Does Rayon Stretch? – Here is What We Know

In this post we will tell you everything you should know about rayon fabric: what it is, how it is made and what properties it has.
Jean Chaney
Jean Chaney
Research Writer
Jean is the brains behind her fashion label. She's a whiz with a needle and thread, and has been sewing since she was old enough to hold a pair of scissors. Jean has always read more
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Isabel Misner
Isabel Misner
Expert Consultant
A professional seamstress. Isabel has her own video blog where she shares her experience about all the aspects of sewing – from choosing suitable materials to step-by-step read more
Last updated: August 13, 2023
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Rayon Trusted Source Rayon - Wikipedia Rayon is a synthetic fiber, made from natural sources of regenerated cellulose, such as wood and related agricultural products.  is such a beautiful clothing material. However, although it is a beautiful material, not much is known about it. This versatile material has so many uses that many might not know about, and there are some unique properties that are cloaked in mystery.

In this post, we provide the ultimate guide to rayon material. We answer some of the most important questions, like “does rayon stretch?” and consider some of the most intriguing features of this material.

Read on to find out all that we know about rayon material.

What Is Rayon?

Does Rayon Stretch? - Here is What We Know

The first thing that anyone who wants to know about rayon needs to understand is the origin. What exactly is rayon material?

Rayon goes by several names. Some know it as artificial silk. Whatever name you call it, rayon is a beautiful material with special features. It is a textile fiber obtained from the wood pulp of trees like pine, cane, bamboo, spruce, and beech.

Additionally, you derive the pure form of rayon from cotton linters. The cellulose found in the cotton plant is processed by chemicals to create the rayon material that you know and love today.

Rayon also comes in different styles and goes by different names based on the manufacturing process. Some popular variations of rayon include modal, lyocell, and viscose.

From our discussion so far, it is clear why there is just so much confusion about this beautiful material. It is a unique material with the physical attributes, molecular build, and manufacturing process of several types of fibers.

Many people mistake rayon for cotton and vice versa; however, these are two distinct materials. Cotton is made from the bloom of the cotton boll. On the other hand, rayon is from the cellulose material of cotton and is chemically manufactured.

How Is It Made?

Now that we know what rayon is, the next consideration is how it is created. The section above has provided a clue of how it is created. However, that is merely the tip of the iceberg.

There is more involved in the production of rayon.

Rayon has a rich history, and the earliest records reveal that it was first produced via the cuprammonium method. In this method, copper and ammonia reagents were used to treat cellulose to make rayon.

However, this process has been stopped in several parts of the world because it affects the environment negatively.

So what method is used today? That is no other than the viscose method. This method is the most popular way of making rayon in mass quantities today. What is this method? Let’s see.

Does Rayon Stretch? - Here is What We Know

The Viscose Method of Making Rayon

This process involves seven steps. Here are they:

  • First, the cellulose is extracted from the tree or cotton plant. Spruce is often the tree of choice. After extraction, the cellulose is purified by dissolving it in caustic soda. This purification process creates soluble alkali cellulose.
  • After the soluble alkali cellulose has been made; it is then passed between rollers. The rollers compress the cellulose to eliminate any spare liquid. The cellulose is now in sheet form and left in containers to dry for several days.
  • This process ages the cellulose. After the process, the cellulose forms a white crumb. The crumbs are processed with carbon disulfide to turn them yellow.
  • The yellow crumbs are mixed in caustic soda, thus creating a viscous solution.
  • The new solution is filtered to remove particulates – particularly the crumbs that haven’t mixed correctly. Apart from filtering for particulates, this mixture is also degassed to remove air bubbles. If air bubbles are not eliminated, the yarn will have several weak points.
  • The sixth phase of the process is wet spinning, where the solution is spun like polyester.
  • The filaments that emerge from the spinning phase are hardened when treated with chemicals. They are then trimmed into yarn.

