Your Ultimate Guide To Bamboo Blankets

7 min read

Your Ultimate guide to bamboo blankets

Bamboo blankets are a fairly recent addition to the blanket family, and judging by the demand for bamboo blankets, sheets, and pillowcases, there really must be something special about them.

There are three main manufacturing methods for bamboo fabric; 

  1. Bamboo viscose
  2. lyocell-type bamboo fabric
  3. Natural bamboo (bamboo linen). 

Bamboo is said to offer great benefits like being antibacterial, antimicrobial, and hypoallergenic, including the outstanding wicking properties that regulate temperature way better than natural cotton. Weighted bamboo blankets have also made their mark and are in high demand across the globe.

I was immediately roped in with all the benefits associated with bamboo blankets, but I just couldn't resist the urge to find out more. 

What I discovered was indeed interesting and worth researching, but I did come across some truths about bamboo blankets that do not discredit their use or function but rather put a question mark against the sustainability and benefit claims that are a big attraction at the moment. 

close up of bamboo

Bamboo plants are the fastest growing plant in the world second only to the Giant Kelp. Some species some bamboo species have been know to grow up to 3 to 4 feet in a single day.

Here is what I discovered.

A Brief History of Bamboo Fabric.

In 1864 the very first bamboo fiber extraction patent was submitted by Phillipp Lichtenstadt, but it was only in the early 2000s that bamboo fabric really became a commercial reality.

Over the last two decades, there have been great strides in creating bamboo fabric, but sadly there has been much controversy over the claims that bamboo is superior to other natural fabrics, especially with regard to being antibacterial and eco-friendly. The bamboo textile industry is not as green as the natural plant.

In order to understand the benefits of bamboo blankets, it is necessary to look at the three different processes that churn out the fabric. Through this, you will get a clearer understanding of the controversy surrounding many of the claims.

Bamboo Fiber Production Methods.

As mentioned, there are essentially three production methods that produce different types of bamboo fabric:

Viscose Rayon Production.

Bamboo plants might be the staple ingredient in this process, but the end result is a synthetic fiber that has lost most of the natural benefits of bamboo.

The process uses toxic chemicals that include carbon disulfide, which is a neurotoxic colorless volatile liquid with an ether-like odor, and sulfuric acid, which is a colorless oily liquid and is soluble in water with the release of heat. It is corrosive to metals and tissue, and exposure can result in health issues. 

Growing bamboo plantations appears to be a long-term sustainability winner, but viscose processing is hazardous to both workers and the environment alike. Chemicals are used to break down bamboo cellulose from the wood pulp using carbon disulphate. 

The cellulose is then pushed through a spinneret which transforms it into strands. The strands are then softened using sulfuric acid, which produces thin filaments that are woven into yarn.

Lyocell Production Method.

The lyocell method is a closed-loop production method where the chemicals used in the process are looped back into the system with very little to hardly any wastage. Because of the containment process of chemicals, it is considered an environmentally friendly process.

To add, the chemical process used in the lyocell method does not break down or change the cellulose structure of the bamboo. Because the structure of cellulose is unchanged, the final product is said to be natural and organic.

Mechanical Production Method.

This is a truly environmentally friendly process as it involves no chemical treatments at all. Bamboo fiber is acquired by manually crushing bamboo pieces. Natural enzymes are added to the crushed wood and later washed before it is spun into bamboo yarn.

The process is labor-intensive, and the fabric is costly as a result. Authentic, manually produced bamboo products are scarce in the market, mostly due to manufacturing costs versus demand.

Why Bamboo?

Bamboo fabric has a wide-ranging effect on textiles. Production methods will determine where the final product fits into the spectrum of fabrics. Looking at the main production types, bamboo can generally be viewed as the green alternative or replacement of synthetic fibers produced from petrochemical processes.  

Bamboo is a highly sustainable and versatile resource in its raw state, yet the chemical-based production processes are overlooked when labeling bamboo fabrics as eco-friendly, bio-degradable, and antimicrobial. 

This often-misleading advertising has been largely contained with legislation protecting the authenticity of natural bamboo fabric. 

Bamboo yarn produced through the viscose method cannot be labeled as authentic bamboo as the process regenerates bamboo cellulose into a synthetic fiber. 

Yes, bamboo viscose is made from natural bamboo, but the final product has been chemically altered and has very little in common with natural bamboo fibers. Chemically changed bamboo fibers offer benefits, but it remains to be proven if the antibacterial benefits are from the organic bamboo fibers or the chemical used in the yarn production phase.

Research and studies have found that bamboo fabric definitely has a place in the fabric line-up, but the general consensus is that there is insufficient data to confirm all the cited benefits of bamboo. 

