The two fabrics in the comparison may be similar but there are subtle differences that set them apart from each other. Those differences are what help influence your decision to use a particular fabric over another one.
The biggest difference between Tencel and modal is the name. Tencel is a brand name, much like Pepsi and RC Cola are. It isn’t a fabric name and the fabric that Tencel makes is generally called lyocell. Both fabrics are considered a form of rayon.
To learn more about these two fabrics and their differences just continue to read our article. It explores the topic so you know which fabric is which and what it is made from. Both fabrics are in the other category when it comes to classifying materials.
Are Tencel and Modal the Same?
Technically, no. Even though the two fabrics are considered to be a form of rayon, modal is considered 2nd generation rayon while Tencel is considered to be 3rd generation.
There are different wood chips used in making both fabrics but the chemicals are the same. Tencel fabric, as we just said, is a brand name and not a fabric. There are different varieties of Tencel material out there but the fibers are not the same as the fibers used to make Tencel brand fabrics.
The same company, Lenzing, originated both materials and holds the trademarks for both. However, beechwood is used to create modal while eucalyptus trees are used to make Lyocell or Tencel fabrics.
That difference will explain why modal feels softer to the touch than Tencel does.
What is the Difference Between Tencel and Modal?
Category Tencel Modal Origin Lenzing labs Lenzing labs Years of use 48 years originated roughly in 1972 55 years originated in 1965 Wood chips used eucalyptus trees beech trees Fabric no, it is a brand name, lyocell is the name of the fabric yes Strength stronger than modal stronger than rayon Biodegradable yes yes Softness can be very soft and smooth to the touch much softer and smoother than tencel breathable yes yes Absorbent no, it is moisture wicking yes, it is Stretchable no yes Care cold water best if cold water is used Cost can be very expensive not as expensive as Tencel
Tencel vs Modal
Being the third generation one would expect Tencel to be an upgrade over modal but since both are considered a form of rayon there are few differences between the materials.
Both the eucalyptus tree (Tencel) and the beech tree (modal) are very sustainable and the wood chips are harvested from natural and tree farm growths. because of the different ingredients and processing styles, modal is seen as the more delicate of the two fabrics.
It is certainly softer than Tencel but both share roughly the same absorbency rate, comfort levels, and breathability rate. The differences being slight if there are any in those categories.
The biggest difference will be in the cost of the two materials and Tencel made clothing can be very expensive to buy even though it was created, like modal, to be an inexpensive replacement for silk.
Tencel vs Micro Modal
Micro modal is an enhancement of modal. By that, we mean that this fabric is softer, more comfortable, and can resist shrinking a lot better than Tencel. It also wicks away moisture a lot better than regular modal and Tencel.
Then micro modal is a lot like regular modal in that it stretches really well. Tencel is not known to be that stretchable but when it comes to pilling, Tencel is more prone to that laundry ill than micro modal.
Both fabrics are also made, for the most part, by the same Austrian company. There may be different companies that make both materials or similar fabrics, but the quality is not there nor are the Lenzing fibers. To get the real deal you need to look for that Tencel TM or the Lenzing name on the labels.
Tencel vs Modal Sheets
If you have heard the phrase 6 of one and a half dozen of another then you will know how close Tencel is to modal fabrics. They are basically the same material with slight differences to make them seem like they are not the same material.
But while modal sheets can be softer than Tencel ones, the latter sheets may come in a higher thread count. They both breathe very well so you should not have to worry about night sweats even on a hot evening.
Then Tencel’s higher wet tensile strength may have these sheets lasting a bit longer than the modal ones. What may make you opt for modal sheets over Tencel versions is the price. The latter fabric is not known to be that cheap when it comes to costs.
Tencel Modal Fabric
This material is still in the other category but it is said t be softer than cotton as well as more absorbent. Its silky feel will have you thinking you are wearing real silk instead of a fabric that is found in the other category.
Usually, you will find this material in intimate clothing because of its softness and great feel. For bedding and other applications, the fibers are blended with cotton, bamboo, and so on, to get you the best material that will last you a long time.
You do not lose any of that moisture-wicking ability Tencel is known for when it is made into this fabric version. You should also stay cooler at night because the fabric is very thin.
Is Tencel Modal Breathable?
Yes, Tencel modal is breathable and it is said to keep you cooler than cotton or bamboo can. That makes the material very breathable and when combined that ability is not lost. It is a good fabric to have on your bed during those hot summer nights.
Plus, the material’s moisture-wicking ability should leave you drier as you sleep. Those are good elements to have in your bedding and your clothing when you do not own an air conditioner or some other type of cooling system.
Then you should be able to wash these fabrics better than regular modal or rayon materials. They are stronger and more durable than their other counterparts. That means they should last you a long time regardless of the price you paid for them.
But be forewarned, Tencel related fabrics tend to be more expensive than the competition even in bedding.
Does Tencel Modal Shrink?
Tencel, on its own, is known to shrink easily. Modal, on its own, is known to resist shrinking somewhat. Put the two together and you may still have shrinking taking place but not as much as it would be if you had a Tencel only fabric.
Modal is often blended with cotton to help the latter of those two materials to stop shrinking. When you blend Tencel and modal together you should not have a lot of shrinkage taking place.
Of course, when we mention Tencel, we are referring to lyocell fabric as that is the actual name of the material. Tencel products, lyocell, modal, micro modal are all from the same fabric company called Lenzing.
There will be other companies making similar fabrics but not of the same quality as the Lenzing brands.
Is Tencel Modal Breathable?
Most fabrics made by Lenzing are very breathable. In fact, both Tencel, lyocell, modal and micro modal are very good fibers to have on your bed if you live in a very hot or humid region of the country.
The materials are very soft making them a great alternative to natural fibers like cotton and silk. But to get that breathability and softness, you are going to have to pay more than you would for 100% cotton fabrics.
Being cheaper than silk does not make it a cheap material to buy or work with.
Tencel Modal Clothing
The fabric is advertised as setting a new level of comfort, durability, and softness for clothing. It can be made into different types of fabrics just like cotton and polyester can making it a substitute when you want something different in your clothing.
Plus, when you choose this material for clothing, you are not losing any breathability ability you want to have. Also, you are getting durable clothing that should last longer than 100% natural fiber clothing.
You may pay more but in the long run, the cost may come out even as you do not have to replace Tencel clothing as often under normal use.
Some Final Words
These two fabrics may be similar in some ways but there are enough differences to make them different fabrics that work better in some applications than others. It will be up to you to decide which one you use as they both have strong positive qualities.