Micromodal and cotton are two examples of “cellulose” plant-based fibres. MicroModal, known for its premium softness, is a semi-synthetic fibre derived from hardwood trees. It is very silky to the touch and feels light against the skin. On top of that, being a thinner fabric, Micromodal is quite breathable and wicks moisture well. Cotton has been in existence for thousands of years and comes from the seedpod of the cotton plant. Cotton is a versatile fabric that’s inexpensive to produce, is widely accessible, and is best known for its softness, comfort, and breathability. This article looks at both in-depth detailing what they have in common and what distinguishes them apart.

Introduction to micromodal and cotton

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Micromodal, prized for its incredible softness and resistance to shrinkage, was first developed in Austria in the 1990s, and it builds on the invention of modal rayon that occurred in Japan in the early 1950s. Micromodal, like cotton, begins its life as cellulose, but this is where the processing comparisons end. Once birch or oak trees are chipped and delivered to a Micromodal factory, they are immersed in a chemical solution to strip the cellulose from the other parts of the wood. This cellulose is then flattened into large, white sheets which are immersed in caustic soda for a significant period. The cellulose sheets are then broken into crumbs and steeped in carbon disulfide, which transforms cellulose into sodium cellulose xanthate.

After another immersion into caustic soda, the solution is then forced through a spinneret, which is a device that has many tiny holes. The holes on the spinneret holes used to make Micromodal are significantly smaller than those used to make modal fabric. Lastly, the resulting fibres are soaked in sulfuric acid, stretched, and made into yarn. Once this yarn has been washed and loaded onto spools, it is ready for weaving. The fine fibres are tightly woven when making the fabric, resulting in a soft and silk-like texture, perfect for underwear and garments worn close to the skin.

The production of cotton is much less complicated. The cotton plant is a shrub native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world, including the Americas, Africa, Egypt, and India.  After harvesting in late Spring, the fibres are separated from dirt, debris, and seeds in a process called ginning. They are then carded, combed, and bleached with hypochlorite or peroxide before the fibres are spun. After spinning, they are ready for weaving. Whilst being very different fabrics in terms of production methods, Micromodal and cotton share many similar properties such as softness and breathability, and for this reason often crossover in the same apparel categories.

Similarities between micromodal and cotton

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Both Micromodal and cotton are plant-based biodegradable fibres, however, due to expensive chemical processing, Micromodal is classed as semi-synthetic.

Both are a really popular fabric option for t-shirts, underwear, and home bedding.

Both are lightweight fabrics with great elasticity and softness, however, Micromodal is silkier than cotton.

Both have a huge range of applications from apparel to homewares.

Both have a smooth fibre surface feels soft and supple against sensitive skin.

Both fabrics dye well and hold that new colour very well. They are easy to dye and both don’t lose their strength as they go through the dyeing process.

Both are easy to care for although Micromodal requires lower than 40 degrees Celsius and gentle tumble drying.

Micromodal and cotton are both very breathable and manage moisture, so they help with temperature regulation and odour control.

Being breathable means they are both very suitable for undergarments and close to skin inner layers.

As neither requires the tending of or use of animals, both are vegan friendly.

Differences between micromodal and cotton

Micromodal is considered twice as soft as cotton.

Cotton pills, shrinks, and wrinkles easily whilst Micromodal is resistant to all.

Cotton fabrics come in various thicknesses, whilst Micromodal fabric is very thin.

Micromodal is 50 per cent more water-absorbent than cotton.

Micromodal is a better choice for luxurious underwear given its supreme comfort and softness, and its ability to wick moisture better than cotton.

Cotton is generally very cheap to buy unless it is organic or a specific type of cotton such as Pima or Egyptian. Micromodal on the other hand is more expensive because of its higher cost production processes.

Micromodal vs cotton: Environmental impact

Both Micromodal and cotton are biodegradable, even conventionally grown cotton, whereas synthetic fibres take hundreds of years to degrade.

However, conventional cotton farming uses the most pesticides of any crop in the world. Every time it rains or the plant decomposes, chemicals leak into the groundwater and surrounding waterways. Cotton takes a lot of land and water to grow and needs to be harvested using motorised farming equipment. So, all in all, cotton demands significant land, water, and energy resources.

Sustainably grown cotton is a better option for those following a vegan lifestyle or worried about animal welfare.

Since Lenzing AG is the only producer of Micromodal fabric, it’s guaranteed to be one of the most environmentally-friendly forms of rayon. Since Micromodal fabric is only made in the European Union, it’s likely that the carbon disulfide used is handled responsibly during the manufacturing process.

Many modal fabrics come from logging in tropical rainforest areas, however, Lenzing Micromodal assures they use only wood from sustainably managed forests.

Micromodal vs cotton: Applications

Micromodal is used in knitwear, sportswear, hats, suits, blouses, evening dresses, formal shirts, coats, sweaters, pyjamas, and undergarments. It is also used in homeware, furniture, upholstery, carpets, bathrobes, towels, drapes, bed sheets, curtains, and home decor, like other soft and luxurious fabrics. It is often blended with other types of fibres such as polyester, nylon, cotton, wool, silk, spandex to increase durability. It is claimed that bed sheets made from Micromodal are like silk.

Cotton fabric is one of the most widely used fabrics in the world. It is used in everything from bedding to socks, car upholstery, art canvas and rope to coffee filters. Also, cotton fibres can be woven together to create a multitude of completely new fabrics. It is one of the most versatile fabrics on the market and has been for centuries.

Micromodal vs cotton: Conclusion

We have compared the similarities and differences between these two fibres. Micromodal may have the edge when it comes to luxurious silky softness, however, cotton remains the most versatile in terms of applications. Both can be environmentally friendly as long as they come from reputable sources.

This article has not been edited by Fibre2Fashion staff and is re-published with permission from synzenbe.com