From cellulose extracted from wood pulp, you end up with silky fibers. Depending on the final purpose, these fibers are shrunk or imbued with resistance to wrinkles, water, and fire.

Rayon Properties

Considering the complicated process of manufacturing, it is no surprise that rayon comes with several unique properties. In this section, we consider some of the biggest properties of this material.


Many people suppose that rayon is a stretchy material. However, true rayon does not stretch. It is a rather stiff material that will retain its structure despite the pressure.

Rayon fibers and fabric do not stretch. However, knitted rayon might stretch. This is not a property of rayon but knitting. Check out this list of some of the best sewing and knitting tips.

If you are just learning how to knit, reviews recommend the Complete Guide to Sewing as an excellent help.

If you have come across rayon material that stretches, then the chances are high that it is not pure rayon but has been blended with some elastic material.

According to many reviews, FWD rayon challis fabric is one of the best rayon materials on the market.

While rayon might expand and shrink, that does not mean that it is stretchy. Expansion and shrinking are functions of dimensional instability and not an innate stretching feature of the material.

One of the features of this material is its ability to suck moisture from the environment. When wet, the fibers are weaker and cause expansion. However, once the moisture is removed, the fibers go back to their original position.


Does Rayon Stretch? - Here is What We Know

As we have pointed out in the section above, rayon is a material that shrinks. This shrinkage is one of the drawbacks of an otherwise excellent material. The shrinkage is often uneven, and you might have a hard time getting the shrunk fibers to get back to their original position.

What causes shrinkage in rayon? Moisture.

The air is full of moisture, and the moisture is more in some cases more than others. During these periods, rayon shrinks and recovers. It is important to take steps to avoid damage due to shrinkage.

Humidity and heat can affect the rayon fibers negatively. Therefore, to prevent damage due to these factors, it is recommended that you dry clean your rayon material. Using warm or hot water to wash it in a machine and then tumble drying might cause irreversible damage to the material.

The problem is even more pronounced if the rayon is untreated. Treated rayon displays more resistance to damage, but that doesn’t mean that you should risk using hot water to wash it as it can still suffer damage.

Knit rayon stretches, and it will even undergo more shrinkage unless woven loosely. The large spaces in the fabric will allow the water to penetrate further, thus increasing the shrinkage level.

If you want to sew this fabric, it is recommended that you first wash it in cool water and air dry to eliminate shrinkage.


Another property of this material is wrinkling. If you are looking for a material that does not wrinkle, then you need to steer clear of rayon. It is a material that wrinkles terribly when wet.

Additionally, while other materials can be straightened with some ironing, you have to be doubly careful when ironing rayon. As we have said earlier, it is not very good with heat as high heat can cause it to shrink. Therefore, you have to use low heat to straighten out the wrinkles.

If you don’t want to take any risks, though, you could use a sizing stiffener to help the material maintain its form.


Many clothing materials offer breathability, and rayon is one of them. It offers excellent breathability, which makes it a good clothing material for the hotter periods of the year.

Most summer clothes feature rayon. Apart from being very breathable, it feels soft on the skin. These properties make it the preferred summer clothing material for most people.


If cotton feels great on your skin, then you’ll likely love rayon too. It feels soft and nice, like cotton, which is excellent for people with sensitive skin.

Other Properties

Apart from the features that we have considered above, there are some other unique properties that rayon has.


Does Rayon Stretch? - Here is What We Know

If you are concerned about your clothes’ effect on the environment, then you will have rest of mind when using rayon. This material is very biodegradable – even more so than cotton.

Therefore, you don’t have to worry about your clothes damaging the soil, animals, or water.

However, it should be noted that the manufacturing process of rayon affects the environment negatively. The processing of rayon has been linked with deforestation, and the use of carbo sulfide in the processing is bad for the health. It also affects the greenhouse and can degrade groundwater.

Fortunately, recent steps have been taken to control the level of pollution that arises from creating this material.


One reason for its excellent biodegradability is its hydrophilic property. Rayon reacts to water, and rayon fibers that have been treated to resist water take a long time to break down.


Rayon is a flammable material. That is not a surprise since there is cellulose in the fibers. It is one of the most flammable clothing materials.

Fortunately, some rayon fabrics have been treated to be fire-resistant. Either way, if you wear rayon or have rayon material, you should be careful to keep it away from high heat and flames.

What Is Rayon Used For

Rayon is a versatile material that offers plenty of practical applications. The properties that we have considered work to make it useful in several applications.

For example, it is a drapey material that makes it great to use as clothing material and anything requiring drapes.

Here are some of the uses:

  • Clothing material – rayon is used to make all sorts of clothing ranging from skirts to dresses, tops, scarves, lingerie, and neckties.
  • Art – Rayon is highly absorbent, making it great to use in tie and dye crafts. Colors penetrate really well into the material.
  • Beddings –Rayon has found use in the bedroom and home furnishings. It is used to make bedsheets, bedspreads, pillowcases, curtains, and more.
  • Athletic Wear –Since rayon is comfortable and cheap, it is used to blend other materials to make sportswear.

How to Take Care of Rayon Fabric

Since this is a versatile and admittedly fragile material, you must take proper care of rayon. How can you care for it correctly? Here are some tips that can help you.

Dry Clean

Dry cleaning your rayon material is arguably the best way that you can care for it. Dry cleaning is best for this material because it isn’t really good with water or heat.

Hand Washing

Does Rayon Stretch? - Here is What We Know

If dry cleaning is too expensive an option, then you could hand wash your rayon material. Hand washing is straightforward.

To hand-wash, follow these steps:

  • Pour warm or cool water into the container for washing and add some mild detergent. Whisk the mixture until you have enough soap bubbles.
  • Soak the rayon in the solution for fifteen minutes
  • Stir the rayon to loosen dirt, then leave for fifteen extra minutes
  • Rinse out the material with cool water
  • Don’t wring or squeeze the material.

Regular Cleaning

You need to clean your rayon material frequently if you want it to last. Use a mild stain remover to remove any stains that you can see on the material. When cleaning, avoid using bleach because it can damage the material.

Drying Rayon

Since rayon is not great with heat, the best way to dry it is by air drying. Also, never tumble dry rayon as this will cause significant shrinkage.

Ironing Rayon

Ironing rayon is a tricky business. It is highly recommended that you only use an iron on low heat settings.


Here are some of the frequent questions readers ask about rayon.

Does rayon stretch with wear?

No, it does not. Rayon maintains its shape despite frequent wear. It is not a stretchy material that can deform due to wear.

Does cotton and rayon blend stretch?

Cotton does not stretch naturally. And neither does rayon. Therefore, unless the cotton is treated to be stretchable, a cotton and rayon blend will not stretch.

Does polyester rayon blend stretch?

Yes, this blend can stretch. Although rayon itself does not stretch, blending it with stretchable fibers like polyester can make it stretch. Although the blend stretches, it does not make it weaker.

Can you stretch rayon after it shrinks?

Yes, you can. If you have caused shrinkage in your rayon clothing, then you can use certain techniques to stretch it out. Here is how to stretch it:

  • Create a mixture of conditioner and water
  • Soak the rayon in the mixture for five minutes
  • Remove the rayon and gently squeeze out the water
  • Steam it with an iron or steamer to stretch it out.

Final Thoughts

Does rayon stretch? Well, we have answered this question in this article. Not only have we considered the stretching properties of rayon, but we have also considered other important properties and how you can care for the material. With proper care and cleaning, you can get the best from your rayon material. If you are thinking of sewing rayon, check out this list of the best sewing machines.


Rayon - Wikipedia
Rayon is a synthetic fiber, made from natural sources of regenerated cellulose, such as wood and related agricultural products.
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