New Series: Deep Dive into Interior Materials

As apart of our educational piece to this blog, we’ve decided to do a new series! This series will feature an in depth look at a specific material, textile, or product used in the industry. You’ll get an expert’s opinion on the material (whether it’s a type of wood, textile, stone, fabric blend, etc.), how it’s used in the industry, what applications it’s good and not good for, it’s durability, proper cleaning guidelines, and so much more!

For this first feature in this series, we decided to go with a fiber that is used widely in the design industry. This material is seen mostly in rug construction and fabrics used for upholstery. It is known for its lustrous sheen, soft feel, and luxurious nature. There is also a lot of controversy around this fiber due to it being very high maintenance. Have any guess of what it is? This week’s feature is on none other than VISCOSE!

A little background on what viscose actually is.

Straight from google’s dictionary: “a viscous orange-brown solution obtained by treating cellulose with sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide, used as the basis of manufacturing rayon fiber and transparent cellulose film.” HUH? Layman terms, please. Essentially what this means is that viscose is derived from the ‘cellulose’ (aka wood pulp) of fast growing trees and plants such as bamboo, pine, eucalyptus, beech and soy. It is then dissolved in a chemical solution to produce a thick and sticky substance, which is then spun into fibres.

It’s full name is Viscose Rayon. So whenever you see ‘Rayon’ or ‘Viscose’ or ‘Viscose Rayon’ listed in the fiber content of a label of your clothing, bedding, rug, or upholstery - it all means the same thing! It’s a semi-synthetic fiber that was created to be a less expensive alternative to silk.

Why is it widely used in the design industry?

Also known as artificial silk, viscose is an affordable fiber with the feel of a luxury material. It’s versatile and blends well with other fibers, has a superior softness compared to cotton, and when its dyed it retains colors very well. Sounds like the design industry struck gold with this one, right? Well, there’s a catch.

The good, the bad, and the viscose.

Like all great things in life, there’s a caveat. While viscose is commonly used in the industry, it should come with more caution signs. It is highly absorbent to moisture (body oils, water, etc.) which can discolor and weaken the fabric, resulting in permanent damage.

As an example, if a rug in your home has viscose in it, you’ll want to make sure it is in an area that isn’t exposed to a lot of moisture (basement, bathroom, outdoors). If you live in a home that doesn’t require shoes off, we wouldn’t recommend having viscose rugs in high traffic areas (think of the moisture from outside weather and dirt on shoes that then gets tracked onto your rug). You’ll want to be strategic about where a rug containing viscose goes. Think of areas that are less likely to be exposed to food, liquids, dirt, and other spills. Perhaps a master bedroom, formal living room, or office. If there is a rug that you can’t live without that would fit perfectly in your family room where you do a lot of entertaining - you’ll want to make sure you are prepared in the event of an accident and understand it’s higher maintenance nature.

That’s not to say that viscose is entirely impossible to clean. There are a lot of people out there who live with viscose rugs who have mastered the cleaning techniques and set their home up for success. This Wiki How post goes into depth on how to properly maintain and clean a viscose rug and is a must read!

Another thing to consider with viscose (rayon) is it's commonly found in upholstery fabric. More often than not it will be blended with other fibers such as cotton and polyester which are more durable and stain resistant. Depending on the fabric content and if the upholstery is being used for furniture in a high traffic area, you won’t need to worry as much as you would with viscose rugs. What we have found though in recent experiences is that fabric with viscose can start to pill. If the upholstered piece of furniture such as a sofa is used a lot (say in a family room) and has viscose in the fabric’s fiber content, it is more likely to pill over time. There are things you can do to remove the pilling but not a lot you can do to prevent it. If you’re not worried about pilling but more so concerned about daily spills and accidents, consult your designer about treatment options. There are a lot of treatments out there that can be applied to fabric to prevent stains and prolong a fabric’s life.

A good way to think about viscose is comparing it to marble - it’s higher maintenance and not meant for everyone, but when properly maintained and embraced for its inherent properties, it makes a beautiful addition to your home. Viscose does not need to be avoided like the plague! But rather chosen with thought and intention behind it.

Want to know more about viscose or have additional questions? Ask away in the comment section below or message us directly on the contact page!