What is Bamboo Fabric, and is it better than other fabrics? Bamboo fabric is a natural textile made from plant fibers. These fibers are procured from the pulp of the bamboo plant. Incidentally, bamboo plants come from the family of grass. They grow with many hollow stems. As fast-growing plants, some species can reach their full maturity in 90 days.
What is Bamboo Fabric
The bamboo fabric that is now being widely produced is one of the most innovative parts of the bamboo industry. From bedding to clothing manufacturing, they produce more products with bamboo fabrics as an alternative to cotton.
Here are some reasons why you may choose bamboo fabric over its typical counterparts:
- Texture - It feels softer than the most refined cotton.
- Antimicrobial properties - Bamboo fabric smells better and stays cleaner.
- Moisture-wicking capabilities - More absorbent and breathable than other fabrics.
- Anti-static nature - Bamboo fabric is not prone to static, making it cling to the body.
- Resilience - It outlasts other fabrics in keeping its shape, strength, and durability.
How is bamboo processed into fabric?
There are basically two ways of processing the bamboo plant commercially to create fabric. What is bamboo fabric for manufacturers?
What is Bamboo Fabric - Mechanical Process
This process is carried out by smashing the bamboo wood part into a pulp. Using natural enzymes, the bamboo walls are broken down into a soft mass. Then the natural fibers are mechanically combed out, spun into thread, and woven into cloth. The fabric produced is informally called bamboo linen. It is the same process done with hemp linen.
There is another option using the mechanical method. The bamboo is crushed and into powder and then mixed with water. Both processes are considered costly due to a large amount of labor needed to produce it, so these methods aren't that popular. The advantage is that these processes require no chemicals harmful to workers or the environment. Most importantly, it maintains its anti-bacterial properties and eco-friendly features.
What is Bamboo Fabric - Chemical Process
This is the most common way and more popular approach to produce the fabric. The chemical process gets the bamboo fiber turned into regenerated cellulose fiber, known as the viscose process.
The process is achieved through a very thorough chemical procedure. Parts of the bamboo are crushed into cellulose, soaking into Sodium Hydroxide. Carbon Disulfide is used to turn it into a viscous mixture. The mixture then reconverted to bamboo fiber threads, spun, and woven into fabric. The resulting bamboo fiber generates a soft and highly absorbent fabric. They call the fabric 'bamboo rayon.' The process is similar to the production of the viscose rayon from wood chips and eucalyptus sources.
These days though, more environment-friendly techniques are utilized in the chemically- processed bamboo fabric. One example is bamboo fibers turning into 'lyocell bamboo rayon.' The process of which is more eco-friendly using the non-toxic solution, the Amine Oxide, to dissolve the bamboo cellulose. There is also the application of a closed-loop system in the process. A closed-loop system may mean reduced waste and low emissions.
The processing steps are the same as the bamboo rayon. Still, it will be free of chemical residues and, therefore, a more eco-friendly alternative. The bamboo fabric will be labeled as bamboo lyocell.
What is bamboo fabric - Benefits
- Bamboo as a plant is a self-sufficient crop that needs no irrigation. These plants need little water to grow.
- Bamboo plants have minimal crop losses. They can naturally thrive without fertilizers and pesticides.
- Bamboo is a self-replenishing resource. It will sprout on its own and yield more plants.
- The texture of the bamboo fabric is naturally soft like silk yet cheaper.
- Bamboo fabric is hypoallergenic. You can wear it without causing any allergic reactions. It is ideal for people with sensitivity towards more common fabrics.
- Bamboo fabric is known to have antifungal and anti-bacterial properties referred to as 'Bamboo Kun.' This bio-agent helps reduce bacteria and fungus that thrive in clothing and on the human skin.
- Bamboo clothing is highly sweat absorbent and wicks away moisture more efficiently than other fabrics.
- Bamboo fabric is naturally resistant to ultraviolet light.
- It is a more eco-friendly fabric than cotton.
- Bamboo fabric is biodegradable. It generally takes around a year or more to biodegrade.
- The bamboo fabric is more breathable and thermal regulating when compared to cotton, hemp, or wool. This is due to the structure and composition of the bamboo fibers.
- Bamboo fabric is powerfully insulating in that it influences heat exchange. In warm climate conditions, it feels fresh while it can also protect against chillier weather.
- The bamboo fabric retains colors and dyes better than cotton and even stays brighter for a longer time.
Where does bamboo originally come from?
The bamboo plant has been around and used for centuries. In Asia alone, it has been widely used for cooking, transport, construction, textiles, and medicines. There are actually a greater number of native species of bamboo in Asia than in any other continent. Over 1,000 species of bamboo have developed and are thriving throughout the world.
While it grows everywhere except in excessively cold climates, it is always assumed to have originated in China because it was in China where the first use of bamboo was documented. Bamboo also thrives in many countries globally, such as the United States, Japan, India, Indonesia, Australia, Africa, and South America.
What are the Different Types of Bamboo Fabrics?
There are at least three main kinds of bamboo fabric currently within the market. The differences are based on the manufacturing process.
- Rayon (Viscose): The natural material is converted into fibers through a chemical process. The primary concern on this is often the utilization of toxic elements within the manufacturing process.
- Lyocell: This same process is applied in viscose but made through a closed-loop method and blended with non-toxic solvents that are more eco-friendly. It's said that the advantages of the fiber are retained here, like in the case of mechanically processed bamboo fabric.
- Linen: There is sustainability in this type of fabric which is an option that can be considered as genuine 'bamboo fabric.' The resulting fabric is strong, soft, and durable while the fabrication process is mechanically done. The method isn't cost-effective; that's why manufacturers are skeptical about it.
What is bamboo fabric used for?
Viscose rayon bamboo fabric is used for:
- Intimate Apparel
- Bedroom items
- Bathroom items
- Kitchen & dining items
Lyocell bamboo fabric is used for:
- Bathroom items
Linen bamboo fabric is used for:
- Various apparel, i.e., socks, etc.
- Bathroom items
- Medical supplies
- Sanitary materials
How do you care for bamboo fabrics?
Rayon fabric: Handwashing is the most effective and safest way to wash a bamboo rayon fabric. You must use cool to warm water and soak it for 30 minutes.
Lyocell fabric: Choose a delicate detergent and separate the garments for a gentle and cold wash. No fabric softener is needed. Dry outside under the sun.
Are bamboo fabrics eco-friendly and sustainable?
In general, the bamboo plant is sustainable and eco-friendly. It is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world. Without replanting, it can replenish itself unlike cotton or other wood that needs replanting every harvest time. Plus, it does not need extensive chemical sprays and watering is not necessary for its optimal growth.
Bamboo fabric is more sustainable than other sources of plant-based fabrics.
Textile manufacturers can produce goods from the bamboo plant that is eco-friendly, soft, renewable, and safe. Today, they continue attempting to find the proper approaches to minimize the impact on the environment. Most bamboo fabrics are in the form of rayon which involves harmful chemicals in the manufacturing process. But improvements are recently displayed on how the chemicals are managed.
Although bamboo rayon might not be considered sustainable for now, the Lyocell product is more of a sustainable option. The mechanically processed bamboo linens are a sustainable alternative yet. These are hard to find, but they are eco-friendly fabrics that have antimicrobial properties preserved.
What is bamboo fabric - In Conclusion
What is bamboo fabric? It's an excellent material with a wide array of applications. However, there's still a lot to be done for its development. The bamboo industry must find key environmental approaches and sustainable ways of making safe bamboo fabrics, given that the material is becoming popular and it's now a prime choice of eco-conscious consumers.