When you think of bamboo, you may think of the hard, wood-like poles often used for building materials. You may also think of the soft, tender pieces of bamboo shoots used in some Chinese takeout dishes. These days, thanks to relatively recent developments in textile technology, bamboo is also used to make clothing.
Prized for its extremely comfortable feel and natural moisture-wicking and antibacterial properties, on top of its unparalleled sustainability, bamboo is quickly becoming one of the most effective materials in producing high-quality athletic gear with an environmental consciousness.
When it comes to your wardrobe, why should you replace your old shirts with those made from bamboo? There are many reasons, and we put together this guide to help break them down for you.
What Is Bamboo Fabric?
So, how does bamboo go from that tall, skinny plant to a soft, versatile fabric? Read on to find out.
How Bamboo Fabric Is Made
In order to take bamboo and turn it into fabric, manufacturers first take the softer parts of the plant — the leaves and soft inner pith — and crush them into a pulp. This pulp is then soaked in a natural enzyme solution to help soften the fibers. When broken down into fibers, bamboo has a similar feel to cotton fibers — soft, light, and fluffy. These fibers are washed and then spun into yarn that can be used to make fabric.
You can find all sorts of clothing items made from bamboo: shirts, pants, underwear, and even designer dresses and suits. Bamboo fabric can be used to make pretty much anything, but its natural moisture-wicking and antibacterial properties make it an ideal material for athletic apparel (like this lightweight hoodie).
There are plenty of synthetic materials, like spandex and polyester, that are often used to make workout clothing. And while these synthetic materials can be light and stretchy, they need to be chemically treated in order to possess the moisture-wicking and antibacterial properties. Bamboo, on the other hand, naturally possesses those characteristics, which keep the wearer dry and comfortable without the use of harmful chemicals.
Why Bamboo Fabric Is Popular
There are many reasons why bamboo clothing has become popular. First, it’s incredibly comfortable — maybe the most important factor for consumers when buying clothes. But bamboo doesn’t just make for comfortable fabric — it also is one of the most sustainable materials used in clothing production today. That’s what makes it so perfect for your next workout tee.
Of course, one of the most important factors to consider when buying clothing is its level of comfort. Even if a shirt is sourced sustainably, most people won’t buy it if it doesn’t feel nice to the touch — and bamboo fabric certainly accomplishes that goal.
Although bamboo in its original state is hard and rough, bamboo clothing is incredibly soft to the touch. When in fiber form, bamboo is very similar to cotton: puffy, soft, and light — making it perfect for use in clothing.
Because the bamboo plant grows in tropical climates, it’s used to absorbing water, and its ability to soak up moisture helps it grow rapidly. When processed into fabric, bamboo maintains its natural absorbency, which is especially useful when it comes to wicking moisture away from your body.
Bamboo clothing is also extremely breathable due to micro gaps in the bamboo fibers. These micro gaps allow air to easily pass through, adding to the comfort of the material.
Bamboo fabric doesn’t just contain natural moisture-wicking and breathable qualities; it also has some antibacterial properties. Many synthetic materials are able to kill odor-causing bacteria, but to do so, they’re treated with harsh chemicals that not only cause allergic reactions but are also harmful to the environment. And these chemicals don’t last forever; they eventually wash out, leaving you and your clothing susceptible to some pretty unpleasant odors.
Unlike these synthetic materials, bamboo naturally resists the growth of bacteria and fungus, keeping the wearer smelling fresher for longer, without the use of harmful chemicals.
Longevity Of Color
While natural absorbency and odor prevention are among some of the more important factors when it comes to athletic apparel, color retention can’t be ignored — the longer your clothing stays bright and new-looking, the longer you’ll be able to wear it. Bamboo fabric is naturally great at retaining whatever color it’s been dyed, providing a longer life for the clothing it’s made from — and more value for its owner.
Bamboo is an extremely environmentally friendly crop, especially when compared with other crops used in the production of textiles.
People today are much more aware of our impact on the environment than we were in the past, and many of us are looking for less impactful ways to live our lives in order to help maintain the well-being of the planet.
While many people assume that bamboo is a type of tree, it’s actually a type of grass. Like other grasses, it grows quickly and doesn’t use a lot of resources — making it a much more sustainable option than other fabrics on the market.
The Amount Of Water Used To Grow Bamboo
With the world starting to think and act more sustainably, people are taking more stock of how much water we use. And while turning off the faucet while we shave or brush our teeth is a great way to cut down on a single person’s water use, it’s easy to forget that our clothing choice has a major impact on how much water is used for our benefit.
Cotton, for example, is less sustainable than bamboo, although there are certainly measure that can be taken to make organic cotton a more sustainable option. On average, it takes over 700 gallons of water to make one cotton t-shirt. That’s a lot of water, right? That amount of water could help provide drinking water to humans, but is instead used in the propagation of cotton.
Bamboo uses much less water than cotton — it takes about a third of the amount. So based on water usage alone, bamboo is a much more sustainable crop.
In 2018, the United States generated over 292 million tons of waste — that’s 4.9 pounds per person per day. That’s a lot of trash sitting and landfills and floating in the ocean, especially if it doesn’t biodegrade.
Because bamboo is a plant, the bamboo fibers used to make clothing are 100% biodegradable. This is especially important as we become more aware of the world’s trash crisis.
Sequesters Large Amounts Of CO2
As we tackle the climate crisis and try to curb carbon dioxide emissions, it’s increasingly important to consider ways to mitigate how much CO2 we pump into the atmosphere. Again, bamboo proves its usefulness: bamboo absorbs carbon dioxide and releases 35% more oxygen into the atmosphere than hardwood trees in a stand of equal size.
Minimal Usage Of Fertilizer And Pesticides
Water isn’t the only resource that bamboo requires less of than other crops — fertilizers and pesticides are all but unnecessary when it comes to growing bamboo. Bamboo is a hardy crop that naturally repels pests and sequesters nitrogen in the soil, so there’s no need for farmers to add any harmful chemicals to the environment.
When it comes down to it, there are many reasons why you should add bamboo shirts to your collection. Bamboo clothing is soft, light, and comfortable, but it’s also far more sustainable than other materials. With every bamboo shirt you own, you’re doing a favor not only to yourself, but also to the planet. In our humble opinion, that’s a win-win.