Bamboo fabric is one of today’s most popular textiles, but it’s also one of the most misunderstood. Some people believe bamboo textile is a sustainable and eco-friendly product, whereas others do not.
We’re all aware of the need of purchasing clothing produced from sustainable materials, but we don’t always have time to investigate every material we come across. That’s why we chose to create this guide about bamboo fabric so you can make educated judgments when selecting your next piece of apparel.
In this post, we’ll discuss what bamboo fabric is composed of, how it’s manufactured, and if there are any hidden hazards that you should be aware of before purchasing an item made from this material. Ready? Let’s get started!
What is bamboo fabric, and what is it made of?
The bamboo fabric is made from a natural fiber derived from the bamboo plant. Bamboo has long been known for its structural qualities. For millennia, bamboo has been used for sustainable purposes in Asia’s medicinal, paper, and textile sectors. Various methods and technologies have recently been developed to improve bamboo fiber for the production of textile products.
When manufactured in specific ways, the bamboo fabric is a sustainable and biodegradable textile with antibacterial and UV protection qualities, making it one of the most distinctive and eco-friendly fabric materials in the modern day.
In the current world scenario, when we face global warming and mass destruction of our natural resources, we must evaluate all options that benefit the environment. In this respect, we should focus more on the textile sector. It would be tremendously beneficial to the earth if we could make all textile materials ecologically friendly.
However, the history of bamboo textile is complex. While certain kinds of this fabric are eco-friendly and ethically produced, others may harm the environment or the people who make them. Before selecting the proper bamboo clothing or item, learning more about the bamboo fabric industry is essential.
Bamboo fabric properties
|Fabric Name||Bamboo fabric|
|Also known as||Bamboo viscose, bamboo rayon, bamboo linen, bamboo lyocell|
|Fabric materials||Bamboo yarns|
|Possible thread count||300-600|
|Heat retention capability||Average|
|Mostly used in||Household and Garments Applications|
Bamboo fabric characteristics
Bamboo clothing has various desirable characteristics such as softness, durability, and excellent breathability. The following are some of the essential features of this fabric:
- Breathable and soft. The bamboo fabric is exceptionally smooth and soft, thanks to its use of natural ingredients. It also has excellent breathability capabilities.
- Durable. Bamboo fabric is pleasant and breathable, with high durability, making it ideal for home applications.
- Biodegradable. If produced appropriately, bamboo fiber may degrade naturally without releasing hazardous chemicals into the environment. Because bamboo fiber is entirely made of cellulosic material, it is generally biodegradable.
- Moisture absorber. Bamboo fibers feature micro-gaps and micro-holes in their cross-section, allowing for excellent moisture absorption and ventilation. Bamboo has double the moisture absorption of cotton due to its superior soil release.
- UV rays absorber. Bamboo clothing provides a high level of UV absorption. It protects the skin from the sun’s UV rays.
Bamboo clothing has a tendency to shrink, which is worth noting. For washing your bamboo fabric clothes, it’s recommended to use the coldest water and gentlest drying method possible. When feasible, let your garments line or flat dry.
Bamboo fabric applications
As an environmentally friendly fabric, bamboo has gained a lot of attention in the textile industry. Unlike other materials such as polyester, bamboo fabric is breathable, stretchy, and durable. Thus it is extensively employed in the textile industry to manufacture a range of products.
Bamboo fabric may be found in a wide variety of home goods in addition to blankets, sheets, and towels. Bamboo clothing is trendy in the apparel sector due to its softness and durability. Bamboo textiles are commonly utilized for making T-shirts, underwear, socks, and other similar items due to their antibacterial qualities.
Because of their moisture-wicking qualities, bamboo textiles are also frequently used in performance clothing. Keeping perspiration at bay is especially important for hiking, which is often done in the cold season. Bamboo is unquestionably best in the summer, but it may also be helpful in the winter. The moisture in our body may make us feel colder when we sweat in the winter. Bamboo clothing wicks away moisture, whereas most synthetic fabrics retain it. This characteristic is what makes bamboo suitable for cold climates.
Bamboo viscose and related semi-synthetic fabrics, on the other hand, lack softness and flexibility, although they are unquestionably better at combating germs than synthetic materials. It’s important to remember that only mechanically processed bamboo clothing retains all its health advantages. We will explain more about it in the following sections.
What is the manufacturing process for bamboo fabrics?
The fundamental component of bamboo fabric is bamboo, which is a natural product. So, first and foremost, the bamboo plant must be harvested. When the bamboo has reached maturity, it may be utilized to begin fabric manufacture. There are two ways of processing bamboo into textile, which we explain below:
The mechanical method involves breaking the plant’s woody section and then using natural enzymes to break down the bamboo cell walls, resulting in a mushy substance. After that, the natural fibers may be mechanically combed out and spun into yarn. The resulting textile has a linen-like texture. Because it is labor demanding and expensive, very little bamboo material is produced in this manner.
