What Are Bamboo Sheets?
What the heck are bamboo sheets? You’ve probably noticed the profusion of bamboo bed sheets out there, they’re pretty popular these days. But what are bamboo sheets and are they any good?
We answer your questions about the best bamboo sheets and bedding, discuss how bamboo compares with cotton, and provide you with top tips on what to look out for when shopping for new bamboo sheets.
Are Bamboo Sheets Good Quality?
Bamboo has certainly been making grounds recently as a popular choice of fabric with regards to both quality and sustainability. Fabric made from bamboo is exceptionally soft and breathable, making it a popular choice for bedding and it’s also renowned for being very durable.
Bamboo fiber can be used to produce several different fabric types including rayon/viscose, lyocell, and linen. The vast majority of the bamboo bedding available to buy is made from bamboo viscose.
The Good Things About Bamboo Sheets
What are bamboo sheets potential pitfalls?
Are Bamboo Sheets Better Than Cotton?
If you’re used to buying cotton sheets, you might be a bit hesitant to try bamboo sheets.
Is this green product better than cotton or just trendier?
Let’s take a look at bamboo vs cotton bedding so you can make an informed decision about the best bedding for you.
Bamboo is often celebrated as a sustainable fiber, commonly thought to be much better than cotton “the world’s dirtiest crop”. This is certainly true in so far as growing bamboo is concerned. Bamboo is extremely fast-growing, takes up much less land, needs no pesticides and very little water. All these things place bamboo way ahead of conventionally grown cotton in terms of environmental impact.
However, things get a bit murky when we look at the manufacturing processes involved in turning bamboo fiber into fabric. The majority of bamboo fabric on the market is actually bamboo rayon or viscose produced using a chemically-intensive process. This raises questions over worker safety as well as concerns regarding air and water pollution.
The good news is that there is a much more environmentally-friendly way to produce bamboo rayon, called the lyocell process. During the lyocell process, the majority of the chemicals are captured and re-used, producing much less hazardous waste. It has yet to be taken up more widely due to it generally being more expensive.
Production differences aside, rayon, viscose, or lyocell made from bamboo, are all very similar in terms of softness, breathability, and durability. Fabric made from bamboo is silky-smooth, much smoother than cotton in many cases.
There is some seriously soft cotton out there, but you need to buy a really good quality, high thread-count cotton to match the smoothness of bamboo.
Bamboo sheets are also more breathable than cotton and they have a better moisture-wicking capacity, helping you to feel cool and dry, even on hot nights.
Care and Durability
Bamboo sheets are very durable. When cared for properly, they should last many years and retain their unique softness, wash after wash. However, they do require more delicate care compared to cotton.
Whereas cotton sheets can be washed and dried using hot temperatures, bamboo needs cooler temperatures for both washing and drying. Harsh detergents and bleach can damage bamboo fabric.
So is bamboo fabric better than cotton?
In terms of comfort, there are some clear reasons to opt for bamboo over cotton. Many people prefer the smoothness of bamboo and it’s temperature-regulating qualities are hard to beat.
Bamboo also has the potential to beat cotton with regards to sustainability. But this is only true if the fabric has been manufactured using the closed-loop lyocell process.
The Made-By Environmental Benchmark for Fibres, which compares the environmental impact of the most commonly used fibers in the garment industry, puts bamboo viscose on a par with conventional cotton.
If the fabric has been manufactured using a close-loop lyocell process, the bamboo lyocell would be more sustainable than conventional cotton, but on a par with organic cotton.
So there’s no clear winner here if you just look at sustainability. But in terms of feel, temperature regulating qualities, durability and the eco-friendly lyocell bamboo production of the fibers, bamboo is a clear winner.
Are Bamboo Sheets Safe?
The next question is, are bamboo sheets safe?
Your bed sheets are next to your skin for large amounts of time, so it’s understandable to want to know whether the material they are made from is safe, that you won’t be allergic to the materials and that the sheets aren’t going to off-gas chemicals. And, if you are a parent, you want to make sure that your children have a safe sleeping environment.
The good news is that the chemicals used in the viscose-making process do not remain as residue on the fibers. And importantly, viscose can be Oeko-Tex certified. This verifies that the finished material has been tested to be free of chemical residues which may be harmful to health.
Therefore, to ensure the safety of your bamboo sheets, always look for the Oeko-Tex label.
So, to answer the question, are bamboo sheets safe? The answer is Yes.
Are Bamboo Sheets Expensive?
In general, bamboo sheets will be be similarly priced to high thread count cotton sheets, but more expensive than lower quality cotton. Viscose from bamboo has been compared to some of the most luxurious fabrics available, like silk and the finest Egyptian cotton.
