If you’re in the market for a new set of sheets and you’re looking into bamboo, there are some things that you need to know about it first. Even though the word “bamboo” may conjure up images of cuddly panda bears and sleek “hardwood” floors, you may be surprised at how bamboo is actually transformed from bamboo into fabric.
What Is Bamboo?
Bamboo is a plant that we most commonly associate with far eastern Asian culture and geographical area and it’s not far from the truth. It grows in nearly all tropical and subtropical areas across the globe and falls into the grass family of plants.
It’s one of the fastest growing plants on the planet, with some varieties that are capable of growing 35 inches per day.
What Is Bamboo Used For?
Bamboo has been used for thousands of years for all different types of applications, including furniture, as a food source, a building material, fuel, paper, weapons, musical instruments, and even as a writing instrument.
But, it’s only been recently that it’s been processed into a usable fabric for clothing. Historically, it was used as the ribs for corsets and other structural elements of clothing.
How Is Bamboo Fabric Made?
How bamboo fabric is made depends on what type of bamboo fabric that you’re talking about. There are different types of bamboo fabrics; 4 as of right now, in fact.
Bamboo Viscose (Rayon)
Rayon is simply regenerated cellulose. The cellulose that is used to make bamboo sheets obviously comes from bamboo via a chemical process that converts it into weavable fibers. The process that bamboo goes through to produce rayon is one of many types of processed used to create rayon.
- More moisture absorbent than cotton or other cellulose-based fabrics
- No static electricity build up
- Doesn’t insulate body heat – great for summer or hot climates
- Dyes easily
- Not likely to pill unless low quality
- Tolerates lower ironing temperatures than cotton
- Poor wet strength
Bamboo Modal (Rayon)
Bamboo modal is simply a different type of rayon and is the second generation of cellulose fiber-based fabrics. It’s incredibly soft and is often used for making things that will come into contact with skin, such as underwear and other types of undergarments.
- Extra soft
- High wet strength
- More water-absorbent than cotton
- Mineral deposits from water don’t stick to the fabric, so fabric doesn’t harden
- Prone to stretching
- Prone to pilling
- Need to be ironed because it wrinkles
Lyocell is a cellulose-based fiber that is produced using nanotechnology. It’s 100% biodegradable. Bamboo lyocell is simply lyocell that is made from bamboo instead of wood pulp.
- Ability to absorb excess perspiration and release into the atmosphere
- Odor resistant
- Soft on the skin
- Anti-bacterial without addition of chemical treatments
- Expensive compared to other sustainable alternatives
Linen is typically made from flax or hemp and they’re typically heavier and stronger than fabrics made of cotton. They’re crisp when initially purchased, but soften with age. Linens are also able to have a higher quality with a lower thread count than cotton because the fibers are naturally thicker.
Bamboo linen isn’t nearly as soft as its flax or hemp linen counterparts and it requires ironing after it’s washed unless you don’t mind the wrinkles.
- Stiff, not soft
- Wrinkles, requires ironing
Bamboo Cotton Blend
Bamboo cotton blends are exactly that: bamboo viscose blended with cotton fibers. It makes the fabric a bit stronger than fabric made completely out of bamboo. The problem with the addition of cotton, however, is that it causes the material to be less soft.
- Stronger fabric
- Less sustainable
- Not as soft as 100% bamboo viscose fabric
How Do I Know If My Bamboo Sheets Are Quality?
First thing’s first:
Don’t buy bed sheets on Facebook.
Sounds funny to say that, but it’s the truth.
Those “100% Bamboo Sheets” for $19.95 you’re seeing on your local community’s buy, sell, & trade groups were probably bought off of Alibaba or Aliexpress or some other wholesale straight-from-China site and are being sold for next to nothing because they’re garbage.
Get some sheets from a reputable vendor, but even then, check your labeling. The label on your sheets should be clear about what your sheets are actually made of, whether it’s viscose, lyocell, etc.
The care instructions should also be readily available on the sheet tags.
Do Bamboo Sheets Breathe Well?
Even though most synthetic fabrics don’t breathe well at all, bamboo fabric does tend to breathe fairly well. This makes them great for warmer climates because they will keep you cool better than some other types of sheets would in the same environment.
Do Bamboo Sheets Pill Easily?
Because bamboo sheets are made with extremely long fibers, they’re not nearly as likely to pill as sheets that are made of natural fibers, especially natural fibers that are short. Egyptian cotton sheets are well known for being the least likely to pill of all cotton sheets, so they’re similar to bamboo sheets in this regard.
How Should Bamboo Sheets Be Washed?
You don’t want to wash these sheets with the rest of your laundry due to the risk of color bleeding. One of the benefits of bamboo fabric is that it’s easily dyed; this also means that it will pick up other colors from the rest of your laundry easily. Wash these on a gentle cycle instead of the normal one.