When you first think of bamboo, you wouldn’t be blamed of picturing the tropics but bamboo surprisingly grows in most climates.
The increasing demand for wooden products worldwide exerts pressure on hardwood resources, leading to fast depletion of natural habitats for wildlife. Bamboo comes in as a high-performance and more sustainable alternative to wood.
Bamboo fiber is used to process rayon textiles, which can also be manufactured using wood and other cellulose raw materials. Used for knitting t-shirts and socks, rayon fabric is smooth, soft, comfortable, and absorbent on the skin.
The sustainable nature of bamboo, unlike cotton, makes it eco-friendly and a rich source of natural fiber for making home furnishings and clothing. It requires less water for growth than trees and grows fast, making it difficult to get depleted as fast as timber.
What is Bamboo?
Bamboo is an evergreen, flowering perennial plant under the Poaceae grass family. It was coined from a Portuguese or Dutch word with roots in Kannada or Malay.
Just like other grasses, bamboo has hollow stem inter-nodal regions. The cross-section features vascular bundles spread all over the stem; the arrangement isn’t cylindrical as in other grasses. It also lacks the dicotyledonous woody xylem.
Monocots such as large bamboos and palms feature columnar instead of tapering stems due to lack of secondary wood growth. With growth rate ranging from 36 inches per 24 hour period, bamboos are among plants with the fastest growth worldwide.
And, giant bamboos are the largest types of plants in the grass family. They’re ideal for carbon sequestration, afforestation and mitigation of climate change due to their fast growth and ability to grow in marginal land.
The high strength-to-weight ratio (similar to that of wood) of bamboo makes it ideal for building structures. It’s also a source of food, a versatile raw product and material for use in the building industry. Its impeccable strength makes it durable.
With its underground rhizome root system, bamboo is resilient and strong enough to regrow after being cut. The renewable and sustainable nature of bamboo has led to its increased used in making furniture instead of mahogany, cedar and other types of wood.
Bamboo has also found use in textiles for making clothing.
How is Bamboo Clothing made?
Textile innovation has led to the invention of alternative fibers processed from bamboo plant. The plant-based fibers have replaced synthetic fibers based on petrochemicals, hence their increasing popularity.
The sustainable and versatile raw material is used to manufacture “bio-degradable,” “co-friendly,” and “anti-microbial” products.
Bamboo plants grow fast, need little fertilizer, water or pesticides, and take up to 35% of carbon dioxide from air. They also regenerate to increase their survival rate. However, manufacturing processes laden with chemicals can render the plants less sustainable.
Types of Bamboo Fabrics
Bamboo textiles make closets eco-friendly atop being sustainable. Some bamboo, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Clean by Design subset, are greener than others. Types of bamboo fabric include:
- Conventional Viscose bamboo rayon
- Lyocell rayon bamboo
- Bamboo linen or natural bamboo
How Bamboo Fiber is made
Bamboo fabric is increasingly popular because it’s breathable, sustainable and soft. Unlike hair, the bamboo fiber is thinner and can be made in any of the following ways.
- Mechanical process
A mechanical-bacterial process, like converting flax into linen fiber, is used to process bamboo fibers. The natural and traditional process involves mechanical crushing of wooden bamboo parts into mush for enzyme resetting and washing. Bamboo fiber is obtained and spun into yarn after walls break down.
High quality bamboo fiber is sustainable, eco-friendly and durable. But, the bamboo linen processed mechanically isn’t soft enough for making underwear, something that’s increasingly being made from the fibers. It’s also labor-intensive and costly.
- Chemical process
A cocktail of chemical solvents such as carbon disulfide and sodium hydroxide (caustic soda or lye) are used in this technique to make bamboo fibers. The chemicals are harmful to life, but companies that adopt this method claim the amounts used are too negligible to cause harm.
The process exposes employees and the environment to harsh chemicals.
- Extracting Bamboo Fiber as an Artifact
Adopted in India, this technique is mechanical and the purest way to obtain bamboo fibers worldwide. Locals at the Kerala Temple create “odapoovu,” a bamboo artifact, during the Kottiur festival. The handcrafted artifact looks like a tuft of white fibers, almost a foot long.
Bamboo culms emerge after days’ of pounding and resetting the object to materialize. The fibers are combed to remove pith and ensure that only bamboo stubs and cream white fibers remain. However, the coarseness of the fiber makes it difficult to use beyond the festival artifact.
Top 5 Benefits of Bamboo Clothing
Bamboo fiber is increasingly popular for making clothing. The fabric is all the rage due to the following reasons:
The micro-holes and micro-gaps in bamboo clothing improve ventilation and absorption of moisture to control temperatures in both warm and cold weather. This attribute also renders bamboo clothing ideal for making bamboo clothing.
The versatile nature of bamboo fibers render fabrics breathable in warm weather and keeps people warm in winter.
Bamboo is naturally disease and pest resistant, meaning no pesticides are used during its growth. This makes it more organic than other natural fabric alternatives such as cotton. Together with its antibacterial properties, bamboo fabric is hypoallergenic.
- Naturally antibacterial
Bamboo fiber has antibacterial properties to fight bad odors. Its anti-static and antifungal properties prevent germs buildup to keep you healthy. The antibacterial and bacteriostasis bio-agents in bamboo clothing bond tightly with plant molecules during the growth of bamboo fibers.
The bamboo fabric, according to the Japanese Textile Inspection Association, retains its antibacterial properties even post fifty washes. This makes it an ideal odor-free, germ-free and healthy option for making bamboo underwear for the intimate areas.
- Absorbent and Wicks Moisture
Unlike cotton, bamboo clothing is also thrice to four times more moisture-wicking and absorbent. It’s used to make activewear to absorb and wick away sweat from the body during workouts. The fabric leaves your body feeling clean and comfortable all-day long.
The UV resistance, high-porosity, breathable and moisture-wicking bamboo clothing improve performance when used for sportswear.
- Luxurious, soft touch and pesticides-free
Likened to cotton, silk and cashmere, bamboo fabric has a soft touch with a luxurious feel. Its smooth, natural fibers lie flat on your skin to reduce the risk of skin irritations.
Therefore, bamboo clothing ideal for sensitive, easily-irritable skin, including those prone to allergic reactions. It’s even been proven to help with eczema care and relief.
Bamboo clothing doesn’t wear out fast, meaning colors and shapes last longer. The fabric also neither shrinks nor bags with continued use, leaving your clothing looking new with every wash. Increased breathability, hypoallergenic use, and antibacterial and moisture-wicking properties are the more reasons to fall in love about bamboo clothing.
Author Bio: Leanne Lee loves fashion to no end so she writes about it with Blue Bungalow, reads about it and basically lives and breathes it everyday. She’s an avid collector of oversized handbags, indoor cacti, and loves a good G&T to cap off the week.