Viscose is a viscous organic liquid used to make rayon and cellophane. Cellulose from wood or cotton fibres is treated with sodium hydroxide, then mixed with carbon disulfide to form cellulose xanthate, which is dissolved in more sodium hydroxide. The resulting viscose is extruded into an acid bath either through a slit to make cellophane, or through a spinneret to make rayon. The acid converts the viscose back into cellulose. Viscose was first used for coating fabrics, a purpose for which it is quite suitable. However, when Cross and his partners tried to make solid objects like umbrella handles they were found to be much too brittle.
Further development led to viscose being spun into thread for embroidery and trimmings. Eventually, after Samuel Courtauld & Co. had taken over in 1904, Viscose manufacture became big business. By the twenties and thirties it had almost completely replaced the traditional cotton and wool for women’s stockings and underwear. Similar changes occurred in the US and in Europe, too. Viscose was also being used for linings and furnishing fabrics; providing the staple for towels and table-cloths and was being made into high tenacity yarn for tires. Yet other uses included the manufacture of sponges and absorbent cloths.
Making viscose film had been tried by Cross in the 1890s but it was in Switzerland and France that major successes were achieved. By 1913 C.T.A. established La Cellophane SA. Ten years later DuPont Cellophane Co. was set up in the USA and in 1935 British Cellophane Ltd was established in Bridgwater, Somerset.
Viscose is a soft material, used in mostly tops, coats and jackets.
Viscose is currently becoming less common because of the polluting effects of carbon disulfide and other by-products of the process, forcing the Bridgwater factory to close in 2005.
Viscose is used mainly for fine, fashionable articles and linings.
Whilst in general dry cleaning is recommended for suits and jackets, it is possible to wash blouses and other garments without problems at home – provided it says so on the care symbol. As long as you take note of the symbols on the care label and of the instructions that follow below, your “best things” will be like new and with you for a long time.
Pre-sorting prevents colours running.
Coloureds and prints should always be washed separately from other articles.
Use fine detergents.
Do not use chlorine bleach.
Half loads give the best wash.
Best results are obtained in terms of cleaning and minimal creasing where the drum or hand-wash solution are at a maximum 50% capacity.
A gentle wash cycle is the ultimate.
Viscose articles do not need or want anything in excess of a cycle at 40°C maximum. A gentle spin will suffice.
Viscose is self-drying.
Clothing is best hung up damp and pulled into shape.
A little ironing is a good thing.
Viscose articles may be pressed using a moderately hot steam iron.