Have you come across a clothing item made of viscose and wondered whether it would eventually stretch?
Viscose is a popular fabric to make those drapey summer dresses, silky shirts and blouses, and even lingerie. It is also known as artificial silk, and although the two fabrics share many similarities, the process of making them is different.
Most of the time, people ask is viscose fabric stretchy hoping they will eventually fit into a piece of clothing made from this material. The answer is yes and no—viscose can stretch up to a certain point depending on several factors. You can use some hacks to expand this material slightly, but you must be careful not to damage it.
In this article, I explain everything you need to know about viscose. You will learn about the properties of this popular material, how it is made, how it compares to other materials, and what makes viscose stretch.
Let’s jump in!
How Is Viscose Made?
Viscose is a type of rayon fabric because it is made from natural wood cellulose. But, the difference between viscose and rayon is how the two are manufactured to become commercially usable fabrics eventually.
While viscose and rayon are derived from wood cellulose, making viscose is much more chemical-intensive. Because it is derived from a natural product but undergoes an artificial chemical, viscose is a semi-synthetic fabric.
Manufacturers start with wood pulps extracted from pine, beech, or bamboo trees to make viscose. The pulps are then dissolved in a chemical, typically sodium hydroxide.
The mash is washed and bleached before being soaked in carbon disulfide. Rinsing the blend in sodium hydroxide results in the final chemical mixture.
Once in the factory, the manufacturer use spinnerets, machines that spin the viscose solution at high speeds to produce filaments. Other machines then convert these filaments into yarn, which is woven into the fabric.
Viscose has a silky look and feel and is popularly known as synthetic silk. It has excellent drape quality making it a good choice for summer dresses, blouses, skirts, tunic tops, and lingerie. Other attractive qualities are cotton-like softness, airiness, and breathability, making this fabric very comfortable with a luxurious feel to the skin.
Is Viscose Stretchy?
The truth is that 100% viscose is not stretchy. If you buy a piece of clothing and the manufacturer’s label reads pure viscose, this garment will not stretch on its own unless you use other tactics to stretch the fabric forcefully.
But, as you might already guess, force-stretching fabric that naturally doesn’t stretch is not a good idea; there are very high chances you will ruin the material.
That said, there are few instances in which viscose can stretch. First, if you try to pull apart viscose fabric, it might stretch a bit because the material is woven using a loose interlocking pattern. The weave’s looseness is what makes the viscose feel slightly stretchy.
Another instance where viscose might stretch is if it is blended with another material, such as spandex or, in some cases, polyester. Spandex is extremely stretchy and the extent to which viscose fabric will stretch depends on how much spandex is added to the fabric. Fabric containing more spandex than viscose will stretch more than one that contains the majority of viscose and a small amount of spandex.
If you want a stretchy viscose material, check the manufacturer’s label for a blend of viscose and another stretchy material such as spandex or polyester. If the fabric is 100% viscose it will not stretch much.
Something else you can check is the fabric’s weave. If it is an over-and-under pattern, this tells you that the fabric will not stretch. On the other hand, if the weave is tightly packed together, the fabric might stretch slightly.
When shopping for clothing made from varicose, selecting pieces that fit you perfectly is best. Because this material is not stretchable, any clothes that do not fit at the shop will not fit you later, even after wearing the item many times.
Generally, the most viscose can stretch is about 2%, a small, sometimes unnoticeable amount of stretch. The fabric will stretch more than this if a stretchy material such as spandex is blended in.
Comparing Viscose To Other Fabrics
Now that you know that viscose may stretch in a few instances, you might wonder, is viscose polyester stretchy? Is viscose stretchier than polyester? Is viscose cotton stretchy?
When it comes to viscose and polyester, polyester is the stretchier of the two. Polyester has a stretchability of about 15% compared to viscose’s 2%. Fabrics containing a blend of polyester and viscose are stretchier than ones that are 100% viscose. But, you should be careful about fabrics containing more polyester than viscose; such a fabric is likely of lower quality than one with more viscose.
Viscose cotton, on the other hand, is not as stretchy. Blending cotton with viscose doesn’t do much for the fabric’s stretchability because cotton is only slightly stretchy. Viscose cotton is soft, breathable, and surprisingly drapes quite well.
How To Stretch Viscose Fabric
While you can stretch viscose, ideally, you shouldn’t forcefully or artificially stretch this fabric. There is a big risk of ruining the fabric, and if it is a piece of clothing, you could end up with one side of your dress hanging or one sleeve longer.
That said, if your piece of clothing shrinks, you might want to try a few hacks to stretch it back. Here’s what I recommend:
1. Soak in shampoo or conditioner
Water is your best bet when you want to stretch viscose. Soaking viscose in water weakens the threads, making it easier to stretch the fabric with a simple pull.
Adding a squat of conditioner or shampoo can fasten the process of weakening the viscose threads. However, a little goes a long way; too much shampoo can over-stretch or stain the fabric. It is best to use gentle baby shampoo to reduce the risk of damage.
Let the clothing soak for five minutes, allowing the threads to absorb enough water. Then, lift the clothing from the water gently to avoid sudden stretching.
Next, lay a clean towel on a flat surface, then place the clothing on the towel. Slowly roll the towel with the clothing inside to remove excess water.
Now, stretch the damp piece of cloth in the shrunken areas. Do this gently; water makes viscose extremely delicate and prone to tearing.
Once you achieve the desired shape, place counterweights on the clothing to maintain its new shape. Leave the clothing to air dry on your rack or hang it on a plastic hanger to prevent permanent creasing.
2. Iron or steam the piece of clothing
If you want to stretch and wear the piece of clothing immediately, your best option is to steam or iron it instead of soaking it in water and waiting hours for the item to dry.
If you have a steamer, hang the clothing item on a plastic hanger close to an outlet where you can plug the appliance.
With your steamer filled with enough water, move the appliance up and down, making sure to steam the entire piece of clothing.
Switch off the steamer and set it aside. Then, use both hands to pull the clothing item to your desired shape.
Alternatively, you can use an iron for this same process. First, turn the clothing item inside out and set the iron on the lowest or silk setting.
Lay the clothing on a flat surface and place the iron close. Spray several bursts of water to moisten the clothing, then turn it over to the other side and repeat the moistening process until the entire piece is damp.
Switch off the iron and set it aside. Then, use both hands to pull the clothing to the shape you want.
3. Alternatives to stretching viscose
As mentioned, there are some instances where you may need to stretch viscose, for example, if your piece of clothing shrinks. But, generally, it is best to avoid pulling this fabric because it can easily lose shape or tear.
If stretch is important, you are better off buying viscose fabric blended with a stretchy fabric such as spandex or polyester. Preferably, opt for a fabric that has more viscose than stretchy material if you want to enjoy the full benefits of viscose.
Summary: Is Viscose Fabric Stretchable?
Viscose fabric is generally not stretchable in the way polyester or spandex is. Pure viscose stretches very little that the difference is hardly noticeable, but the fabric can stretch more when blended with spandex or polyester. When shopping for viscose clothing, it is best to choose items that fit you perfectly; don’t buy smaller viscose clothes hoping they will expand later. While you can stretch viscose when it shrinks, there is a very high risk of damaging the fiber. Always handle this fabric with the delicateness it deserves.