Detailed studies need to confirm what is lost and what is gained during the various production phases.

When purchasing bamboo blankets, sheets, or pillowcases, it is always recommended that you pay attention to the wording on the label paying specific attention to the production process. Viscose bamboo is worlds apart from natural mechanically produced bamboo, yet both types do share common benefits. 

Keeping this in mind, let's take a look at some of the main benefits of bamboo blankets.

Benefits of Bamboo Blankets.

Every blanket type has benefits, and bamboo blankets are in a league of their own when it comes to durability and comfort. Here are some leading benefits of bamboo blankets:

  • Softness: All three production processes turn out super soft blankets. The softness is so desirable that many baby blankets are made from bamboo fiber.
  • Breathable: Bamboo is highly breathable, and this can be attributed to the weave and the fiber alike. However, research has yet to conclude the breathability of bamboo fiber, especially because of the transformation from natural fiber to synthetic fiber in the viscose production process.
  • Temperature control: Bamboo creates a microclimate that regulates your core body temperature. Here again, the type of weave plays an important part, but bamboo is not known for heat retention either. The breathability of bamboo supports this point.
  • Antibacterial, Antimicrobial, and Hypoallergenic: Bamboo naturally repels bacteria, and the wicking properties of bamboo expel moisture that would otherwise be trapped, creating a warm damp climate for bacteria growth. The same applies to microbial life; bamboo is not the ideal substance, nor is the climate it creates conducive to microbial growth. The hypoallergenic factor is a combination of both antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Add softness to this mix, and people with sensitive skin tend to find bamboo blankets more appealing.
  • Wicking properties: Bamboo fibers have hollow oval pores that are effective in transporting moisture away from your body to the surface of the blanket, where it evaporates. This is the basis of bamboo's thermo-control property.
  • Organic: Pesticides are not used on bamboo plantations because of their own natural resistance to pests. This makes it more eco-friendly and eliminates the transfer of harmful pesticides into the final product.
  • Stain-resistant: Generally, most types of stains are easily removed from bamboo products without the need to use harsh bleaching chemicals. On the contrary, it is best to wash bamboo products with light natural soap, and there is no need to use fabric softener either, as the more bamboo is washed, the softer it becomes.

Bamboo bedding, like all other fabrics, also has a few cons, which are listed below;

  • Prone to wrinkling.
  • Natural bamboo products are scarce and very expensive.
  • Bamboo tends to shrink when washed in hot water or placed in a tumble dryer with a high heat setting. To avoid this, always wash bamboo in cold water and sun dry on a washing line.
  • The viscose production process emits harmful chemicals into the atmosphere and poses a health risk to workers.
  • Prone to pilling. To reduce this, do not wash bamboo bedding with rough fabric types and keep colors separate.

Bamboo Weighted Blankets.

Bamboo weighted blankets are very popular and for a good reason too—the natural temperature controlling properties of bamboo helps to regulate body temperature. 

The weight added to the blanket is in the form of tiny glass beads that do not retain heat very well either. This greatly reduces the chance of overheating under a weighted bamboo blanket.

The combination of bamboo benefits and thermodynamics of glass are a perfect mix to provide a weighted blanket that effectively regulates heat. This focuses on the therapeutic value of that extra weight under regulated temperatures to maximize the healing effect.

There are bamboo cooling weighted blankets for adults to ensure a restful night's sleep. These blankets help to improve the quality and uninterrupted duration of sleep, which is vital for both mind and body health.

Thula Tula and Bamboo Blankets

At Thula Tula we are very mindful about the materials and production methods we use to create our blankets and other products. We will never use harmful chemicals or outdated production methods as this will not only cause harm to the people who make the blankets and their environment, but also to your family and ours.

Keeping this in mind we have been doing extensive research and development for the last year to bring bamboo fibers into our line of incredibly soft blankets and throws. However, until we find the perfect method that is not only good for the people and environment we continue our R&D to find the perfect fiber for all.

Conclusion.

Bamboo blankets are truly soft and offer a unique degree of comfort to all who use them. The main benefits of bamboo blankets are not greatly affected by the production process, but it is still something to consider when purchasing bamboo bedding.

Pound for pound, bamboo is a sustainable crop, and products are growing in popularity mostly due to the combination of its unique properties that contribute to our comfort and general wellbeing. 

Research is ongoing to clarify the many benefits of bamboo but also to find new methods of production that are more eco-friendly and will enhance the already long list of benefits that, through user experience, has led to a higher demand for bamboo bedding and clothing alike. As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

 

Blanket size buying guide
Steve Watts
Steve Watts


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