Bamboo Fiber: an Eco-Friendly Textile Marvel

What makes bamboo fiber a sustainable textile

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By Max Bender

bamboo fiber

Bamboo fiber is good for the skin and the environment: fabrics made from bamboo fiber are in fact more resistant than cotton, have anti-microbial properties and help maintain body temperature at the right level.

Today we will discover all the benefits of a material that could become increasingly important, bamboo fiber.

The textile industry and fashion in recent years are oriented towards satisfying the increasingly widespread demand for natural fibers. Fibers whose production has not used polluting chemical substances that damage the environment and are harmful in contact with the skin. Hence the emergence of new fabrics of vegetable origin.

In particular, one of the novelties of recent years in terms of fabrics for clothing is bamboo fiber.

Bamboo is known as the fastest-growing woody plant in the world: technically a grass and not a tree, some types of this plant are capable of growing up to four feet a day. With more than a thousand species and multiple uses from flooring to panda food, bamboo has finally spread to textiles.

A process similar to what transforms wood pulp into rayon turns tough stems into a fabric that quickly became an easy favorite for environmentally-conscious consumers.

What makes this plant very attractive is that most of it is grown organically: it does not require irrigation or fertilizers in many part of the world.

Bamboo fiber: what are the advantages?

The properties and benefits of bamboo fiber are so many. In fact, it can be used as a valid alternative to the more famous cotton and hemp.

Bamboo fiber enables us to produce very light and breathable fabrics. Which are even able to absorb body humidity, absorb sweat and maintain body temperature at the right level, never too high in summer or winter.

In general, bamboo fiber keeps the average temperature one or two degrees below normal. It is also antimicrobial, antibacterial and protects against ultraviolet rays.

The advantages ensured by the bamboo plant

As known, the bamboo plant is widespread in tropical and subtropical areas where it grows spontaneously.

Bamboo can also be grown in the garden. It adapts to different temperatures and there are many varieties. Finding the most suitable one is not difficult. However, be careful that it is a weed. Its cultivation takes place without wasting resources, without the need for pesticides or fertilizers.

Compared to most plants it absorbs much more carbon dioxide and gives off much more oxygen. This plant has a multiplicity of uses and the populations of the countries of origin use bamboo for many uses.

Furniture, roofing and walls of houses, footwear, furnishings and even clothing are obtained from it.

Sustainability of bamboo

But is this plant a sustainable textile? If the growing  can be considered sustainable, there are some more controversial issues regarding fabric made from this plant..

Let’s start by saying that most bamboo fabric in the market can be compared to rayon: its silky, smooth feel is very similar because that’s in a nushell what it is.

Although there is more than one way to make rayon, the most common processes require the use of harmful chemical solvents which are necessary to make viscose from raw bamboo material.

This is called the viscose process: raw bamboo is dissolved in a strong chemical solvent to make a viscous, dense solution that finally solidifies into fiber.

Bamboo fiber in textiles

The fame of bamboo fiber has therefore also reached companies in the textile sector. Here it is used for many different types of fabrics. In particular, to make bathroom linen.

Its ability to absorb humidity makes it particularly suitable for underwear, swimwear, but also for any other type of clothing.

bamboo
Bamboo fibers can be used to create various types of textiles.

Another use is to produce home textiles, but also mattresses, pillows that are softer and more adaptable to the natural lines of the body. But not only that, they prevent the deposit of mites and bacteria, they give off negative ions that mitigate the pollution caused by the electrical systems in the house, they absorb the electromagnetic waves that develop in the bedroom.

Among the properties and benefits of bamboo fiber is also the absorption of sweat, thanks to its multiplicity of air micro-cushions, promoting perspiration and avoiding the proliferation of bacteria.

However, all of this is an advantage only if the bamboo fiber production process actually takes place through the use of natural enzymes and not with the use of chemicals. In the latter case, there is the risk that the latter are retained by the fabric and come into contact with the body, developing potential irritations and allergies.

Alternatives to bamboo rayon

There are many ways to obtain fiber from this plant apart the viscose process. The textile will not have the same smooth and silky feel, but the process is way more environmentally-friendly.

Tencel, also known as lyocell, for example, is a regenerated cellulose fiber. Processed with a non-toxic spinning solvent in a closed-loop environment, making it not dangerous for both workers and the environment.

The judgement on the environmental record of this fabric is by no means easy.

However, based on the best research we could access, textiles made with this plant clearly have an edge as far as sustainability is concerned.

There are evidently some issues concerning the techniques that are used to produce bamboo textiles.

Since these techniques are inspired by existing technologies, the drawbacks of this fabric are those inherent in the industry and could be addressed with state of the art technologies and know-how.

Is this fabric going to compete with King Cotton any time soon?

Difficult to say, but the availability of cotton is making relatively unattractive to invest in bamboo textiles on an industrial scale. We do not know if things will change in the near future, but the sustainability of bamboo as a resource makes it a scenario we hope will materialize.

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