What is micro modal fabric? Is it truly sustainable? What makes it so special, and why do we absolutely love it? Here’s everything you need to know.
July 11, 2022
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Micro modal is an incredibly soft fabric made from tree pulp fibres. It has become increasingly popular owing to its high-quality material attributes like softness and durability, as well as its sustainability. Compared to regular modal, micro modal fibres are much finer, resulting in a softer, better fitting, and more breathable fabric.
If you’ve ever wondered why micro modal is so coveted these days, how it's actually made, and whether it truly is a sustainable alternative to cotton and other mainstay materials, keep reading. We’ll take you through everything you need to know.
Benefits of micro modal
Micro modal has similarities to silk and linen in terms of softness and texture but requires much less maintenance and is easier to manufacture and care for. The two attributes that best describe micro modal are soft and strong.
This incredibly soft fabric is supportive, breathable and kind to your skin. Plus, it is resistant to shrinking and pilling, so products will last much longer. That's why it is ideal for items like underwear that need to be washed after every wear.
From a functional perspective, micro modal is fifty per cent more absorbent than cotton, keeping you fresher for longer. Owing to its incredible breathability, this beech tree based fabric is ideal for any activity.
Possibly the most important benefit of micromodal is sustainability. In terms of its environmental footprint, micro modal is completely biodegradable. Its fantastic durability means your garments will last longer and won’t shrink in the wash, making laundry day a breeze and ensuring your clothing lasts longer than just a few wears. But what about how it’s made?
From tree to fabric: How is micro modal made?
Micro modal is considered a semi-synthetic fabric. Chemicals are used to transform the cellulose from trees into fibres that can be spun into fabric.
The manufacturing process should ideally be closed-loop, which means the chemicals used are captured and reused.
The end result is a soft man-made fibre made from natural materials that is completely biodegradable.
What makes micro modal sustainable?
Micro modal is made from the pulp of beech trees, which are self-seeding trees commonly found in the Northern Hemisphere. This means the raw materials have the ability to naturally renew themselves.
As a natural fabric, micro modal is also biodegradable and compared to cotton, modal-based fabrics require ten to twenty times less water to dye.
One important point to add is that petroleum-based fibres like elastane and spandex are often added to modal, which reduces its biodegradability. However, adding a small amount of elastane prevents garments from bagging and sagging, making them last longer. And this can actually be more sustainable in the long run.
Polyester is not the most sustainable fibre but for the time being, from a longevity viewpoint, until we have a better option, it is a necessary evil.
Are modal-based fabrics truly sustainable?
Modal-based fabric is often lauded as an eco-friendly alternative to mainstay fabrics like cotton, linen, and the many petroleum-based fibres, but there is some controversy as to whether it is truly sustainable. As with most things in life, not all modal is created equal.
First, the effect of the harsh chemicals necessary in the manufacturing process can take its toll on factory workers and ecosystems, reducing modal’s eco-friendly sustainability.
Second, modal is made from cellulose (trees). The main problem with any forest commodity is that rainforests are often felled to make room for mono-crop timber plantations. This can have negative environmental and social impacts.
Fortunately, Lenzing-certified modal comes from renewable and responsibly managed beech tree forests grown throughout the world. Chemicals are recovered thanks to the closed-loop production process. In addition, a safe working environment is provided for workers.
The bottom line - Yes, modal can be a sustainable fabric. But only if sourced in a sustainable way and manufactured in a closed-loop process. When you are purchasing a garment made from modal or micro modal, be sure to check for the Lenzing certification or TENCEL™ trademark.
How to care for your micro modal garments
Micro modal fabrics are easy to care for. The strong, durable fibres can withstand up to 60 degrees Celsius without shrinking or pilling. Caring for each garment depends on the garment itself. For example, garments like bras or clothing with delicate features should be hand washed or machine washed on a gentle cycle. This will help your clothing items last much longer.
To reduce your carbon footprint, we suggest foregoing the tumble dryer and air drying instead. In addition to the unnecessary energy use, putting clothes in the dryer can cause the colours to dull and components to break much faster. Air drying is a better option for the environment as well as your clothes.
For more laundry hacks, check out our blog post on how to make your laundry room more sustainable.
What’s not to love?
To recap, micro modal is a soft, lightweight and breathable fabric that is also durable, biodegradable and requires less water than cotton to dye. Garments made from micro modal feel luxurious on the skin and are better for the planet.
Thanks to fabrics like micro modal, being more sustainable doesn’t have to mean compromising on comfort and style. Micro modal and other renewable fibres are helping to change fashion for the better. It's a win win!