Due to my job nature, I often handle various types of fabrics, from RPET to natural materials like cotton. Among the materials, I love bamboo fabric the most. Bamboo is a multifunctional plant that has been used in various ways, such as architecture, agriculture, furniture and papermaking for thousands of years. In recent years, bamboo fabric is increasingly popular. Its softness resembles silk. The hand feel is finer than cotton. More importantly, it is eco-friendly.
Despite many advantages of Bamboo fabrics, it’s still not as commonly used as cotton. This is probably due to consumers’ lack of knowledge of its benefits and comparatively higher price than cotton in general. Thus, in this article, I will share my opinions and hands-on experiences about bamboo fabric as well as summarizing information from my secondary research in an easy-to-understand way, so that more people would know more about this amazing material.
What is bamboo fabric?
Bamboo fabric is made with bamboo fiber that is extracted from bamboo plant’s stem and leaves. Bamboo fiber is a cellulosic fiber, with which the strength is comparable to conventional glass fibers (Imadia, et al., 2014). Bamboo widely grows in East Asia and is the second largest resource of forestry in the world.
Bamboo fibers are lightweight fibers and that’s why its fabrics are usually thin and soft. Its luster is close to silk. It is an excellent for weaving and spinning. Therefore, in textile industry, bamboo is very suitable for making socks, under wears, T-shirts, bathing suits, bathing suit cover ups, towels, sleep wear, face mask, sanitary napkins, bed sheets, pillows, baby diapers, bullet proof vest, tablecloths, and mattresses (Imadia, et al., 2014).
Currently, in the open market, most “bamboo” textile goods are mixed with other synthetic or natural fibers such as cotton, Modal, and polyester. For 100% bamboo fiber fabrics, they are usually woven plain weave formats.
At this moment, pure 100% bamboo fabric is still comparatively more expensive than cotton fabrics and certainly synthetic fabrics, probably due to consumers’ unawareness of its benefits, thus affecting its popularity and commercialization. The more popular bamboo textile is bamboo viscose, in which other fibers are include (i.e., semi-synthetic). We believe that as its popularity grows, 100% bamboo fabric will be more affordable to many businesses.
Advantages of bamboo fabric
One big reason why I like 100% bamboo fiber so much because of its biodegradability and sustainability.
Bamboo is incredibly sustainable because its harvest time for bamboo is short, usually around three to four years. Moreover, it does not need to be replanted as new plant grows from its vast root system. Growing bamboo doesn’t require use of pesticides, fertilizers or massive irrigation. More importantly, bamboo plants convert high volume of carbon dioxide into oxygen (Sandy, 2013).
Bamboo fabric does not cause allergic reactions. Only a few people are allergic to it. As it is also light and durable, it is very suitable to produce medical and hygienic goods such as masks, gauze, bandages, etc.
Good Heat Resistance
Bamboo has excellent heat resistant property. Bamboo fiber is covered with micro-gaps that gives the fabric better moisture absorption and ventilation (i.e., breathable), resulting two degrees cooler in the heat and warmer in cold weather (Ortohispania, 2019)
Good moisture absorption
Moreover, according to Imadi et al, the observed 13% of moisture absorption of bamboo fiber is more than that of cotton, lyocell, viscose rayon, modal and soybean. That’s why bamboo fabrics are commonly used in many babies clothing.
Bamboo fiber is light weight and is as soft as silk. People could be deceived by its appearance and think that it is fragile. However, this is just the opposite. Bamboo fabric has extremely good durability. Aggressive tests conducted by Lima in 2008 attested its durability. He concluded that bamboo’s tensile strength is comparable with the best woods used in constructions and even steel.
Recently, textile manufacturers started claiming bamboo’s inherent UV protection property. Particularly, Alfrin and his team conducted experiments on this issue. According to his findings, natural bamboo has strong UV protection properties. Such property comes from its lignin. However, as indicated by Alfrin, production process of bamboo fiber might affect the UV absorption property. For instance, the degumming process might contribute to the loss of UV screening property of the fiber because most of the lignin are removed. In short, production method has an impact of bamboo fibers UV absorption property.
Is Bamboo Fabric Antibacterial?
