What’s the Deal with Bamboo?
For a long while now, we’ve been seeing an increase in use of bamboo fabrics in many different ways for a variety of different household products. One of our first purchases were bamboo toothbrushes (that are absolutely awesome) and bamboo facecloths – they’re incredibly soft and feel much better on your skin than cotton wool pads when removing your make-up.
They’re also more efficient as they don’t contain micro plastics like cotton wool pads do, and you can reuse them after each wash.
As we’ve been seeing a rise in bamboo as a material / textile, we wanted to dig in a little bit deeper and find out why this fabric is so good for our bodies and our environment.
The Totally Awesome Bamboo Facts
We found that there are some conflicting views and facts about bamboo – some say it’s eco friendly and the most sustainable material, while others argue that it’s actually not that sustainable with production and manufacturing processes harming the environment.
Before we delve into the good and the bad stuff about bamboo, here are a few fun facts to get excited (we sure did…) :
- Bamboo is classed as a type of grass, not a plant or tree
- Once cut, bamboo grows back fairly quickly – some types of bamboo grow as quickly as 250cm in 24 hours
- The material is breathable, helping you keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter
- It’s naturally hypoallergenic and antibacterial, reducing moisture in your bed stoping bacteria from developing
- They’re unabsorbent – which means they won’t absorb oils from your skin which is the main cause for discolouration, wear and tear of your regular bed sheets (or towels)
- Bamboo is naturally pest-resistant and doesn’t require any pesticides during the growing process
- It releases oxygen into our environment improving quality of air
- At the end of its product life, it’s biodegradable so you don’t need to worry when it goes to waste/landfill
Bamboo or Cotton Sheets?
We’re very conscious of how our daily products affect our health, which is why we wanted to find out more about our bed sheets and towels. They both come into direct contact with your skin even more so than your clothes as you rub your towel into your skin.
Let’s begin with cotton…
You might think that there is nothing harmful in your bed (apart from bed bugs). Have you thought about how your (most likely) cotton bed sheets were made?
Is the cotton organic?
Unless organic, cotton trees are heavily treated with pesticides and herbicides, which makes the material quite harmful for our health and body. As you wrap yourself in those sheets, you’re more exposed to toxins during sleep. The same goes for towels…
Cotton needs a lot of water in the manufacturing process to make it into a material that can be used as a t-shirt for example. A single cotton T-shirt can use up to 2700 litres of water in the growing process which is equivalent to 45 showers.
It’s often difficult to wear a low-quality cotton shirt even 45 times as t-shirts can shrink in the wash and get a bit well, tatty. Thus far, we think bamboo is a much greener option.
The Different Types of Bamboo
Before we get into how bamboo is different to cotton, it’s worth knowing about the 4 types of bamboo. Although seeing a product with a label that says “100% bamboo” may sound tempting and like the best option, it doesn’t always mean it’s sustainably made.
There are 4 different types of bamboo, each one is manufactured using a different process that isn’t always green – it’s an automatic assumption most of us make based on the label.
100% organic, 100% bamboo, 100% authentic – but what does it actually mean, do we ever ask? Sometimes some of us do, but most of the time we just buy the label because it looks appealing…
Bamboo is different to cotton when we’re talking about its plant and original form. Only bamboo has a natural bio-agent called bamboo kun while keeping pathogens from making the plants sick. This is why the bamboo fabric is antibacterial. To dye the bamboo fabric, less harsh chemical are used, thus making it more natural and less toxic.
Let’s dig into those 4 types of bamboo:
- 100% bamboo viscose, also known as bamboo rayon – ‘rayon’ is the term mainly used in North America, while ‘viscose’ is a more common term in Europe. Rayon uses carbon disulfide in the manufacturing process, harming workers and aquatic life as 50% of it is dispersed into water
- 100% bamboo modal – it is made using the same process as above
- 100% bamboo lyocell – it is the cleanest and greenest option
- 100% bamboo linen fiber – it gets crinkly and not as soft to touch as the above 3, but is also a green option
Which Bamboo Material is the Best?
As you can see, although 100% bamboo might sound and look appealing, only one of the bamboo types is truly the greenest and most sustainable one – lyocell is the best option in terms of sustainability and considering its manufacturing process.
Although linen is also a green option as it is processed by mechanical means instead of chemical, it is not the best option for those who prefer soft materials that don’t crinkle as much. In other words, don’t consider buying it if you’re not a big fan of ironing.
