Organic bamboo fabric is a relatively new material which is prized for its softness. Since most consumers consider bamboo, a rapidly growing grass, to be planet friendly it is seen as a good alternative to other fibers. Manufacturers tout the fabric as being sustainable, anti-microbial, and easy to care for.
The Qualities of Bamboo Fabric
Bamboo fabric is lightweight and does not wear out easily. It is not at all delicate despite the soft qualities of the fabric. Designers are using it in almost any kind of wearing apparel that you can think of from baby clothing and diapers to designer evening wear.
It is antibacterial to some extent, making it a good choice for casual and sports related garments. Since it also wicks the moisture away from the skin, it can help you feel cool and dry in the heat of summer. In addition to its ability to wick moisture away from the skin, bamboo fabric can kill odor-causing bacteria. Fabric Innovations, a company that sells clothes and linens made from bamboo fabric, has stated that this quality lasts for up to 50 commercial washings. The company also states that the antimicrobial properties of bamboo are nine times more effective against bacteria than chemical antimicrobial additives.
People who have sensitive skin or who are allergic to fabrics made from wool or hemp find that they can wear bamboo based fabrics without any problems. It is often compared to silk or cashmere because is it so soft and smooth. Clothing made from this fabric tends to be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. This makes it a versatile option that is easy on the pocketbook as well as the environment.
Bamboo isn't just for apparel, however. These qualities make it perfect for bedding, towels, and other household items.
How the Fabric Is Made
Organic bamboo fabric is made from the pulp of bamboo. The pulp is crushed and then either soaked in sodium hydroxide (a chemical that is not believed to harm the environment when used properly) or a natural enzyme is introduced into the batch. The chemical and the enzyme both work in the same way; breaking down the walls of the plant and allowing the fiber to be extracted.
The cellulose is then forced through a machine much like a sieve and the resulting long fibers go into a bath where they harden.
The fiber is spun into a yarn. The feel or hand of the yarn will depend on how it is spun. Fine yarn will produce a silky fabric while a thicker yarn will produce a fabric more like linen. The yarn is then woven into the desired bamboo fabric. Bamboo is commonly woven with cotton in order to make it cost effective to produce as well as to allow for more stability and color variations.
Care of Bamboo Fabric
This fabric is very simple to care for. Depending on if the garment is a blended fabric, clothes can be washed in cold or warm water and tumble or line dried. To avoid damaging the fabric, many manufacturers recommend washing on the delicate cycle without fabric softener or bleach. Products that are made from 100 percent bamboo fabric tend to dry twice as fast as other fabrics so less dryer or hanging time is needed.
Federal Trade Commission Is Skeptical
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) questions the truth in some manufacturers' claims. They say that the soft bamboo fabrics are actually rayon and that they are made using toxic chemicals. In fact, the chemicals used release numerous pollutants into the air.
The truth is, according to the FTC, that these soft fabrics are either not made exclusively from bamboo. When bamboo is the plant source used to create rayon there are no traits of the original plant left in the fabric when it is finished.
This means that the antimicrobial properties that were found in the original plant may be nonexistent in bamboo clothing.
Companies that claim a product is "bamboo" should have reliable evidence, like scientific tests and analyses, to show that it's made of actual bamboo fiber. The Federal Trade Commission is calling for manufacturers of bamboo fabrics to supply test results proving their claims.
Where to Purchase Bamboo Fabric
Many of your local fabric and craft stores are now stocking organic bamboo. It is a good idea to try to find a local source first so you can see the actual color and feel the fabric before you buy. If you can't find a local source, there are many online shops that have what you need.
Do read the individual descriptions carefully. Most fabric stores carry both bamboo and organic bamboo. You don't want to buy regular bamboo believing it to be organic.
Harts Fabric sells several bamboo materials from sweatshirt fleece to voile. They also have an organic bamboo batting for baby quilts. The retail store is located in Santa Cruz and has been in business since 1969. There is also a money back guarantee.
Bamboo Fabric Store
Bamboo Fabric Store sells organic bamboo by the yard. They offer samples upon request so you can be sure that you are getting the exact color or texture you are looking for.
Fabric and Art
Fabric and Art carries a small selection of bamboo/cotton jersey knit blend fabrics. The company specializes in Fair Trade and organic products. Your purchase is not returnable, so be sure to ask questions and get samples if possible.
Make Educated Choices
Reading as much as you can about a product helps you to decide if it is a product that you want to buy. Don't be afraid to ask questions until you get the answers you are looking for. Bamboo can be a fabulous fabric in many ways, but there are some manufacturers that are not reliable or ethical.