Rayon is one of the most versatile fabrics around, yet it remains somewhat of a mystery. That’s partly because of its remarkable ability to shape-shift—not just literally, but also in terms of imitating other fabrics. Rayon has been known to take on the properties of silk, cotton, wool, and others, and can be used in nearly any type of clothing. This can make it challenging to pin down exactly what it is, how to launder it, and what type of weather it’s best suited for. To help boost your familiarity with this ubiquitous fabric, keep reading to see everything you need to know about rayon.
In a nutshell, rayon is a fabric made from purified cellulose fibers, which are typically created from wood pulp. Though rayon is derived from natural materials, it requires certain chemicals, so it’s considered to be a semi-synthetic fabric.
One of the most common types of rayon is viscose rayon, which has a lot in common with cotton. It’s breathable, moisture-absorbent, and a popular choice for casual and athletic wear. It also shows up in dresses, blouses, and outerwear. Secondary types of rayon include modal rayon (typically made from beech trees) and lyocell (seen in everything from denim to dress shirts).
Laundering rayon takes a little extra consideration. Rayon is often blended with other fabrics (such as polyester and cotton), so washing instructions can vary significantly. While its texture and versatility make it an ideal choice for a range of apparel, rayon isn’t a durable fabric, and standard machine washing can cause it to stretch, shrink, or bleed onto other articles of clothing. As a result, most experts recommend hand-washing rayon, but always be sure to check the care label instructions beforehand.