Viscose vs Rayon: 9 Differences Between Viscose and Rayon

Is a name the only difference? Sometimes it is hard to tell because what a fabric is called in one country may be called something else in another. Or the difference may be continent-wide. What name is used depends on the people using and selling it around the world.

There does seem to be some differences between rayon and viscose even though the names are used interchangeably around the world. The main difference between the two fabrics is the manufacturing process. Each fabric has its own uses.

To learn more about the differences between rayon and viscose just continue to read our article. It hunts down those differences so you can see that the two materials are not the same

Is Viscose The Same as Rayon?


Sometimes the only difference between fabrics is the name. For this comparison, rayon is usually the term used in North America while the word viscose is used for the same fabric in Europe and other parts of the world.

Even the federal trade Commission considers the two fabrics the same, as do some environmental groups. Then the viscose processing style is also used to create rayon fabrics but not always.

The reason for that is that rayon is usually made from wood cellulose or bamboo, viscose adds in plant fibers as well as those two fabric sources. Yet the manufacturing process and chemicals used have rayon imitating silk while viscose imitates cotton.

On top of that, viscose is described as a form of rayon which may add to the confusion. Is it different or not? That question can only be answered when you see the different characteristics each fabric comes with.

There may be similar manufacturing styles but the purpose of both fabrics helps set them apart. It is those characteristics that will be highlighted here.

Is Viscose a Type of Rayon?

Yes, it is or it is called a type of rayon as while there are some different manufacturing processes involved, viscose is made from rayon at times. Or its viscose liquid origin is used to create rayon fibers which are then woven into rayon fabric.

Sound confusing yet? Viscose and rayon both go through chemical processes to be changed from wood cellulose to clothing material. Viscose may undergo more chemical treatments than rayon but that is not always the case.

As a side note, cellophane is also made from the same viscose liquid as viscose fabric is. One difference between the two materials is that viscose is not as durable as other forms of rayon.

The reason for this is that viscose production uses more caustic soda than other forms of rayon materials. There are also some different materials used in making viscose over rayon and those different ingredients help provide more of a difference in those fabrics than similarities.

The Difference Between Viscose And Rayon


This chart will help you see the different characteristics of the two fabrics. It is designed to let you glance over it and see that the two fabrics are not quite the same material:

Category Rayon Viscose
Invention Late 1800s by numerous scientists first called rayon in 1885 First invented in 1883 by Edward John Bevan and Charles Frederick Cross.
Raw materials Made form wood cellulose and chemicals Made from both wood and plant cellulose and chemicals
Fabric category Neither natural or synthetic Neither natural or synthetic
Reason it was invented To imitate silk To imitate cotton
Used for Curtains, sheets, clothing items, tire cords, medical supplies Household textiles as well as clothing
Characteristics Easy to dye, breathable, delicate, colorfast, versatile use Anti static, absorbent, breathable, hypoallergenic, dyes well
Warmth Made for hotter temperatures Can keep you warmer in cooler temperatures
Negatives Can shrink, wrinkle, easily torn, and other wise damaged.loses strength when wet Can shrink and wrinkle as well as loses strength when wet
Softness Yes More so than rayon
Drape Does this well May not drape as well as rayon
Cost Cheaper than silk About the same as rayon if not a little less

Viscose vs Rayon Bamboo


This is a toss-up as both materials are used in clothing and it is their glossiness that makes it a good jacket material. The problem is that the two fabrics have more in common than they have differences making it hard to say which is better.

If you or your loved one is suffering from allergies, then bamboo rayon would be the better fabric to wear. It is slightly more hypoallergenic than viscose. It is also a toss-up in the durability category and which fabric wins here depends more on user experience than the quality of the fabric.

Viscose is made to act more like cotton which means it may not be as soft as silk imitator, rayon. As for cleaning, this too requires about the same amount of care and careful handling. Both materials are prone to wrinkling and shrinking with rayon being a little more vulnerable than viscose.

A lot will depend on your preference. If you like clothing made from bamboo then this would be the better of the two fabrics for you. If not then viscose will be in that number one slot.

Rayon vs Viscose Clothing

It boils down to the type of care both fabrics need to receive if they are going to be lasting you a long time. Unfortunately, both fabrics are delicate and do not like the heat, that is why it is recommended that you hand wash both instead of using your washing machine.

Dry cleaning is an option but that can get expensive especially if you wear both fabrics a lot. The cost is also about even as the manufacturing process reduces the production expense and the different companies pass those savings onto you the consumer.

