Bamboo Textiles - Don't Believe The Hype
We all know that bamboo is a natural resource, so surely that means bamboo textiles are natural as well? And if you’ve ever touched the silky, stretchy feel of bamboo fabric, you’ve probably wondered 'how can a hard, rough stalk turn into something so soft against the skin?'
What we do know about bamboo before it is processed are all great things.
- Bamboo is the fastest growing woody plant in the world, growing up to 1 metre a day. It can also grow in diverse climates which makes the bamboo plant a sustainable and versatile resource.
- Bamboo minimises CO2 and generates up to 35% more oxygen than trees.
- Very little bamboo is irrigated + there is sound evidence that the water-use efficiency of bamboo is twice that of trees. This makes bamboo more able to handle harsh weather conditions such as drought, flood + high temperatures.
- Bamboo fibre is biodegradable in soil by microorganisms and sunlight. Having reached the end of its useful life, clothing made from bamboo can be composted and disposed of in an organic and environmentally friendly manner.
But as we are becoming more environmentally conscious, we are understanding that there is a story behind every finished product. So what's the story that is happening between the harvesting of this incredible natural resource and the final product of bamboo fabric?
Step 1: Bamboo, leaves + inner pith from the bamboo trunk are extracted + crushed.
Step 2: Crushed bamboo cellulose soaked in solution of 15-20% sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) at a temperature between 20-25 degrees for 1-3 hrs to form alkali cellulose.
Step 3: Bamboo alkali cellulose is pressed to remove excess sodium hydroxide solution + then crushed by a grinder + left to dry for 24 hrs.
Step 4: Carbon disulphide is added to bamboo alkali cellulose to sulfurise the compound, causing it to jell.
Step 5: Remaining carbon disulphide is removed by evaporation due to decompression and cellulose sodium xanthogenate is the result.
Step 6: Diluted solution of sodium hydroxide is added to the cellulose sodium xanthogenate dissolving it to create a viscose solution consisting of about 5% sodium hydroxide and 7%-15% bamboo fibre cellulose.
Step 7: Viscose bamboo cellulose is forced through spinneret nozzles into a large container of a diluted sulfuric acid solution which hardens the viscose bamboo cellulose sodium xanthogenate + reconverts it to cellulose bamboo fibre threads which are spun into bamboo fibre yarns to be woven into reconstructed and regenerated bamboo fabric.
So essentially the bamboo is cooked down with a number of dangerous chemicals (which run off into the environment + are being inhaled by the workers + absorbed by us) into a viscose-rayon which is a well-known semi-synthetic fibre. Bamboo fabric labelling is misleading consumers to believe it is made from the spun fibres of bamboo, like cotton, but after bamboo has been processed into fabric, "absolutely no trace of the original plant is left" (quoted from the Federal Trade Commission, FTC, the US equivalent of the ACCC).
But that’s not to say bamboo is bad in every single way.
Products such as bamboo homewares and toothbrushes are great as they aren’t chemically processed. Additionally, bamboo linens can be a lot more environmentally friendly, but as you would expect, the fabric is a lot more coarse than the chemically regenerated cellulose wood pulp from bamboo.
So if you’re being mindful of the story behind the finished product and you want to invest in something that’s friendlier on the planet as well as your body, choose organic bamboo textiles or organic linen + cotton. Organic textiles are usually always certified by GOTS or Oeko Tex so be sure to ask when you buy.
All of our cotton + linen sheets are GOTS certified so you know you will wrapping yourself in 100% pure organic, chemical-free textiles with Sheets on the Line.