The bamboo plant, which is a grass that is found all over the world, produces tall poles that are known for their resilience. Bamboo fabric, when it is made through mechanical and not chemical processes, retains much of the plant’s inherent strength.
Bamboo fabric is made from the bamboo fibres that are taken from bamboo shoots that are about four years old. These shoots, because of this level of maturity, make for a very durable bamboo fabric base material. The goal is to produce a durable bamboo fabric that is also very soft, absorbent and antibacterial.
Mechanically Processed Bamboo Fabric
Bamboo fabric can be made directly as cloth, or be woven from bamboo yarns. Originally, parts of the bamboo plant were hand-crushed and soaked repeatedly to enable the extraction of the bamboo fibres - essentially the plant’s cellulose fibres - that could be used to make textiles for clothing. It was a long and arduous process, making bamboo fabric quite rare.
Newer technologies that take the essence of this natural process and make it more efficient have allowed more people to gain access to bamboo fabric and reap its benefits. Bamboo fabric is now used in a variety of textile and fashion applications.
Some manufacturers of bamboo fibres use a process which combines mechanical crushing and bacterial dissolution to get at the cellulose fibres that can be made into cloth. Bamboo is crushed mechanically to break down the toughest woody portions of the plant, then a natural enzyme is introduced in a washing step to break down the plant walls further so that the bamboo fibre can be extracted. The fibres are spun into yarn or cloth, and the resulting bamboo fabric is often called bamboo linen because the process used is similar to retting, the process used to turn hemp and flax into linen fibres.
Bamboo linen is not to be confused with bamboo rayon, which is the result of chemically processed bamboo.This is the faster and more popular manufacturing method used to break down the bamboo plant. The chemicals used are dangerous to humans and damage the bamboo fibres. Naturally processed bamboo fabric does not involve such harsh ingredients, and so the resulting bamboo fabric retains the inherent strength of bamboo plant fibres. It therefore produces a much higher quality product that is extremely durable.
Bamboo Fabric Blends
Bamboo yarn is often blended with other fibre types to increase its versatility. Blending bamboo fibres with other types of fibres produces fabrics with different levels of durability, depending on the inherent durability of the added fibres and the quality of the manufacturing process.