Unlike other sheet materials like cotton, trees like eucalyptus are not naturally soft. In order to be turned into sheets, they need to go through a lot of processing. Oftentimes, they get turned into wood chips that are separated into thin fibers, mixed with chemicals until they turn to a pulp, and then dissolved and run through an extrusion process until soft strands emerge.
Some of the chemicals used in this processing can be harmful to people and the planet. They’ve been linked to polluted waterways and coronary heart disease, leukemia, Parkinson’s, and stroke in factory workers.
As such, when shopping for any sort of wood fiber fabric, it’s important to choose one that was created using more sustainable, closed-loop processing. Lenzing, a fiber production company based in Austria, is the leader in this field. They make two TENCEL™ branded wood fiber options: modal and lyocell.
While both are created using closed-loop practices, lyocell tends to be the more sustainable option. The fiber is biodegradable, compostable, USDA-certified biobased, and made using a process that reuses about 99.9% of water and solvents, explains Lenzing’s U.S. Marketing & Branding Manager, Ericka G. Garcia.
Many eucalyptus sheets—especially the ones that are marketed as eco-friendly—are made from Lenzing. And while eucalyptus is one wood fiber used in the company’s yarns, it’s not the only one; meaning your “eucalyptus” sheets are more likely a blend of eucalyptus, beech, birch, and other wood pulps.
“Eucalyptus is one of the wood sources used, but it’s not the entire wood source,” Garcia clarifies on a call with mbg. “People like it because it sounds very pretty…but it’s actually not a fiber content that you can label your product with per the FTC.”
Lenzing sources all of its wood from PEFC and FSC forests that are certified not endangered, so you can still feel good about their sheets—but just know that it’s not only eucalyptus you’re sleeping on, and brands should be more transparent about that.