Handling bamboo fibre safely

1 February 2011

Bamboo is a relatively new textile fibre in the UK and is said to be a more environmentally friendly textile than cotton, which is the major natural cellulosic fibre in use today.

Bamboo is a bast fibre (made from the stalk of a plant). It has no natural pests, grows very quickly and requires much less water to grow than cotton.

As it can be grown almost without the use of herbicides and pesticides it is likely to have a much reduced impact on the environment compared to the other cellulosic fibres used in textiles.

At the moment socks in particular seem to be one of the most widely sold items with a bamboo content. This is probably accounted for by the fact that bamboo has natural antibacterial, antifungal and odour resistant properties making it ideal for this use.

However, given the factors I have mentioned it is possible that we will see more bamboo coming onto the market over the next few years.

Because bamboo is a natural cellulosic fibre it is likely to have similar properties to the other major cellulosics, cotton and linen. However, fabrics made from bamboo have a very soft handle similar to fine wool or cashmere but, unlike cotton in particular, the fibres of which are convoluted, bamboo fibres have a smooth surface and a circular cross-section.

The fibres are also strong and very absorbent and indications are that they respond well to repeated washing even to the extent that fabrics are inclined to become softer.

In terms of drycleaning, exercise care in stain removal. As with the other cellulosics, there is likely to be a risk of localised colour loss particularly on deep dyed shades.

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