics may seem very similar to you, but there are very subtle differences between the two. 

So what is the difference between viscose and rayon? Both fabrics have differences in composition, durability, manufacturing process, and of course how they would behave in clothing. Read on for more details on how they are made and what differences they have.

What is Rayon?

Rayon is material that is a natural and eco-friendly fabric that is made from wood pulp. It does undergo many chemical changes but is not considered synthetic. It is a developed version of natural polymers. 

Rayon is also known as regenerated cellulose fiber because it is reformed in its final process using cellulose fiber.

Rayon has multiple uses. They are used for mattresses, home furnishings, or most importantly garments. If you visit a fabric store you will notice that rayon materials come in various colors and beautiful prints. 

Rayon material is not very expensive and it’s comfortable to wear too. So if you are looking for fabric to make a summer dress, rayon is a good option. 

However, one downside is that they are not durable. It does not withstand wear and tear for long, it fades and forms tiny balls on the surface. I also found that some rayon materials dresses lengthen with time and stretch with each wash. Since rayon material is sensitive, it must be hand-washed and dried in shade. 

There are several types of rayon materials. They include Tencel rayon, Polynosic rayon, Lyocell super-absorbent rayon, and viscose rayon. 

Then what is viscose?

Some people think that viscose is another term for rayon. But it isn’t. Both materials are not the same. Viscose is a sub-variant of rayon and has many differences. 

Viscose is a material that is made from an organic liquid called viscose. This liquid is also used in the production of cellophane rayon and other synthetic materials. Viscose is more chemically processed than rayon. 

One of the differences is that caustic soda is added to the production process of viscose. Caustic soda is used to dissolve the wooden pulp or cotton linter. It is then shredded and aged, then treated with chemicals. 

Viscose is used in making curtains, tablecloths, furniture covers, or garments. 

Viscose garments of many types. They are not as absorbent as rayon. Viscose too comes in many pretty designs and colors, but will wrinkle, shrink, or stretch with every wash. 

Viscose fabric is significantly more expensive than rayon. 

What is the difference between viscose and rayon?

Although some may consider both fabrics the same, they are not. There are differences between the two in terms of the manufacturing process, texture, durability, and use.

The manufacturing process

  • Viscose is made from cellulose that comes from a variety of plant fibers. But rayon is made from wood pulp or cotton linter from eucalyptus, spruce, and pine trees.
  • Both are chemically treated but have differences in the process.
  • Caustic soda is used to dissolve the pulp for viscose but is not used in rayon.
  • Rayon is made through the cellulose immersion process and viscose is made by the process of cellulose xanthate.

Texture of the two

  • Both materials are quite delicate and are not suitable for machine washing. 
  • Rayon is more absorbent than viscose, but viscose is softer to the touch.
  • Viscose looks silkish but feels like cotton. Rayon looks like cotton but feels synthetic. 
  • Rayon is one of the best hypoallergenic fabrics, due to its breathable nature. Viscose, on the other hand, is not very penetrable. The material can cause allergic reactions in some people. 


  • Viscose is less durable than most forms of rayon.
  • Both materials are not very durable or long-lasting. They require careful handling. 
  • Both materials either shrink, stretch, or wrinkle with use. 
  • Rayon decays quickly and is easily damaged by water solvent ultraviolet radiation. 


  • Rayon material is slightly more breathable than viscose. 
  • Rayon is absorbent and ideal for hot summer clothes. But viscose can make you sweat and is not very comfortable to wear. 
  • Rayon is used for multiple purposes due to its absorbent nature. It is used for furnishing fabric, bandages, and surgical masks. 
  • Viscose materials are used for a variety of clothing including shirts, coats, jackets, and dresses. They are also used for disposable wipes and to clean the delicate touchscreens of cell-phones and smart devices.-

Sustainability and cost.

  • Rayon is a natural and eco-friendly fabric. 
  • It requires fewer toxic chemicals and less energy than viscose in the manufacturing process
  • Rayon is more cost-effective due to an easier manufacturing process
  • Comparatively, viscose is less eco-friendly than rayon. Its manufacturing process includes many harmful and toxic chemicals and requires high energy too. 

What is the difference between viscose and rayon? The bottom line

Rayon is eco-friendlier and cheaper than rayon, but not very durable. Viscose is not sustainable. It is made by a high-energy manufacturing process and toxic chemical treatment. It may be more durable than rayon, but it is not breathable and may cause allergies in some people. 

Also read: Why did Snapple stop using glass bottles? The plastic debate of 2023!

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