Bamboo is a versatile, environmentally-friendly material, and you’ll find it in some unlikely products, from paper goods, to building materials, to soft and smooth bed sheets.
Bamboo sheets, naturally smooth and great for people with sensitive skin, stay three degrees cooler than their cotton counterparts — making them more resistant to germs and allergens.
But how do manufacturers make bamboo sheets, and what makes them softer (and better all around) than cotton competitors?
There are two primary methods manufacturers use to make bamboo sheets: Creating fabric with bamboo viscose and weaving sheets with individual bamboo threads. We’ll explain the processes in further detail below to help you decide which is best for you.
Gathering of Bamboo Shoots
The process of making bamboo sheets begins, obviously enough, with the bamboo plant itself. Unlike nylon and polyester, bamboo sheets are not made from non-biodegradable synthetics. The bamboo is planted and harvested naturally, and — unlike cotton — does not require pesticides or other environmentally-harmful chemicals to grow.
Being a perennial grass, bamboo grows quickly and without much help. In fact, it is considered to be one of the fastest growing plants. It can even thrive on land considered unfit for other forest plants. You can plant the bamboo in any season as long as you are able to keep the sprouts moist. You can harvest the shoots each spring after they’ve grown at least six inches, or wait three more years for it to grow up to 100 feet. tall.
Making Viscose from Bamboo
After harvesting bamboo shoots, workers use a steaming process to extract the bamboo’s inner pith from the trunk. Then, they use a machine to crush the inner pith into bamboo cellulose, which they purify and treat. The cellulose is then reformed to make bamboo viscose, (also called bamboo rayon) which is a soft, anti-microbial fabric.
Bamboo rayon gives the fabric added silkiness and softness. Unlike rayon from wood pulp, which creates noxious chemical waste, the cellulose used in making bamboo rayon captures all solvents used. Thus, it lessens waste during the fiber production. Bamboo sheets, which are recyclable, stay organic and environmentally-friendly through the production process: Manufacturers use sodium to treat the fabric during production instead of other harmful chemicals.
Creating the Bamboo Threads
Another way to make bamboo sheets is to create bamboo threads. Manufacturers use a machine to slice bamboo down into fibers and turn them into pulp. After they gather the pulp, operators let it dry and shape it to make threads, which will then be woven into sheets.This method is deemed even more environmentally-friendly because fewer chemicals are needed to treat the bamboo.
Since bamboo fiber has antimicrobial properties, the sheets are mold-resistant. Their strong fibers makes them durable enough to withstand repeated washing. Individual bamboo threads are stretchy, which contribute to the overall soft and silky feeling of the sheets.
There are plenty of reasons to purchase a set of bamboo sheets: They’re durable, resistant to mold and allergens, and feel softer, cooler, and fresher than cotton sheets (not to mention they’re organic and all-around-better for the environment). When searching for a set of bamboo sheets, you can look to see if they’re made from bamboo viscose (AKA bamboo rayon) or bamboo threads, and decide for yourself which is right for you.