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Quick & Easy Guide to Modal Fabric

Written by Stephen Hunt

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INTRODUCTION

Did you just buy a garment, look at the tag, see the word “modal” written on it, and think to yourself “modal material? WTH is that?!”. Don’t worry - to help sort out the mysteries of modal, we’ve written this article, A Quick and Easy Guide to Modal Fabric

We’ll briefly go over the background of modal, the key features of this fabric, care instructions, and its popular uses. 

WHAT IS MODAL?

Although it lacks the name recognition of a fabric like cotton or wool, modal material is a type of rayon created from beech trees. Think of it as rayon 2.0. It was designed to be more absorbent than regular rayon and feels much softer. In fact, if you want to get technical, “modal” is the consumer term for “high wet modulus rayon”, which refers to the extra absorbency of its fibers. Modal fibers are 50% more absorbent than cotton, which means you stay dry longer when wearing a modal garment. 

Because modal is created from wood pulp, it is considered a bio-based fabric or semi-synthetic. When used in apparel, garments are either made from 100% modal fabric or blended with another type of fabric, such as cotton or spandex. 

It was first developed in Japan in 1951, although it was not manufactured and distributed until 1964 by the Austrian company Lenzing AG. This company still produce modal material, although other companies have joined them in the marketplace to sell their own types of modal. 

CHARACTERISTICS OF MODAL FABRIC

The most noticeable features of modal fabric are how soft it feels and its smooth texture. You would be hard pressed to find a material softer to the touch than modal. It almost feels like silk; super smooth, super soft, drapes beautifully, and feels luxurious when worn. 

To dig a little deeper, modal also has some pretty incredible properties. It is lightweight and very breathable, which makes it a great fabric for garments worn in warmer months. It stays cool to the touch and is odor resistant. That’s right, modal fabrics do not trap odors! 

As mentioned in the first section of this article, modal wicks moisture 50% better than cotton. This means that you’ll stay dry longer and subsequently smell fresher and cleaner than if you wore some other fabrics. And it’s even resistant to shrinking and pilling, which means a garment made from modal will retain its shape after heavy wear and frequent cleanings. 

On the manufacturing side, modal fibers hold onto dye very easily, which allows it to be dyed in rich colors that will not bleed when cleaned at home. 

In short, modal material is super soft, decently durable, breathable, resistant to shrinkage, very absorbent, and holds onto dye very well. 

HOW TO CARE AND WASH MODAL FABRIC

Modal is fairly easy to care for and can be cleaned similarly to other fabrics, however, there are some best practices that should be followed in order to extend the life of your modal garment. Always avoid chlorine bleach, as it can discolor the fabric and start to break down the fibers. Ideally, wash in cool water and allow to dry on a flat surface. If you decide to tumble dry with a machine, use the lowest heat setting and remove the garment when slightly damp to finish air drying. 

Just a note: as with any garment, please refer to that particular garment’s care instructions for specifics on how to care for it. Different fabric blends, elastics, or dyes may require specific care.  

At Hunt Underwear, we recommend the following care instructions for our modal underwear (which is a blend of 95% modal and 5% spandex):Modal underwear care instructions

POPULAR USES FOR MODAL

Because of its lightweight, breathable, odor resistant, and moisture wicking properties, the most popular uses for modal fabric are in activewear, underwear, and bed linens. Regardless if it's used for yoga pants, men's briefs, or pillow cases, this fabric allows for the wearer to be cool and comfortable whether they are running to the store or cuddling under their blankets. 

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So there you have it! A simple guide to this wonderfully soft fabric. Modal is a luxurious material and we hope you decide to try our ridiculously comfortable modal underwear.