Is Viscose Biodegradable?

Power Digital Marketing October 22, 2021
group of young people in hte fields, wearing bamboo underware

By: Heather Bien


When choosing the clothing you want to wear, there’s a lot to consider, from price point to eco-friendly fabric to fit. The equation gets more complex if you want to make sure your garment is as good for the planet earth as it is for your confidence.

In recent years, many brands have begun to create clothing made from earth-friendly fabrics. For example, plant cellulose-derived viscose fabric comes from a natural fiber , sustainable sources like bamboo fiber. But is viscose biodegradable and is viscose a good material for eco-friendly clothing?

The short answer is that 100% viscose fabrics can indeed break down in about one year.1 However, keep in mind that many garments are made with viscose fiber blends that may not be completely biodegradable.

shop sustainable clothing

Read on to learn about the ins and outs of this eco-friendly fabric and its advantages.

Bamboo viscose’s life cycle

bamboo viscose white underware drying in the sun

While you’re out browsing racks of potential new duds, you might come across a silky number labeled “viscose” and wonder where, exactly, the fabric comes from and if viscose is sustainable.

Viscose is a semi-synthetic fiber derived from plant cellulose. 

  • Cellulosic fiber is the main component of plant cell walls. This fibrous substance has a number of potential commercial applications and is the basis for products from biodegradable plastics to viscose.
  • Viscose fiber is made by applying chemical softeners to raw plant material (be it wood pulp, bamboo fiber, seaweed, or another source of a natural fiber).1 This process creates a viscous liquid that is then shaped and hardened into strands that can be woven into sustainable fabric from activewear to curtains to sheets.

In its sustainable fabric form, sustainable viscose is super smooth (and lays softly much like artificial silk), breathable, and feels cool on the skin. 

Because most of the remaining material is natural plant cellulose, sustainable viscose fabric can be biodegradable. As mentioned, 100% viscose takes roughly a year to break down, although that depends on factors like weight, density, and environment. This is a short time frame compared to other fabrics like wool that could take five years or more depending on how they’re manufactured.

Know your viscose

young man and womna in the fields, wearing bamboo sports clothes

While viscose can be biodegradable, you shouldn’t assume the top you’ve been rocking is okay to put in your backyard composter. Just like cotton, linen, and 100% natural fibers, viscose is often combined with other materials for improved stretch and may lead you to question, does viscose shrink?

If your garment contains any of the following features, it will not biodegrade:

  • A synthetic fiber blend including nylon, spandex, or other materials added to give your garment shape and give.
  • Buttons, zippers, or other adornments that are not made with 100% natural components.
  • Tags that are not biodegradable.

But that doesn’t mean you should place your old viscose in the garbage can either.

What to do with your used viscose

two young women lying in the fields in bamboo underware

While it’s possible to opt for all-natural fibers for some garments, others won’t have shape or stretch without the addition of plastics.

When it comes to sustainable clothing, and activewear in particular, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any options that are completely biodegradable. But not to despair! There are still ways to ensure that your worn-out viscose garments never end up in a landfill.

Instead of composting, you can:

  • Bring your garments to a sustainable textile recycling center where they can be repurposed for insulation and other meaningful uses.
  •  Think of crafty ways to reuse old garments yourself—think quilts, pet bedding, and more!

The other sustainable benefits of viscose

Sad to find out that your viscose might not completely biodegrade? Take heart in the other benefits of choosing fabrics that are derived from natural sources.

While not all viscose is equally eco-friendly, fabrics like bamboo viscose use a rapidly-growing, sustainable plant source. This carries advantages like the following:

  • Less deforestation – Viscose derived from wood pulp can lead to deforestation. Likewise, some completely natural fabrics are grown on monoculture farmland where native plants have no chance to thrive. In contrast, bamboo viscose allows for more native plants to continue growing, which slows down deforestation.3
  • More fresh air – Bamboo fibre creates 30% more oxygen in a given area compared to the same area size that trees would take up, meaning that the environment relishes in more fresh air for you and for everyone else when more bamboo is around.3

As an added bonus bamboo benefit, bamboo-derived viscose is light, breathable, and absorbent. That way you can feel good from head to toe every time you don your favorite viscose duds.

Bamboo viscose from Boody Eco Wear

While viscose can be completely biodegradable, it’s difficult to find form-fitting undies, leggings, and leotards that are free from stretchy nylon and elastic. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Shopping consciously for bamboo viscose means you’ll find comfortable basics that still carry benefits for the environment.

At Boody Eco Wear, we strive to make it effortless to find essentials for your day-to-day that are durable, eco-friendly, and accessible. Using sustainable growing practices and recyclable and compostable shipping containers, we have planet earth in mind at every step of your clothing’s journey.

From your favorite basic men’s bamboo shirts to your most trustworthy (and comfy) pair of sustainable underwear, we’ve got you covered on all fronts. You can feel good knowing that your staples are doing some good for the earth. 

About the Author:

Heather Bien is a copywriter and writer based in Washington, DC. She works with retail, ecommerce, and creative brands on their website copy and digital presence, and her freelance writing has appeared on MyDomaine, Apartment Therapy, The Everygirl, and more. When she's not with laptop and coffee in hand, you'll find her planning her next weekend getaway, working on her budding green thumb, or scouting for her next great vintage find.


  1. Close The Loop. End of Life. 

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By: Heather Bien We’re all trying to be better stewards of Mother Earth. From recycling to upcycling and eating conscientiously to dressing mindfully, our choices affect the planet. So choosing organic cotton clothing seems like an easy decision, right? Not so fast! As with all sustainable choices, it’s important to take a moment to learn a bit more about why organic cotton might win over conventional cotton—and what makes these two materials different in the first place. Read on if you’re interested in learning about organic cotton and whether it’s the best choice for you and the environment. Conventional cotton Before we get into debating modern cotton farming techniques, let’s get familiar with the plant we’re talking about: cotton. It’s soft, durable, and probably on your body right now. But what else do you really know about cotton? Here are the basics: Cotton comes from the cotton plant – The cotton plant is a warm-season woody perennial shrub from the genus Gossypium and the family Malvaceae. Cotton fabric is made from the plant’s fibrous seed-hair (which is also called a cotton boll). Cotton is one of the top agricultural crops – Traditional cotton is the most widespread and profitable non-food crop in the world. Although the plant is capable of growing in any warm-weather climate, India and China are now the top producers of cotton globally. Cotton is thirsty – A normal cotton plant requires 10 gallons of water to reach peak potential. That doesn’t sound so bad, but multiplying it outward, that means it takes about 5,000 gallons of water to produce just 2.2 pounds of cotton fabric. Pests think it’s delicious – Not only is cotton thirsty, but it’s prone to pest infestations from bollworms, weevils, aphids, stink bugs, thrips, and spider mites. In order to combat these common pests, conventional cotton is routinely sprayed with a veritable salad-dressing of pesticides, many of which can remain in the soil and water supply for years afterward. Cotton harvesting requires defoliation – In order to quickly and efficiently harvest cotton, many commercial growers use chemical defoliants to strip the leaves from the cotton plant prior to harvesting the bolls. Like pesticides, these chemicals remain in the environment and on the cotton itself. Is organic cotton better? All of those cotton factoids point pretty compellingly to buying and wearing organic cotton fabric. But first, it’s important to understand what sets this organic alternative apart. Why exactly is “organic” cotton anyway? You might associate the word organic with your healthy fruits and veggies, but it’s not always clear what this term means when it comes to cotton. 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Crop pests, weeds, and diseases will be controlled primarily through management practices, including physical, mechanical, and biological controls. When these practices are not sufficient, a biological, botanical, or synthetic substance approved for use on the National List may be used. Operations must use organic seeds and other planting stock when available. The use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, and sewage sludge is prohibited. What is organic cotton? In short, it’s cotton that is farmed according to these practices and certified organic by the USDA. Why should you choose organic cotton? With fewer pesticides, fewer synthetic chemicals, and more thoughtful cultivation practices, organic cotton can certainly offer a more environmentally friendly choice when compared to regular cotton. 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But when it comes to plant-derived textiles, the ones which help us create a healthier world are always a better alternative.  Explore the benefits of bamboo with Boody Whether you choose to purchase conventional or organic cotton clothing, the fact that you are shopping mindfully for yourself is a win for the environment. At Boody, we believe in bringing you quality, comfy, sustainable clothing basics that keep you feeling good about yourself and your personal impact on Mother Earth. From our sleepwear to our loungewear, women’s bamboo shirts to our underwear, sustainable and ethical are our touchstones. Our clothing is made of bamboo viscose, requiring less water than cotton while putting precious oxygen back into the environment. That just feels good, doesn’t it? Explore the bamboo benefits today, with Boody. Sources:  Britannica. Cotton. Cotton. The Story of Cotton - Where Cotton Grows. World Wildlife Federation. Cotton. Textile Exchange. Quick Guide to Organic Cotton. Soil Association. What is organic cotton?  USDA. Conservation and Biological Diversity in Organic Production. About the Author: Heather Bien is a copywriter and writer based in Washington, DC. She works with retail, ecommerce, and creative brands on their website copy and digital presence, and her freelance writing has appeared on MyDomaine, Apartment Therapy, The Everygirl, and more. When she's not with laptop and coffee in hand, you'll find her planning her next weekend getaway, working on her budding green thumb, or scouting for her next great vintage find.