Bamboo rayon is a fiber that comes from bamboo plants. It is made from broken-down cellulose fibers and is then spun into thread and used to make fabric.
Bamboo clothing is making it big. For those who are seeking an alternative to the fast fashion industry and want to invest in wardrobe pieces that are more sustainable, it’s no surprise to hear that bamboo fibers are on the rise. Yet, the world of bamboo textiles isn’t as straightforward as it seems and you may have seen words like bamboo rayon and bamboo viscose thrown around. Understanding what makes bamboo rayon and exploring the process, the pros and the cons can help you to decide if this skin-friendly fabric is the right choice for your wardrobe. We take a look at all you need to know about bamboo rayon.
Is Bamboo Rayon Made Of?
Bamboo rayon is made from the cellulose fibers of the bamboo plant. The woody stalks of the bamboo plant contain something called bast fibers which have a rough texture. In order to make it the soft and supple bamboo that we know so well, these fibers have to go through a manufacturing process.
How is Bamboo Rayon Made?
To make the regenerated cellulose fibers of bamboo textile worthy and into what we know as rayon - it has to go through a chemical process to convert. There is more than one way to make bamboo pulp into rayon but the most common method is called the viscose method. In this process, the pulp is put into a chemical solvent which turns the cellulose material into something thick that can then be put through a spinning process which turns the strands into a more solid fiber which can then be turned into fabric.
Structure of Bamboo rayon
One of the reasons why bamboo rayon is such a popular choice in textiles is down to its silky soft structure. Bamboo rayon is extremely soft and super breathable which makes it a dream against the skin and when used in bedding and other contact textiles. The threads that come out of the process of making bamboo fibers into rayon have a round and smooth structure which means that they move beautifully against the skin, wick moisture, and don’t cause chafing or irritation.
Properties of bamboo Rayon
Along with the structure of the textiles being as smooth as silk, the benefits of bamboo rayon don’t stop at pure comfort. This material has plenty going for it. Not only is it super comfortable and so soft that you don’t need any kind of fabric conditioner in the care, but it is also known for its breathable, moisture-wicking, and antibacterial properties. Because bamboo rayon has minuscule gaps in the fabric, it helps heat escape and lets cool air in. This means that it is an excellent fabric for letting your skin breathe. It is also incredibly moisture-wicking as bamboo rayon can hold a lot of water. This means that you won’t feel sweaty or damp when wearing this fabric. Bamboo rayon also has high thermal regulating properties which means that it can be worn throughout the seasons and will adapt accordingly to changing temperatures.
Production of Bamboo Rayon
To turn bamboo from plant to textile, there are several steps that need to be taken. The production of bamboo rayon isn’t free from controversy as there is some level of chemical intervention used to make the fibers suitable for the textile industry. While there is a chemical process used to turn the bamboo from something tough into something more tactile, the material is free of any chemical trace by the end - making it absolutely safe to use against the skin. The production of bamboo rayon involves growing the bamboo and putting it through a chemical process to make it suitable to spin into yarn. We take a closer look at these elements below.
First, the bamboo is grown and pulped into tiny wood chips which are then exposed to chemicals in order to extract the cellulose fibers from the pulp.
The extracted cellulose is then compressed, filtered, and put through a high-speed spinning machine that turns the cellulose into solid strands.
The strands are then immersed in sulphuric acid to make filaments which can be spun into yarn - before being woven into the fabric that we recognize.
Organic growing of Bamboo Rayon
The first step in creating bamboo rayon is actually growing the bamboo. It all starts with plant power. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet and is considered to be highly sustainable thanks to its intricate root system that doesn’t require replanting. It also uses way less natural resources and requires a lot less water than the likes of cotton. Bamboo is massively environmentally friendly as it doesn’t deplete the soil, it pumps out plenty of oxygen, and it even gobbles up harmful carbon dioxide. One of the best things about bamboo is that all bamboo is considered organic as this plant has no natural pests and thrives - meaning there is no need for pesticides or anything unnatural.
Producing bamboo rayon requires a chemical process to turn the fibers into fabric. The first part of the chemical process can be soaking the wood chips in carbon disulfide. Sodium hydroxide can also be used as part of the process too. As mentioned - by the final product every trace of chemical should have been washed out of the fabric. Still, some consider the use of these chemicals to be problematic as sodium hydroxide can be damaging to those who work with it if the proper precautions aren’t taken. This is why some consider a more linen type of bamboo fabric to be more sustainable, although this bast fabric can be rougher and doesn’t have the same softness that makes bamboo stand out from the crowd. It’s safe to say that bamboo rayon does have a way to go to be fully sustainable, but in the fight against fast fashion and choosing more sustainable materials, its definitely on the right track.
