Bamboo sheets have been increasing in popularity in recent years – and for good reason. They are sustainable, softer than cotton and linen, naturally antimicrobial, and moisture absorbing. They also keep you cool in summer and warm in winter. Need we say more? Many people may have heard about the superior benefits of bamboo sheets, however, many more are likely to be unsure of exactly what they should be looking out for when they are buying their own bamboo sheets for the first time. In recent years, more and more brands are creating bamboo bedding products. However, not all bamboo sheets are created equal. We created this simple guide to help you decode the labels and choose the best bamboo sheets that give you the beauty sleep you deserve.
There are four varieties of bamboo fabric on the market now. Three varieties of bamboo fabric are the different manufacturing generations of regenerated cellulosic fiber (AKA. Rayon): viscose, modal, lyocell. Regenerated cellulosic fibers are manufactured by taking raw cellulose, AKA. plant fiber – like bamboo or eucalyptus, and then taking it through a chemical process to turn it into a fabric. The different generations have vastly different environmental impacts and chemicals used, and it’s important to pay attention to which type of fabric you are getting, as we will discuss in detail below. The other variety of bamboo fabric on the market is a raw bamboo linen fiber – which is strong but not soft or very suitable for sleeping.
1. 100% Bamboo Viscose: The majority of bamboo sheets on the market are made of bamboo rayon. Rayon was the first generation of regenerated cellulosic fibers. There are many different processes for manufacturing rayon, varying in the chemicals used and their subsequent impact on the environment. If you decide to go for bamboo rayon sheets, choose from manufacturers with strict effluent treatment protocols. The concern with bamboo rayon is not that the chemical residue remains on the bamboo material, but in the disposal of the chemical waste product. Also, stick to bamboo rayon treated without chlorine-containing bleach and zinc sulphate.
2. 100% Bamboo Modal: Modal is made with basically the same chemical process as Viscose; however, Modal fabrics are put through an extra processing to stretch them. This makes modal lighter and finer than viscose rayon and increases the strength of the fibers. This makes modal ideal for athletic clothing or uses in which the fabric is going to be treated a little more harshly. You can also tumble dry modal, which is something you should avoid with viscose rayon. That said, the modal fabric is usually a little too thin and airy to make for good bedding products. Modal’s distinguishing characteristics are its high-wet strength and extra softness. It is sometimes referred to “as soft as a feather” and “the softest fiber in the world.”
3. 100% Bamboo Lyocell: Ettitude is the first company to make 100% organic bamboo lyocell bedding. It is one of the most sustainable and contemporary textile materials of the 21st century. In the lyocell process, raw bamboo is dissolved using a non-toxic solvent producing non-hazardous effluent. Together with the water used in the production, the solution is recycled and reused in a closed loop system. Therefore, there are no residues of harmful chemicals and water consumption is reduced significantly. It is also stronger and softer than rayon. If you want to know more about the difference between rayon and lyocell, check out our blog post.
4. Bamboo Linen Fiber (the Manufacturing Process): Bamboo linen uses the same manufacturing process that is used to produce common linen fabric from flax or hemp. It is a very sustainable fabric, however, it is not very soft and wrinkles very easily. A lot of maintenance is involved when buying bamboo linen bedding, as it requires continuous ironing after washing.
5. Additionally bamboo can be blended. For example, Bamboo cotton blend: The most common blend is 60% bamboo rayon, 40% cotton or 70% bamboo rayon, 30% cotton. That makes the fabric slightly stronger than 100% pure bamboo. However, while stronger, the softness of the material is compromised. If a cotton component is added, a bamboo blend becomes a less sustainable choice for your bedding. The cotton production industry is labor intensive and involves a lot of chemicals and waste of fresh water.
The weave of a fabric ultimately affects how it looks and feels. While both are made with 100% bamboo fiber, bamboo sateen and bamboo twill are distinctively different in texture.
Sateen is a one-yarn-under and three-yarn-over weave used to produce smooth, lustrous, higher thread count bedding with a thick, close texture. The larger thread surface exposed by the three-over, one-under weave, is what gives sateen its signature silky-soft feel and the luminous sheen. It is this same characteristic of exposed yarns which makes this fabric a bit more delicate than it’s twill weave counterpart. With this being said, it is important that you care for your bamboo sateen sheets correctly to prolong their lifespan.
Pros: Two times softer than twill weave. It is also as soft as silk but is a vegan product and costs significantly less than silk. Cons: Needs to be cared for properly. Sateen fabrics take longer to produce than a twill weave, they are therefore a bit more expensive than a twill weave.
Twill, identified by a diagonal rib or twill line, is a lot like the weave on a pair of jeans – it is tight, short and very fine. Bamboo twill is not as soft as bamboo sateen but still significantly softer than cotton or bamboo cotton blend sheets.
Pros: Sturdier than sateen weave. Cons: Not as soft as sateen. Twill can shrink more than sateen sheets in the first couple of washes due to its looser weave. But if the twill fabric has been pre-shrunk before sewing, it should be fine and still fit your bed. However, even pre-shrunk fabrics will shrink a bit further if exposed to very hot water and very hot drying. Always wash your bamboo sheets in cold water and line dry or tumble dry low. It’s also the more energy saving way!
We know how important it is to find the perfect sheets for you. So, our top tips to choose the bamboo bedding that suits you are:
1. Always look at the material label see what you are buying is bamboo lyocell or bamboo rayon. In the United States, by law, manufacturers can’t just mark their products as “100% bamboo”. They have to specify if it’s “bamboo rayon/viscose” or “bamboo linen” or “bamboo lyocell”. In Australia, the regulation is looser, so if the label just says “100% bamboo”, ask the manufacturer what exactly it is. Bamboo lyocell and bamboo linen are the more eco-friendly choices here.
2. If what you care about most is the softness of your sheet, absolutely go for bamboo sateen. It is feathery soft, and as close to sleeping on a cloud as possible. It also suits babies and people who have sensitive skin.
3. If you care less about softness but like your sheets to be a bit sturdy, bamboo twill is a good choice.
4. We do not recommend bamboo blend as it’s not as sustainable as the other 3 type of bamboo fabrics.
5. If the manufacturer offers a trial period, always ask for them so you can check the feeling of the fabric and see the real color to match your bedroom interiors.
Bamboo is a magical plant. It is effective at reducing greenhouse gases and it can morph into many types of products. However, the production process of bamboo beddings will determine the carbon footprint and toxicity of the final product.
We invite you to learn more about Ettitude’s bed sheets – made with the most gentle fabric for the environment and your skin.
Did you also know that not all comforters are created equal too? Down alternatives are gaining popularity and helping to save the planet.
Originally published on: Aug 1, 2017. Updated on October 1, 2019.