Last Updated on October 7, 2022 by Shariful Alam
The fashion and textile industry constantly comes up with new styles and trends. Recently, they have also started using environmentally friendly and sustainable materials in their collections. With the craze of “going green”, bamboo fabrics are one of these materials. They are plant-based and organic; Designers can use them to create different products and garments.
Bamboo fabrics are a low-impact, sustainable resource. It has been used to make clothes and other home products. It is non-toxic and comes in a variety of natural colors and patterns.
In this article, we tell the stories of bamboo fabrics and all aspects of this sustainable natural fabric.
What is the bamboo fabric?
Bamboo fabric, as the name suggests, is made from bamboo. It is a natural fiber from this woody plant known to grow up to 4 feet a day with various characteristics. The most noticeable ones are its softness, lightness, eco-friendliness, and sustainability. This fabric has been famous for its uses in the medical and paper industry for years and depends on its acquisition process.
This fabric can be categorized into three types: bamboo viscose, lyocell-type bamboo fabric, and natural bamboo (also called bamboo linen).
Even though bamboo is natural, this go-to fabric for people is semi-synthetic due to its manufacturing methods.
History of Bamboo textile
Though bamboo entered the textile market in the early 2000s, experiments, refinements, and research for this invention, have been going on for more than 100 years. Historically, bamboo was used in Asia to make papers, weapons, needles, houses, and other household materials.
Bamboo trees have also been known for their usage in infrastructural work. The earliest records of patents involving bamboo papers date back to 1864 and 1869.
In 1864, Philipp Lichtenstadt tried to make bamboo into commercial cloth with his original idea to create a “new and useful process for disintegrating the fiber of bamboo so that it may be used in manufacturing cordage, cloth, mats, or pulp for paper.”
However, due to the low demand for bamboo and high transportation cost from Asia, his patent could not find its way into manufactured products in bamboo textiles.
Beijing University is the first one known that originally developed functional bamboo clothing and began the era of bamboo textiles by making bamboo fabric commercially available and thriving in the markets of the USA.
How is the bamboo fabric made?
The first step in making bamboo fabric is to get the primary bamboo material.
Spring is the best time for the plantation of bamboo, consisting of the month from March to June. There is no need for replantation, so the cultivation process is swift and requires less space than cotton production. Most of the bamboo we get for manufacturing different fabrics is collected from East Asia and countries like India and China as it grows abundantly there. Even though there are a few different types of bamboo fabrics, the initial processes are almost the same for all of them.
At first, the bamboo is sliced into small strips by finding the sheath ring and cutting them at the nodes at an angle of 45 degrees using a metal or wooden saw.
Then the bamboo is made into pulp by smashing the plant chips and putting them into a pulper. Bamboo pulp is obtained by using a temperature of 145 degrees in the filter press and steaming them.
In the next step, the bamboo is soaked for 1-3 hours in 15-20% sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) or natural enzyme at a temperature of 20-25 degrees to extract the long strands of cellulose fibers after pouring them through the filter.
Now comes the spinning step; before that, the cellulose is left to dry completely, which helps to separate the stands easily. Finally comes the spinning stage, in which bamboo fibers are spun into yarns that has an elasticity of 20%
For the final step, the yarns are weaved in different styles and techniques to get the required fabric, such as bamboo viscose, rayon, linen, etc.
Benefits of Bamboo Fabric
When compared to other natural fabrics available in the market, such as cotton or linen, the bamboo fabric takes the first seat for being a cheaper option as it is woven into textiles to replace polyester and silk for a more affordable option.
Bamboo fabrics are:
- It is three times softer than cotton.
- This lightweight and breathable fabric are very comfortable for daily use in clothing.
- Durable and long-lasting makes it useful for use in robes and
- It has the thermal regulating ability, so it will help to your body temperature at an average level no matter what the weather is
- The hypoallergenic property does not allow the buildup of dust and microbes, so it is safe for adults and kids.
- It has anti-microbial properties due to the unique natural agent called “Bamboo Kun”. The kun allows this fabric to be used for undergarments and sportswear.
- Highly water absorbent with excellent wicking ability makes it perfect for bathrobes and helps with odor resistance.
- Versatile so can be made into different apparels.
Uses of Bamboo Fabric
Bamboo fabrics and now used in the fashion industry as an eco-friendly and cheaper alternative fabric. Bamboo fabric has many benefits over other types of fabrics, including its softness, durability, and breathability. Let’s know about the usage-
Bamboo fabric socks are designed in a way to protect your feet against the buildup of moisture because the fiber is very absorbent. This keeps the feet dry, and comfortable, and prevents the formation of any body odor.
Bamboo fabric is a great alternative to making shirts because it’s not just soft like silk, it’s also very comfortable to wear. Its antibacterial and wrinkle-resistant property makes it very durable and stylish. You can wear them as a casual outfit or as a formal one.
Bamboo tops are found in different designs and prints. They are very soft and comfortable to wear. As made out of a natural resource, they are more eco-friendly and sustainable than other fabrics.
Bamboo fabric is very durable, long-lasting, and easy to care for. The fabrics are dyed with non-toxic dyes and made into dresses of unique styles and patterns for different occasions. For summer, the dresses are perfect as they are soft, lightweight, comfortable, and cool on the body.
Bamboo trousers are comfortable to wear all day. They are soft and lightweight. For regular use, bamboo is a good choice of fabric compared to others. They are also very long-lasting and durable.
- Robes & towels
Bamboo robes are stronger than cotton. The robes offer warmth and wick the moisture from the body easily keeping the body dry. The durability of bamboo keeps the robes and towels in shape for a long time.
The main property any undergarment should have includes quick drying, odor blocking, and no microbes buildup. All these can be found in bamboo fabric and that’s why it’s one of the popular choices for undergarments.
Sportswear needs to be durable and long-lasting. So that when heavy activities are done, they stay in shape and provide support to the body.
- Blankets & bedding
Bamboo fabric blankets are cozy, soft, and comfortable. They’ll make you want to stay in bed all day. Additionally, bamboo bedding is very smooth and promotes good hygiene and health.
- Baby clothes
Baby clothes made out of bamboo fabric are extremely soft and comfortable like silk and cashmere. Sleeping in bamboo clothes keeps the baby cool in warm weather. It also helps with sensitive skin.
- Swaddle, and other household items
Bamboo fabrics are also used to make baby swaddles, burp clothes, and other household items such as decor pieces, curtains, bags, and hats.
Bamboo lyocell is a fabric that is made with pure organic bamboo pulp after the bamboo plant has been cut into strips, crushed, washed, and then spun into yarns. Bamboo lyocell has a soft, silky, and very smooth feel. The manufacturing process to get this bamboo fabric is also called a closed-loop method. This method produces a fabric that is natural and organic and doesn’t use harmful and toxic chemicals like carbon disulfide which chemically changes the bamboo cellulose structure.
In the viscose process, To make bamboo viscose rayon the solvents are disposed into the environment and cause wastage.
But in the closed loop process, the solvent is used repeatedly and recycled which has a better and positive impact on the environment making it more sustainable.
Bamboo Fabric vs Cotton
The production of bamboo requires less water in comparison to cotton and about 10 times more bamboo can grow in the same area required for cotton. Bamboo is also comparatively softer, lightweight, breathable, durable, and stronger. Due to the antibacterial and hypoallergenic aspect of bamboo, it has become the first choice of fabric for people with sensitive skin. The thermal regulating ability of bamboo and the high water absorbent property of this fabric keeps the body cool and fresh more than cotton fabrics.
Bamboo VS polyester
Both bamboo and polyester have different benefits and uses. Spandex made of polyester is more durable and great for heavy activities and workouts. They are tighter and keep everything in shape which might make you feel suffocated if you wear them all day long. Bamboo on the other hand is great for everyday wear and for people who involve themselves in lightweight activities. Bamboo also keeps away germs and microbes by soaking up moisture due to its excellent wicking ability. Due to the organic and natural properties as well as the manufacturing process, bamboo is comparatively more expensive than polyester.
Bamboo fabric VS Hemp fabric
Both bamboo and hemp grow extremely fast compared to cotton, hemp requires even less water than bamboo and cotton for production. Hemp is also a bio-accumulator. When comes to fabric, bamboo fabrics are considered soft after going through a chemical process such as the viscose process and blending with other materials.
For durability and endurance of strength, hemp is a more reliable choice as it has the longest and strongest natural fibers. Hemp fabric production doesn’t require harmful chemicals like bamboo and is more sustainable.
Bamboo fabric vs Tencel
One of the major differences between bamboo and Tencel is that the solvent is used for the dissolution process to make wood into pulp. Bamboo uses a solution of sodium hydroxide and water which is referred to as harmful and process for the environment, on the other hand, Tencel uses of solvent called N-methylmorpholine N-oxide (NMMO) which is considered less harmful to the environment.
Both of these materials are soft but bamboo here has the upper hand for being softer and silkier. Tencel also reuses 99% of the water used during production but no such number is known about bamboo.