Why is Bamboo so Expensive?
Simple answer is that it’s not expensive if you consider the benefits of the material and its lifetime. If you compare the price of bamboo materials to silk and cashmere you’ll find that bamboo is actually the cheaper option. As bamboo is more durable and lasts much longer, you’re saving yourself some money while treating yourself to high-quality sheets.
The reason why we compared it to silk and cashmere is because it feels just as soft. If you compare the price of bamboo bed sheets however to cotton bed sheets, then this is where it gets really interesting… For example, high thread cotton bed sheets, let’s say double and 800 thread count, costs £175 / $220.
Whereas real bamboo (lyocell) bed sheets will have a 320 thread count (due to the nature of the fabric), but gives a feel of a 1,000 -1,200 thread count and will cost an average of £145 / $184. This means that bamboo bed sheets is of a higher quality in touch/feel, more beneficial for your skin and sleep, and it’s actually cheaper by an average £30 / $38.
So although bamboo products may seem more expensive at first when compared to regular socks for example or bed sheets, you’re forgetting one thing… They are more durable, they will last you longer, they are better for your skin and you won’t need to keep replacing your cotton bed sheets as often.
(Okay so that’s more than one thing, but they’re all true…)
How to Buy Bamboo Products to be Sure They are Sustainable?
Although it would seem easy at first, it is important to really consider the harvesting process, how and where the bamboo is grown and what happens to it in a factory before being turned into a textile. Be sure so look out for the following certifications as this indicates their sustainable methods and green ethos:
- Soil Association
- KRAV certification
Or any other similar. The manufacturing process would have been thoroughly checked and approved by one of the accrediting bodies and approved as a green one.
Does Bamboo Burn?
Yes, bamboo can be used for burning in stoves and fires, bamboo is particularly great for starting the fire. In certain countries, you can also get Bamboo Charcoal Briquettes, as an alternative to wood charcoal.
It burns very quickly, and so it generates heat quicker too. However, that may not seem efficient, right? To make it last longer, you can mix bamboo with another hardwood to keep the fire and heat going for longer.
If you live in a part of the world where you have access to bamboo in your back garden or a short walk away, this would be very cheap and a great way to light a fire! As well as if you have scraps of bamboo, you can use it to quickly light and fire and start generating heat. Naturally this is very sustainable as rather than throwing away those scraps, you are using up bamboo that would otherwise end up at landfill or wastelands.
Bamboo as firewood also leaves quite a bit of ash, which can be a nuisance. However, you have to be careful with it, the nodes parts of bamboo can explode and make a loud noise. As there is quite a bit of trapped air in bamboo, so if it’s not used correctly, it can explode.
How to Prevent Bamboo Exploding?
The best and safest way to prevent those bamboo from exploding, is by splitting the stems. That way you ensure that there is no trapped air in the bamboo stems and you reduces the risk of explosion.
Most of you would associate bamboo with panda food (and who doesn’t love a panda, right?).
Panda London is sustainable company, and yep you guessed it, they use sustainable harvesting methods that follow the FSC regulations. Which makes their products 100% sustainable.
The bamboo they use is matured for at least 3 years before cut, allowing the plant to develop deeper roots which makes growing back easier and quicker. Their bamboo used in bathroom towels, bedroom sheets and mattress toppers are made from bamboo that is organically and ethically sourced, free from pesticides, fertilisers and herbicides.
We stand behind and support all organisations that strive to use sustainable methods and operate to a green ethos and especially if it has a cute panda logo… Not a legitimate reason but hey, it is super cute!
In Our Humble Conclusion
Bamboo is actually cheaper than high thread count cotton bed sheets and will last you much longer. The greenest bamboo material is lyocell.
If you’re conscious about the planet and are looking to step away from materials filled with pesticides, bamboo is the material for you.
Just to summarise and to leave you with some wonderful, shareable facts why bamboo is better than cotton:
- Bamboo uses 1/3 less water to grow
- Replenishes on its own reducing manual labour and replanting work/time
- Lasts longer than cotton and is more durable – therefore reducing costs and need to replace after a few years
- Can be worn if you have with allergies
- 40% more absorbent than organic cotton – great for those who sweat more
Please go ahead and share this post with anyone that might benefit from the wonderful bamboo knowledge – and you would be supporting our brand and community ?