ASK A SPECIALIST: WHAT CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT BAMBOO AS A CHOICE FOR FABRIC?
Answer by: Karen Biers, Utah State University Extension Clothing and Textiles Specialist
Did you ever think you would be wearing clothes made from the bamboo plant? It is possible, as bamboo is now available in apparel and bedding items. Because of the round structure of its fibers, bamboo fabrics are soft, smooth and comfortable. Consider this information.
* Bamboo fabrics have a natural sheen, and they look and feel like silk but can be machine washed on the gentle cycle and dried in a dryer or hung to dry.
* Bamboo fabric is highly water absorbent, which gives the fabric an excellent wicking ability. Wicking pulls moisture away from the skin so it can evaporate and not leave the skin feeling damp. Bamboo fiber is filled with various micro-gaps, making it cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather. This property makes bamboo an ideal fabric for socks. Bamboo clothing is also anti-static.
* Bamboo possesses a property referred to as bamboo kun, which gives it a naturally occurring anti-microbial property. Bamboo kun stops odor-producing bacteria from growing in the fabric and allows clothing to remain fresher smelling. Since this is a naturally occurring property, tests have found that the fabric retains its anti-fungal and anti-bacterial nature, even after several launderings. Fifty individuals suffering from athlete’s foot were asked to wear socks made from the anti-bacterial bamboo. All individuals reported that the burning and itching associated with the condition disappeared within one to two days after the test began. Within two to six days, the blistering and sores characteristic of the condition disappeared and the skin returned to normal.
* There are two ways to process the bamboo plant to make fabric. The mechanical method involves crushing the woody parts of the plant and using natural enzymes to break it into a mushy mass so fibers can be mechanically combed out and made into yarn. Bamboo fabric made this way is sometimes referred to as bamboo linen. Bamboo can also be processed using a chemical method. This is similar to the method used to produce rayon. Chemically processed bamboo is sometimes called bamboo rayon.
* Bamboo soft goods are available in 100 percent bamboo fabric as well as in blends with cotton, nylon and Lycra ®. Bamboo knitting yarn is also available.
Direct column topics to Julene Reese, Utah State University Extension writer, Logan, Utah, 84322-4900, 435-760-9302; email@example.com