Then, if protecting the environment is important to you, neither of these fabrics will be placed on your favorites list. Both manufacturing processes are not environmentally friendly nor are they good to have on your body due to the toxic nature of some of those chemicals used in making both fabrics.

Both fabrics come with an array of colors and designs but the main difference will be between their purpose. Rayon is usually used for those events that like seeing silk gowns while viscose is used more for those events that welcome cotton items.

Viscose vs Rayon Breathable


Yes, both materials are quite breathable with maybe rayon winning this comparison by a nose. This fabric is designed to imitate silk which is very breathable and is great for those hotter summer days when you need to keep your cool and look fresh.

Viscose is said to work better in cooler climates thus its breathable nature may not be on par with rayon. Its cotton-like structure still makes it very breathable but you are not sacrificing a lot of heat in the process.

Of course, the amount of breathability you get from either fabric depends on its quality, its thickness, and if you are a person who perspires normally or not. With both fabrics being almost equal it shouldn’t matter which one you wear.

The breathability factor is almost the same as, despite its differences, these two fabrics are very close in characteristics and character. Which one you choose to wear will depend on the style of color and design they both come in as well as the event and time of year you are going to wear them.

Rayon vs Viscose Wrinkle

There is no competition here either. You would think so due to the fact that there are slight differences in the manufacturing process. But since viscose is called a form of rayon then it stands to reason that it will wrinkle as much as rayon does.

It also has a problem with heat just like rayon so the wrinkle factor is something you will have to deal with no matter which material you wear. Ironing has to be done carefully as both fabrics do not react well to high temperatures nor to direct heat sources.

The heat will also make the fabrics shrink some so you cannot wash them in hot water and even warm is stretching it. Washing is done on the gentle and delicate cycles with the dryer being avoided at all costs.

It is better to hand wash in cool water than let the agitation of the washer ruin your nice viscose or rayon clothing. One would think that the manufacturers would treat both fabrics during the chemical processing of natural materials.

There has been no word on that being done although it should be a given that some of the higher quality materials were treated to avoid shrinking and creating wrinkles. Remember the higher the quality, the fewer issues you have with the fabric.

Rayon vs Viscose Sheets


This is one of those situations where both rayon and viscose terms are used interchangeably. Viscose is the European name for the fabric and Rayon is the North American one. When these terms are applied to bedding, they are actually referring to the same material.

While viscose fabric can be made with cotton, it still uses bamboo as rayon does. Even the difference in manufacturing doesn’t separate these two styles of sheets. The only real difference between these two sheets is the types of chemicals used in the processing.

That is not enough to make rayon and viscose sheets that different. The good thing is that if both sheets are made from bamboo, you get top hypoallergenic protection making sleeping easier for asthma and allergy sufferers.

They are also self thermo regulating keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Plus, they are nice and soft helping you get that good night sleep you always need and want.

If you are not using bamboo rayon, or viscose then it is a toss-up as the sheets are basically the same. The similarities between the fabrics overshadow the differences including their care.

Which Fabric is Better Rayon or Viscose?

Because there are only minor differences and the terms refer to the same fabric in different parts of the world, we are going to say that neither fabric is better than the other. That may seem like a cop-out but the manufacturing differences to us do not amount to much.

You may hold another opinion and that is fine but these two fabrics have the same shrinking, wrinkling, and heat problem. They both breathe well and have other similar positive characteristics that it is almost impossible to tell the difference.

While viscose may be made from cotton at times and rayon has a silk-like nature, this does not make them better than the other. They are just the same material with different properties for different purposes.

In all honesty, you will not go wrong using one fabric over the other. Just the occasions where you wear them to will be different. This also doe snot make one fabric better than the other.

Then their environmentally unfriendly processing keeps the two fabrics on equal footing. If one was more eco friendly then we could say that one was better than the other. But as it stands, the two are about the same.

Some Final Words

Each fabric has its own unique purpose and helps you save a little money when it comes time to add or change your wardrobe. Rayon is more silk-like so you can look sophisticated and elegant without paying the silk cost.

Then viscose may be more durable when it is made from cotton and feels more like cotton does but those elements do not protect it from the weaknesses that come from the manufacturing process.

There should be ample opportunities to wear both fabrics throughout your life so buy both and enjoy them. The only thing for bedding is to make sure you buy the bamboo kind. It is a better sheet to sleep under.

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