I have been noticing marketing for “bamboo” towels and sheets and have found them in the stores where I shop. The ads and labeling usually include claims of environmental benefits. It’s been a long time since I completed my college textiles class, so I considered this a new development in an industry I had paid little attention to for a number of years.
Why share this now? Recently there was a news release that stated any new advertising or labeling of bamboo fabrics must also include the word “rayon”. Now I’m smiling. Rayon was one of the first man-made fibers. Originally the formula used wood pulp, treating it with chemicals to break down the cells into a liquid and then reforming it into a fiber. Another term, “viscose”, also describes a rayon fiber. Depending on how the fiber is cut, twisted or shaped it can imitate cotton, linen, or silk.
Why is this important? It means the environmental claims aren’t as true as consumers have been led to believe in marketing materials. Pesticides aren’t used to grow bamboo and it grows rapidly; but the process of taking the raw bamboo and changing it into a fiber suitable for clothing, towels, sheets, etc. involves the use of caustic chemicals and salts. Paying a premium for bamboo fabrics isn’t going to reduce your footprint on the environment.