Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Scoop on Bamboo Fabric

Bamboo fabrics were developed at the beginning of this century and are new to the fashion scene. Here's a snapshot of it's properties, care and green (and not so green) aspects.

Properties: Bamboo fabric is soft, strong and lightweight. It feels beautiful on your skin and has natural anti-static properties. It has excellent moisture management properties, so clothing made from bamboo absorbs perspiration and dries quickly. Bamboo fabric contains a natural antibacterial agent, so it resists odors, mold and mildew.

Applications: Bamboo fabric works well for intimate garments that need to breath. It is ideal for work-out wear, underwear, socks, t-shirts, pajamas, bath robes, towels and bed linens.

Disadvantages: Bamboo shrinks during the first washing and has a tendency to pill.

Care: Wash in the delicate cycle or by hand in cold water and line dry. Skip the dryer, dryer sheets and fabric softeners to reduce pilling. Use a sweater shaver to remove pills from areas prone to abrasion.

How It’s Made: Natural bamboo yarn is similar to linen in appearance and feel. It is made from the fine, fibrous material inside the bamboo stalk. The woody outer stalk is crushed and the interior fibers are separated using natural enzymes. The fibers are washed, fluffed and spun into yarn.

Bamboo viscose (also called bamboo rayon) is luxuriously soft and drapes gently. It is made by turning the raw bamboo material into pulp. The pulp is treated with a chemical-intensive process and formed into threads that are spun into yarn.

Sustainability: The bamboo plant is a renewable material and grows without chemical pesticides or herbicides. It is the world’s fastest growing plant with a quick cultivation cycle. Natural bamboo fabrics are biodegradable and recyclable.

Note, bamboo viscose fabric is not the same as natural bamboo fabric. Bamboo viscose is made from the same raw material; however, chemical-intensive processing methods are used to make the fabric. Both types of bamboo products can be labeled "bamboo." If you want to know which type of bamboo was used to make a garment, check the feel of the fabric (bamboo viscose is soft and drapy while natural bamboo is similar to linen).

The sustainability and impact puzzle is complex. When choosing natural fabrics for their eco-friendly properties, you can consider the source of the material: whether the material is made from natural materials or man-made chemicals. Or you can consider all or part of the life-cycle: cultivation and harvest of the raw material, fiber processing and dying, energy used for manufacture and transportation to market, cleaning and care for the garments and use-life and final disposition of the material.

You get to decide what "green" means to you. Choose the fabrics you love and the green elements that resonate with you.

Thank you Kiana McFarland for your help with the research for this post.


No comments: