Bamboo Fabrics (Part 1)
Bamboo and its applications
Bamboo is an extraordinary plant that has multiple benefits to the environment and has various applications for us. A major food source for animals like Pandas and a natural habitat for many species, bamboo plays a significant role in its ecosystem. Most bamboo species are found in warm and moist tropical regions, however, many species can grow in various climates. bamboo is considered a sustainable resource.
One of the fastest growing plants, bamboo trees can grow up to four feet a day. Bamboo trees are also able to grow in unfavourable conditions, such as damaged soil. In addition, bamboo do not require much irrigation or fertilizers to grow well. The plant also has regenerative properties, which allow for the plant to be harvest without affecting its survivability. With its ability to flourish in many regions despite the conditions, along with its regenerative capabilities, Bamboo is considered to be a sustainable resource.
Bamboo has multiple applications across various industries, ranging from F&B, engineering, to even healthcare.
Bamboo in the textile and apparel industry
Like the fashion industry?
Yes, bamboo has also made its way to the textile and apparel industry, become a more popular material in the fashion scene. And it is not hard to see why, the so-called ‘natural’ fabric is soft and has a luxurious feel to the touch, has good drape and good breathability. Not to mention, it is strong and easy to take care of. But today, we take a closer look at the type of bamboo fabric and its properties. There are a number of Bamboo fabrics in the market, but we will be focusing on bamboo rayon.
What is bamboo rayon?
Probably the most common type of bamboo fabrics in the market, Bamboo rayon is the soft and silky smooth material. Bamboo rayon is often framed or sometimes even marketed as an organic fabric by apparel companies, it is not actually considered as such. William Lana, the chairman of Textile Standards Committee of the Soil Association stated in a report, “Bamboo viscose may be better for the environment than polyester, but even if bamboo is organically grown, we don’t allow bamboo textiles on the organic register because of the way it is processed.” In order to produce bamboo rayon, the bamboo has to go through chemical processes to achieve to the final product. The most common way of making rayon is called the viscose process. It is also a widely used method to process bamboo into fabrics. In this process, a cellulose material (such as bamboo) is dissolved using a strong solvent. This results in a thick and viscous solution. This solution is then forced through a spinneret into quenching solution. This quenching solution helps solidify the ‘bamboo’ solution into a fiber which is then washed & dried, ready to be dyed.
The process is chemical intensive and & often involves multiphase bleaching processes to achieve the desired colours. The chemicals used are also toxic and potentially harmful. One of the chemicals, carbon disulfide is a toxic substance and is said to cause neural disorders. There have been cases in which factory workers working on the production of bamboo rayon were affected. Another chemical used is sodium hydroxide. Both chemicals can lead to serious health issues when exposed to large amounts.
I have linked an article and a video on youtube below if any of you would an a deeper explanation.
Despite being marketed as a green and sustainable product, bamboo rayon actually harms to the environment as well as those involved in its production. Although not yet proven, there has been some indication that bamboo rayon clothing may affect those wearing them.
Are there other bamboo fabrics then? An alternative that is both environmentally friendly and organic?
Yes, there are such as Bamboo Linen, which we will discuss in the next part of this article.
Article on the production of Bamboo Rayon :
Video on the viscose process: