The forests in China have been cultivated for its bamboo for hundreds of years. Every spring and summer, new poles called culms grow from a shoot underground. If left to grow, some of the largest timber bamboo can grow over 98 ft tall, and be as large as 10 –12 inches in diameter. When mature, the timber is remarkably resilient and strong. In fact, its tensile strength is comparable to steel.
While the most fibrous part of the bamboo is its stalk, that is not part used in textile production. Bamboo leaves and soft pith inside the stalk are used in the production of bamboo textile. Through an industrial steaming process, the leaves and soft pith are extracted and mechanically crushed and dissolved in sodium hydroxide otherwise known as lye.
Once the bamboo pulp has been reduced to a smooth liquid, it is squirted into threads and then soaked in an acid bath to neutralize the lye. Once the threads are set, it can be spun into yarn, dyed and woven. In 2003, a new commercial processing technology for bamboo textiles was developed and patented by a group of chemists from the Hebel Jigao Chemical Fibre Co. in Shijiazhuang, China. They use certified, organic bamboo that has been cultivated on their own sustainable plantations.
Bamboo textiles are gaining popularity as the world becomes more and more responsible and exploring greener practices, bamboo fabric is now being considered as an alternative to cotton. Bamboo is a renewable resource that requires 1/3 the amount of water to grow than cotton not to mention fewer chemical during cultivation.
Bamboo fiber is said to have antibacterial qualities due to an antimicrobial bio-agent called “bamboo kun” which is naturally found in the fiber, making in anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and resistant to odors. The texture of bamboo fabric has often been compared to cashmere for being very soft and smooth. Many have said that the fabric gets softer with every wash and stands up to multiple washings.
These days, you’ll find bamboo fabric used from clothing to bedding. It is silky smooth to touch yet very durable. Because of its antibacterial qualities, it is ideal for apparel such as underwear, socks, bath robes, and sleepwear. And because it is hypoallergenic, it is the perfect for material for bedding. And beyond being antibacterial, it has absorptive and deodorizing qualities that keep your bed is both dry and odor free.
While the safety of the chemical processes used to make bamboo textiles is still being debated, bamboo fabric is still a comparatively greener choice for being completely biodegradable in soil, making its decomposition process not a cause for any pollution to the environment like many synthetic textiles.