Bamboo cellulose is produced chemically by crushing bamboo leaves and the inner core. To make alkali cellulose, crushed bamboo cellulose is steeped in an 18% sodium hydroxide solution for 1-3 hours at 20°-25°C. Excess sodium hydroxide is squeezed out of alkali cellulose. The alkali cellulose is then ground and dried for 24 hours. Then comes carbon disulfide (CS2) to the alkali cellulose mix.
The decompression of bamboo cellulose, sodium hydroxide, and carbon disulfide yields cellulose sodium xanthogenate. The cellulose sodium xanthogenate is dissolved in a diluted sodium hydroxide solution. The viscose bamboo cellulose is pushed through spinnerets into a massive container of weak sulphuric acid solution to make yarns.
The process above illustrates how chemically demanding the hydrolysis-alkalization and multiphase bleaching procedures are for most bamboo textiles marketed as eco-friendly.
Bamboo fabric types
Based on the manufacturing technique, there are mainly three types of bamboo textile: Bamboo viscose or rayon, bamboo lyocell, and bamboo linen. The distinctions lay in the processing technique – mechanical or chemical – and how the chemicals are handled.
Bamboo viscose or rayon
The bamboo viscose fabric looks and feels the same as other viscose textiles, and it’s produced with the chemical process described in the previous section. Customers should be cautious not to confuse this type of textile with mechanically made bamboo fabric.
Unlike bamboo viscose fabric, lyocell fabric is manufactured in a closed-loop method. In addition to utilizing less harmful chemicals, the lyocell process captures and recycles 99.5 percent of the chemicals.
Because the cellulose used in the production process does not change its chemical makeup, the resulting fabric retains many beneficial features observed in mechanically produced bamboo fabric.
Bamboo linen is considered the most environmentally friendly alternative since it is produced without the use of hazardous chemicals – it is a mechanical process rather than using chemicals. This fabric has several advantages in its physical characteristics and long-term sustainability, even though it is expensive and takes longer to make.
Is bamboo clothing environmentally friendly? Are bamboo textiles bad for the environment?
Bamboo is a fast-growing plant that requires little agricultural inputs and no pesticides. Cotton, for example, requires a lot of water and a lot of pesticides, both of which are harmful to the environment. Bamboo absorbs more greenhouse gas emissions and produces more oxygen, and its roots help maintain erodible soil.
But, although bamboo farming is natural and ecologically benign, producing viscose from bamboo is considered hazardous. Even though there is little to no danger of toxic chemical exposure when customers wear or use bamboo clothes, several hazardous compounds are utilized to convert raw bamboo into cellulose, which is then used to manufacture bamboo rayon.
Bamboo rayon is made using a chemical called carbon disulfide. Carbon disulfide is a very toxic substance that causes a variety of health problems in people. Exposure can cause liver damage, mental sickness, and possibly a heart attack. Furthermore, the chemicals required to transform bamboo into a viable material are rarely reused. It harms the environment and pollutes it.
We have seen improvements in how these chemicals are handled in recent years, which is a significant step forward. That’s is true of lyocell bamboo fabric, which is most likely an ecologically beneficial alternative. It is, however, not simple to come by. It is critical to note that the majority of bamboo clothing on the market is rayon.
Bamboo linen is also produced with an environmentally friendly method. So, whether you’re looking for bamboo apparel or home appliances, avoid bamboo rayon or viscose and, if feasible, opt for lyocell or bamboo linen fabrics.
Still, in softness, breathability, and durability, bamboo fabrics are one step beyond polyester and traditional cotton. Bamboo clothing, of course, is a safe bet as a far more sustainable alternative as long as the manufacturer is transparent about its origin.
Is bamboo fabric biodegradable?
According to the findings of this study, the majority of cellulosic fibers, including rayon, degrade at a rate that is comparable to or quicker than cotton. The conclusion can thus be drawn that bamboo fibers are biodegradable. On the other hand, the time a garment takes to decompose may vary depending on how it is disposed of and how many chemicals, dyes, and other treatments were given to it during its manufacture.
Why is bamboo clothing so expensive?
Bamboo clothing can cost more than cotton and polyester clothes, and it could be due to mass manufacturing and economies of scale. In other words, increased output reduces expenses. For example, cotton cultivation, processing, and manufacture are massive compared to bamboo’s small output levels.
Also, even though the plant grows super fast, most of the harvested bamboo isn’t made into fabric. The bulk of bamboo that isn’t sold as raw material (bamboo poles) is used to make flooring, furniture, and other products.
Lastly, making bamboo linen is almost considered an artisanal process, hence the higher prices.
To stay up with the needs of the current environment, we must consider all ecologically friendly options. Bamboo fabric is an eco-friendly fabric that has a low environmental effect. Furthermore, it preserves the biodegradability of natural components.
The textile industry is seeing an increase in demand for this fabric due to its numerous functional qualities. Some categories of this fabric include chemicals that are harmful to the environment. To avoid having a detrimental influence on the environment, you should carefully select the type of bamboo fabric you’re acquiring.