If you are accustomed to high quality soft sheets, then price will not be a surprise when you you choose the best bamboo sheets for you. Many people believe that it’s worth spending a bit more for its unique properties, and since we spent at least a third of our time in bed, an important investment!
It’s also worth bearing in mind the durability of bamboo sheets. A good quality set should last for years if cared for properly, so they can be a good investment for your sleeping environment.
What to Look for When Buying Bamboo Sheets
Bamboo fiber can be used to produce several different fabric types including rayon/viscose, lyocell, and linen. The vast majority of bamboo fabric on the market is rayon, made using the chemically intensive viscose process. There are several types of material that you want to avoid – check out this article to find out what to avoid.
Some companies falsely claim that their textile products are “100% bamboo fiber” and refer to their products as “organic” or “natural” when in fact they are rayon, a manufactured fiber, made from regenerated bamboo cellulose. It’s not the same.
To protect consumers, the law in the US requires manufactures to label their products as “rayon” or “rayon made from bamboo”,unless they are bamboo linen made directly from bamboo fibers and in this case, they should be labeled “mechanically processed bamboo”. So always look at the label to see what you are buying.
Bamboo blends are also common in sheets, but are not recommended. If the sheets are blended with polyester or microfiber, they will not perform as well and will also not be as durable. A blend with natural cotton produces a strong fabric but some of the unique qualities of a 100% bamboo rayon sheet will be lost.
The bottom line on bamboo is this: If you’re looking for healthy, eco-friendly sheets for your bed, then an oeko-tex certified, bamboo lyocell is the best choice.
Companies that practice green methods of production, such as the closed-loop lyocell process, are generally pretty proud about it and will let their customers know.
If you are buying bamboo viscose and not lyocell, then check that companies have strict effluent treatment protocols so that they are disposing of waste responsibly and reducing their impact on the environment. Our sustainability score on products we review will help with that determination.
The weave of the fabric affects how it looks and feels as well as how strong it is. Percale, sateen and bamboo twill are the three common types of weave used to produce bamboo fabric, and each provides a different texture:
Percale: Light Weight and Crispy Feel
The percale weave is a simple one over, one under pattern. It produces a light-weight sheet with a crispy feel and great fabric strength.
Sateen: Super Soft, Delicate Satiny Feel
The sateen weave can be a two, three or four over and one under pattern. It produces a smooth, higher thread-count bedding with a thick, close texture and luminous sheen. However, it is a bit more delicate than twill weave.
Twill: Soft yet Durable
The twill weave is characterized by a diagonal ribbing. It is short, tight and very fine. Although it’s not as soft as sateen, bamboo twill is still much softer than cotton or a bamboo/cotton blend sheet. Bamboo sheets with the twill-weave are exceptionally durable and are often considered the superior choice.
It’s always good to have color options and while most bamboo sheets come in standard whites and creams, you can also find companies with a variety of colors to choose from. This being said, as bamboo sheets last a long time, you may want to stick to a more neutral color palette that will complement future bedroom decor changes. Dark, rich colors have the potential to fade, so they are best avoided for this reason.
Bamboo fabric tends to be a lot more durable than cotton, but it does require more care. You have to treat it more gently, using cooler washing and drying temperatures and avoiding both bleach and fabric softener. It is usually recommended that bamboo sheets are line-dried, but high-quality sheets can also go in the dryer on a low setting. Always check the care instructions and for more information about caring for your bamboo bedding check out our article here.
Warranty and Return Policy
Always choose a retailer that provides a warranty, as an assurance of the quality of their products. Warranties apply to defects in workmanship, such as hems unraveling and seams coming apart.
A return policy indicates if and how customers may return products after purchasing. Most companies will only accept returns for sheets that are unused and unopened, within a specified time period. Again, always check the details.
It’s always a good idea to check the opinions of others who have bought and used a particular product. Quite often, reviews are based on the initial feedback on a product but check also for reviews written by customers who have been using the product for a longer time period. This will give you an insight into the product’s durability.
The best quality bamboo sheets will cost similar to a high quality cotton sheet, but more than your average set of cotton bedding. Provided that the sheets meet all the requirements highlighted above, then you can be confident that you are making a good investment in your beauty sleep! It’s always worth shopping around for the best price and return policies.
We hope you’re no longer bamboozled by bamboo and feel confident to choose between the various types of bamboo sheets on the market. Check out our best bamboo sheet review article if you want a short-cut while doing your research!
At Positively Sustainable, we are committed to providing information that will help you to make confident choices about the products you buy. We believe in the power of ethical consumerism to hold businesses accountable and make sure that they are manufacturing products in an environmentally and socially responsible way.
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