A common purported claim of bamboo by businesses is that it is anti-bacterial because it possesses a bio-agent called “Bamboo Kun”, which allows it to grow in wild without use of pesticides or fertilizers. Some sellers of bamboo fabrics claim that such benefit remains in its textile form. Some argue that antibacterial property of bamboo is only valid when it is majorly in the raw product form. If the wood is transformed into garments, then such benefit is nonexistent (Sewport Support Team, 2021). Some scholars concludes that bamboo fibers do not possess antibacterial qualities when it is in a natural state form.
So, which claim is true? There are two research findings from Li and Dao, and Xi et al that could provide some hints. With systematic experiments and comparisons with other natural fibers including cotton, jute, flax and ramie, both findings conclude that natural bamboo fibers do not have natural antibacterial properties. However, some extraction method could improve the antibacterial prototype of natural bamboo fiber against bacteria. Gogarneshan and Khan have similar conclusion in their research, in which extractives have influence on antibacterial property of bamboo fiber.
Another finding from Afrin et al showed that different extraction methods and hygroscopicity significantly affect the outcome of antibacterial property of bamboo fiber. They found that antibacterial property of bamboo may locate in lignin.
With all these benefits, how can we not love bamboo fabrics?
There are 100% bamboo fabric or bamboo-blend fabrics available in the market. Particularly, bamboo viscose, a kind of semi-synthetic fabric, is more popular than 100% bamboo fabric because of its lower selling price and wide range of style selection.
Bamboo fabrics have been getting more popularity in the garment industry, but unfortunately it never happens in gift & premium sector. For years, customers from all over the world have intermittently consulted us about the possibility of using bamboo fabric on gift designs or home accessories. Unfortunately, none of them is willing to take the first step because of high material costs and lack of color and fabric type variety.
Therefore, we decide to pioneer the use of this amazing materials into our product designs. Someone got to take the first step.
Despite lower costs of bamboo viscose, we insist choosing 100% bamboo fabric (usually plain weave) and bamboo/cotton mix jersey for our bamboo products. For some products that require stuffing such as decorative pillows, we use 100% bamboo fiber stuffing rather than commonly used polyester fillings. We will also attempt to mix with other natural materials such as cotton or linen in product designs.
We strive to foster eco-friendly lifestyles, while not having to sacrificing chic style, aesthetics and quality. More importantly, we believe that having an eco-friendly and yet stylish lifestyles should not cost a fortune. Our products should be affordable to most families.
With all the benefits of bamboo fabrics, how can one not love it?
For more of our bamboo products, click here.
Imadia, S. R., Mahmood, I. & Kzai, A. G., 2014. Bamboo Fiber Processing, Properties, and Applications. In: Biomass and Bioenergy. s.l.:s.n., pp. 27-46.
Sewport Support Team, 2021. What is Bamboo Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where. [Online]
Available at: https://sewport.com/fabrics-directory/bamboo-fabric
[Accessed 4 June 2021].
Lima, H. C. et al., 2008. Durability analysis of bamboo as concrete reinforcement. Materials and Structures , June.
Sandy, 2013. Advantages and Disavantages of Bamboo Fabric. [Online]
Available at: https://cozytownlinens.com/blog/general/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-bamboo-fabric
[Accessed 4 June 2021].
Ortohispania, 2019. Bamboo Fabric. Benefits of Bamboo Fabric. [Online]
Available at: https://www.ortohispania.com/bamboo-fabric/
[Accessed 4 June 2021].
Li, X. X. & Dao, C. Q., 2012. The Antibacterial Performance of Natural Bamboo Fiber and Its Influencing Factors. Beijing, 55th International Convention of Society of Wood Science and Technology.
Xi, L., D. , A. & Wang, G., 2013. Resistance of natural bamboo fiber to microorganisms and factors that may affect such resistance. BioResources, pp. 6501-6509.
Afrin, T., Tsuzuki, T. & Wang, X., 2012. UV absorption property of bamboo. The Textile Instittute, 103(4), pp. 394-399.
Afrin, T., Tsuzuki, T., Kanwar, R. & Wang, X., 2012. The origin of the antibacterial property of bamboo. The Textile Institute, 103(8), pp. 844-849.