The bamboo fiber is made from the starchy pulp of bamboo plants. This textile fiber is fabricated from natural bamboo and other additives. In fact, bamboo fiber is a regenerated cellulose fiber, which is produced from bamboo pulp, processed from bamboo culms. It looks like cotton in its un-spun form. Many bamboo fiber manufacturers apply extensive bleaching processes to turn the color of bamboo fiber into white. However, the companies engaged in producing organic bamboo fabric leave the bamboo fiber unbleached. Bamboo fiber is thinner as compared to hair and has a round and smooth surface which makes it abrasion proof.
Extraction of Bamboo Fiber Two types of processing are done to obtain bamboo fibers- Mechanical Processing and Chemical Processing. However, in both the processes, the raw bamboo has to be split to get bamboo strips. After that, bamboo fiber is extracted either through chemical or mechanical processing.
Chemical Processing : It is basically hydrolysis alkalization. The crushed bamboo is "cooked" with the help of Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) which is also known as caustic soda or lye into a form of regenerated cellulose fiber. Hydrolysis alkalization is then done through carbon disulfide combined with multi phase bleaching. Although chemical processing is not environmental friendly but it is preferred by many manufacturers as it is a less time consuming process.
Mechanical Processing : In this method, the crushed bamboo is treated with biological enzymes. This breaks the bamboo into a mushy mass and individual fibers are then combed out. Although expensive, this process is eco friendly.
Characteristics of Bamboo Fiber Bamboo fiber is naturally anti-bacterial, UV protective, green & biodegradable, breathable & cool, strong, flexible, soft and has a luxurious shiny appearance.
Smooth, Soft and Luxurious Feel: Bamboo fiber can be softer even than silk fiber when spun into yarn. It has a basic round surface which makes it very smooth and to sit perfectly next to the skin.
Good Absorption Ability: Bamboo fiber absorbs and evaporates sweat very quickly. It's ultimate breathability keeps the wearer comfortable and dry for a very longer period. It is 3-4 times more absorbent than cotton fabrics.
Temperature Adaptability:Fabrics made from bamboo fiber are highly breathable in hot weather and also keep the wearer warmer in cold season. Bamboo is naturally cool to the touch. The cross-section of the bamboo fiber is filled with various micro-gaps and micro-holes leading to much better moisture absorption and ventilation. It is also very warm in cold weather, because of the same micro structure as the warm air gets trapped next to the skin.
Antibacterial: Bamboo is naturally antibacterial, antifungal and anti-static. Bamboo has a unique anti-bacteria and bacteriostasis bio-agent named "bamboo kun" which bonds tightly with bamboo cellulose molecules during the normal process of bamboo fiber growth. This feature gets retained in bamboo fabrics too. Many tests have been conducted whose results show over 70% death rate after bacteria was incubated on bamboo fiber fabric. Tests by the Japanese Textile Inspection Association shows that, even after fifty washes, bamboo fabric still possessed these properties. It makes bamboo fabrics healthier, germ free and odor free.
Applications of Bamboo Fiber After gaining popularity as a green fiber, bamboo has found place in significant fashion circles. However, questions are often raised due to textile chemicals applied to bamboo for making them usable as fibers for clothing and other textile products.
Bamboo Clothing: The inherent anti fungal and antibacterial properties of bamboo fabrics make it suitable for such clothing as underwears, t-shirt and socks. It is especially preferred for making summer clothing as it gives protection against UV rays and for being naturally cool. The softness, sheen and drapabaility of bamboo fabric make it suitable for fashion clothing and fashion accessories like scarves. As it has good absorption and is breathable, it can be used in making any type of garments especially sports wear andinner wear. In fact, some manufacturers use a blend of 4% Lycra with bamboo to make sportswear. The softness of bamboo yarn also makes it ideal for making infant wear.
Home Furnishings Fabrics: Bamboo fabric has also come to occupy important place in manufacturing of home furnishings due its many qualities including, softness, strength, & durability among others. It is used in making cushion covers, table linen,bed linen, curtains, beddings and pillow, kitchen linen etc. Wallpapers and curtains made from bamboo fabric can absorb ultraviolet radiation very well. Upholstery fabrics are usually made with bamboo blends.
Bathroom Textiles: Bamboo fabric is increasingly being used in making bathroom furnishings. Bamboo bath towels and bath robes have soft and comfortable feel and excellent moisture absorption capability. The natural antibiotic property provides hygienic conditions as well as prevents bad odor. They are also suitable for making bath mats due to good absorbency.
Non woven fabrics: Bamboo pulp is also used for making non woven fabrics that are then used in making hygiene products such as sanitary napkin, masks, mattress, absorbent pads, food-packing bags. Again, they are preferred for such products due to anti-bacteria and absorption properties.
Medical and Hygienic Clothing & Products: Apart from non wovens, bamboo fabric itself is also used in the production of such items as textiles for surgical practices including masks, bandage, gowns etc. apart from linens, towels and drapes in hospitals.
Drawbacks of Bamboo Yarn Bamboo textiles can be called a mixed bag from the ecological point of view. While the crop gets high marks environmentally, its processing into fabric fetches negative marks. Strong solvents are used to make bamboo fibers suitable for any textile use. These solvents affect the environment as well as the health of processing-plant workers. However, recently developed processes, such as closed-loop systems for processing of Lyocell and Tencel fabrics, use safer solvents such as acetic acid. These may also be used more frequently for organically-processed bamboo textiles. However, this depends upon how much the consumer is ready to pay for, as these processes involve huge expenditure. Apart from the chemicals destroying the natural advantages of bamboo fibers, the other drawback of bamboo fabric is that it shrinks a slightly higher than cotton.
With its few disadvantages, bamboo is still beneficial fiber, more so if processed mechanically. Its yield is 10 times that of cotton, without using any fertilizers or pesticides. Additionally, even organic cotton uses a huge amount of water for growing, whereas bamboo grows without any irrigation, often on hill slopes where nothing else can be grown. It really can give an option for sustainable development for those engaged in producing bamboo and manufacturing bamboo textiles and other products.