Common Uses Of Bamboo Rayon
There are many uses for bamboo rayon that go beyond bedsheets. Bamboo rayon is highly sought after as it shares those soft, supple, and breathable qualities that make it such a pleasurable material to have in your life. We take a look at some of the common uses of bamboo rayon.
From underwear to sleepwear, dresses to skirts, shirts and pants - bamboo rayon is used for a whole host of clothing. Being delicate and dreamy against the skin (not to mention extremely comfortable), makes it a great material to wear for any occasion. Items that have direct contact with the skin are popular in bamboo - t-shirts, vests, underwear and even socks. As its such a soft and gentle material with excellent moisture-wicking properties, it is great when used for sportswear and loungewear. The thermal regulating properties also mean that you can wear clothes of this material year round without getting too hot or too cold.
Bamboo rayon is also great for a range of home items and upholstery. It’s becoming popular to use bamboo as bedding thanks to its thermal regulating and moisture-wicking properties. With bamboo being hyper-comfortable, it’s also super soft and snuggly without being at all sweaty. For those who are sensitive sleepers or who suffer from night sweats, switching to bamboo bedding could be a balm. Bamboo rayon can also be used in other items like towels, covers, and anything that you would use silk or cotton for.
Rugs, pillow cases, throws, mats, and any kind of textile - all these home decor items can be crafted from bamboo rayon. Having your home adorned in bamboo rayon not only creates a gorgeous tactile environment but because bamboo rayon is naturally allergenic and anti-microbial, it is also super low maintenance and resilient to pilling. Bamboo rayon is also an incredibly durable and strong material too.
Benefits of Bamboo Rayon
There are so many benefits when it comes to bamboo rayon that it’s no surprise that this material is picking up steam as we try to make more sustainable choices in this world. Not only is bamboo good for the environment but it also brings a swathe of health and comfort benefits too. We take a closer look at just where bamboo rayon hits the pro list.
When it comes to environmental benefits, bamboo rayon scores big. While the chemical processing element may be a strike against its eco-friendly name, it ticks plenty of boxes in other areas. For example, bamboo is one of the most sustainable plants on the planet. It is incredibly fast-growing which gives it a naturally high yield. It also doesn’t need to be replanted, as its superior root system can easily regenerate even after the bamboo is cut. Bamboo can also be grown in small areas because it is so dense -this means that it doesn’t have to swallow up huge chunks of outdoor space.
Bamboo doesn’t deplete the soil in which it is grown either. It can actually give a lot of nutrients back to the land. It puts out more oxygen than many other plants and requires no pesticides, irrigation, or fertilizers to help it thrive. It also uses a lot less water than many other plants - including cotton.
The comfort benefits of bamboo rayon are off the charts. This material feels like silk against the skin (only without the hefty price tag). Bamboo rayon is super soft and this is down to its round and tubular thread structure. It moves with the skin - not against it - which means no-chafe. It’s also a hypoallergenic material which means that even if you have sensitive skin, you don’t need to worry.
Along with being super soft, bamboo rayon is also highly breathable and moisture wicking too. This of course adds to the comfort levels and makes sure that you are able to stay cool and dry as it helps to regulate your skin temperature. This especially keeps you comfortable on clammy days or when exercising which is why it makes such great material for sports, leisure, and summer garments. In terms of caring for it - bamboo also doesn’t wrinkle or pill meaning that you can keep wearing it for longer.
As mentioned, those with sensitive skin are going to love the benefits of bamboo rayon. Naturally hypoallergenic, chafe-free, and moisture-wicking means that it doesn’t irritate your skin even a little bit. It’s also a material that is naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial too.
Is viscose the same as bamboo?
Bamboo rayon and bamboo viscose are both made from bamboo but if a label just says viscose, it may not necessarily be made of bamboo. You can also have beech, pine, and eucalyptus viscose too. Always check the label to see if your viscose is bamboo.
Is bamboo rayon better than cotton?
Every material comes with its own pros and cons and in some ways, bamboo rayon fabric is considered to be better than cotton as it uses less water and is a quickly growing and more sustainable plant. Bamboo is considered to be softer than cotton and easier to care for too.
What is the difference between rayon and bamboo rayon?
Viscose rayon refers to the process of making fiber from wood cellulose - although this may not necessarily be from bamboo. If you see bamboo rayon this means that the fabric has come from the bamboo plant and has gone through the viscose process.
What is the difference between bamboo and bamboo rayon?
Bamboo and bamboo rayon are similar. If you see a label that says something is bamboo rayon then it has originated from the bamboo plant but has gone through a semi-synthetic process to turn it into a material that can be used. Not all bamboo clothing goes through this process, bamboo clothing and bamboo linen can also be natural but may not be as soft as bamboo rayon. You can also get bamboo lyocell and Tencel which are made from pure bamboo pulp and doesn’t use toxic solvents.