All Stories

Ever Wonder About Bamboo Bedding?

In the last while, I've noticed bamboo bedding and other bamboo products have become quite popular. In my life, I’ve sat on bamboo furniture, drawn with a bamboo pen and eaten bamboo shoots, but I always wondered how a bedsheet could be made from bamboo.

It turns out that the story of bamboo bedding seems to be an interwoven fabric of good news and bad news.

Good news: Back in the late 1800s, after problems with the French silk industry, a French chemist named Hilaire Bernigaud, who was also count de Chardonnet and a former student of Louis Pasteur, figured out how to make artificial silk with cellulose, the long chain of sugar molecules that give plants structure.

Bad news: This Chardonnet silk did not catch on because it tended to catch fire.

Good news: Techniques improved to produce what became known from 1925 as viscose rayon, using various sources of cellulose, including bamboo.

Bad news: The chemical processing means that rayon is not natural (whatever that means).

Good news: Bamboo can be grown sustainably, with little fertilizers or pesticides.

Bad news: Processing bamboo into rayon involves toxic chemicals, such as sodium hydroxide, and can give off gases, like the nerve toxin carbon disulphide.

Good news: Bamboo fibres can be extracted mechanically, like linen.

Bad news: Mechanically processed bamboo fibres are rough and too laborious and time-consuming to be viable commercially.

Good news: A type of rayon called Tencel can be produced with a non-toxic solvent in a closed loop system that captures most of the air pollution.

Bad news: The Tencel process is not usually applied to the production of bamboo textiles.

Good news: Bamboo is antibacterial.

Bad news: No evidence for these antibacterial properties has been shown in the material once it has been processed into rayon.

Good news: Bamboo rayon is soft and water absorbent.

Bad news: Bamboo rayon can lose its shape when wet.

Good news: High wet modulus rayon or Modal was developed in the 50s with greater durability when wet.

Bad news: The Modal process has not yet been used with bamboo.

Good news: Bamboo textiles are not synthetic because viscose rayon is a type of regenerated cellulose using plant material.

Bad news: My efforts to set up a good news/ bad news symmetry may represent a case of false balance.

What do you think about bamboo bedding? I think I still need to sleep on it.

Still curious? Well, did you ever wonder about the part of your chicken dinnner called the Pope's Nose? Or, how come dog's are so good at smelling