Bamboo Vs Bamboo Rayon
When we talk about bamboo we mostly mean bamboo viscose. Bamboo viscose is mainly made by dissolving the cellulose from the bamboo plant in a solution of caustic soda and water which then is forced through tiny holes into an acid bath. This acid bath helps to get the long strands of cellulose fiber obtained from bamboo by solidifying to find them.
On the other hand, bamboo rayon is made from the broken-down regenerated cellulose fiber of bamboo plants.
The process of making bamboo rayon is a mechanical process called mechanical pulling. The pulp is mixed into a solution of water and caustic soda and is spun at a high speed which breaks down the cellulose fiber and then is later spun into threads.
Both of these are semi-synthetic fibers and practically they have almost no difference, so next time when you see any bedding or sheet labeled as 100% bamboo remember that it refers to either bamboo rayon, bamboo viscose, or both viscose rayon.
How Sustainable is Bamboo Fabric?
As bamboo is a naturally fast-growing plant it is said to be very much sustainable. It requires almost nothing to grow other than sunlight and rainwater. It also regenerates itself from the part where it had been cut, so there’s no need for replanting. During the cultivation stage of bamboo, no fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, or insecticides are needed. It also uses less water for growth compared to cotton which is very environment friendly and sustainable.
However, the story of sustainability is a little different when it comes to the manufacturing and production stages. Both mechanical and chemical process is used to extract the cellulose fibers from bamboo, so the bamboo is put through different processes and soaked in harmful chemicals such as caustic soda and other processed solvents which when released into the environment, is harmful to the living being and pollutes the environment and the water.
Bamboo Clothing – Pros and Cons
- Doesn’t need fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, or fungicides
- Requires very less water and land space and is grown organically
- Has excellent moisture-wicking ability
- The finished products are soft, lightweight, breathable, and durable
- Might harmful to the environment and human due to emissions of toxic chemicals
- It is more expensive than cotton or rayon
- Bamboo fiber shrinks faster than cotton
- This fabric easily wrinkles and is prone to pilling (formation of small fiber balls on clothes)
let’s know more about them.
What are the disadvantages of bamboo fabric?
Some of the drawbacks of bamboo fabric include the usage of harmful chemicals and processes during the manufacturing stage. Additionally, a large amount of water gets polluted and contaminated during the production stage which is both harmful to the environment and the living beings.
Bamboo fabrics are very delicate and need special care as they are prone to melt at high temperatures and lose their longevity if exposed to too much UV or sunlight directly as they have a very low thermal stability.
How do you wash bamboo clothes?
Before washing the bamboo clothes, it’s always best to check the tags on the clothes for the washing instructions. The washing style of the clothes may change depending on the fabric’s blend. Most of the bamboo fabrics can be washed in a washing machine with a cool wash setting with a tumbling speed of 600 revolutions per minute and at a temperature that is lower than 40 degrees Celsius or 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Is bamboo clothing good for hot weather?
Bamboo clothing is great for hot weather as we tend to sweat a lot during that time. As bamboo has thermoregulatory properties, it can pull moisture easily and keeps us fresh and cool.
Does bamboo clothing make you sweat?
No, Bamboo clothing doesn’t make you sweat. In fact, bamboo fabrics can soak up to 40% more water compared to cotton. Bamboo fabric is an excellent choice of undergarment for workouts as it has moisture-wicking properties that pull moisture and sweat which in turn makes your body feel cool and fresh.
Is bamboo better than polyester?
Bamboo is an organic material, whereas polyester is a man-made synthetic fiber. As polyester is usually combined with spandex to make gym wear, it is ideal for intense activities whereas spandex made out of bamboo viscose is better for lightweight workouts and everyday activities. The antimicrobial property of bamboo prevents the growth of microorganisms in clothes and keeps unpleasant odors away.
Is bamboo clothing good for the skin?
Two of the main highlights of choosing bamboo clothing is its hypoallergenic and antimicrobial property. The hypoallergenic property makes the fabrics gentle on the skin by keeping the fabric free from any kind of germs or bacteria and the antimicrobial property helps to prevent the growth of any microbes on the clothing which keeps away the unpleasant odor and makes you feel clean and fresh.
There are numerous positive aspects of using bamboo fabrics due to their softness, breathability, lightweight, and process of making them. The fashion industry is more acceptable and attracted to fabrics that are environmentally friendly and give the designers freedom to create a different finished product from organic and natural materials. Surely there are other clothing fabrics like cotton, polyester, and linen, but the bamboo fabric is quickly taking the first seat as one of the best natural choice of fabric in compliance with mother nature.