Bamboo Fleece for Cloth Diapers

Why Bamboo?

Bamboo fleece and other bamboo fabrics are popular options in cloth diaper fabrics, thanks to their high level of absorbency. Because it is so soft and it wicks moisture away quickly, bamboo fabric is often used in the inner layer of cloth diapers.


Bamboo is also a breathable and thermal regulating product. It dries quickly, and can keep your baby comfortable and cool, even when wet.

bamboo fleece for cloth diapers

As a fast-growing plant that requires few inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers, bamboo’s popularity as a wood source for flooring and other housewares has grown based on its environmentally friendly characteristics.


There is, however, some misunderstanding about the eco-friendly nature of bamboo fabrics. The vast majority of bamboo fabric, including bamboo fleece, is made in a process called viscose. This process relies on chemicals to dissolve wood pulp into a rayon fabric. Bamboo fabric is essentially a synthetic, and not a natural fabric.


You may have also heard some other claims about the properties of bamboo fabric, but in fact, some companies have misrepresented this fabric. A press release from the US Free Trade Commission in 2010 stated that “bamboo-based textiles, actually made of rayon, are not antimicrobial, made in an environmentally friendly manner, nor biodegradable.” While bamboo plants do contain ‘bamboo kunh’ which allows the plants to resist diseases while growing, the US Free Trade Commission ruled in 2010 that some companies that promoted bamboo have made inaccurate marketing claims.


Is Bamboo Fabric Eco-Friendly?

Bamboo fleece is not natural. The fast-growing nature of bamboo makes it an eco-friendly choice for flooring and other wood products, but the process used to turn bamboo plants into bamboo fleece is a chemical process.


After investigations by the United States Federal Trade Commission and Canada’s Competition Bureau in 2010, 4 US bamboo companies were charged, and 78 warnings were issued for misleading advertising claims related to “bamboo fabrics”.


The labeling requirements for bamboo fabrics have also changed: with the exception of bamboo linen, bamboo fabrics must now be labelled as rayon from bamboo. The Canadian Competition Bureau states that this labelling is required to counter a widely held but mistaken perception that the fabric is environmentally friendly.


An article from Canadian news agency CBC, published in 2010, quotes Madeleine Dussault, an official from the Canadian Competition Bureau. She says, “Consumers thought they were buying natural fibre, and it turns out they weren’t. Rayon from bamboo or viscose from bamboo does contain bamboo pulp, but it’s a chemically processed or man-made fibre, and that needed to be made clear in the minds of consumers so they could make a good purchasing decision.”


In the interview with CBC in 2010, Bob Kirke, Executive Director of the Canadian Apparel Federation, agreed that the description of bamboo as a natural fiber was somewhat misleading.


In a 2010 press release, the US Federal Trade Commission also published that “bamboo-based textiles, actually made of rayon, are not antimicrobial, made in an environmentally friendly manner, nor biodegradable.”


Why is Bamboo Fabric Used in Cloth Diapers?

Even though bamboo fleece is not as eco-friendly as you once thought it was, it is still an excellent option for cloth diaper construction. Bamboo is very absorbent and dries quickly. It breathes, and is comfortable for your baby even when it is wet.


Three types of bamboo fabric are popular in cloth diapers:


How is Bamboo Fabric Made?

There are two types of fabric made from bamboo:

  • Bamboo linen: Mechanical separation of the bamboo fibers produces a product that is woven into bamboo linen. It is hard to find and can be very expensive.
  • Bamboo viscose or rayon: bamboo wood is dissolved in a strong chemical solvent. The resulting liquid is then extruded into fiber, which is spun into thread and then knit or woven into fabric. Almost all bamboo fabric that is available today is made through the viscose process. As a regenerated cellulose fiber, bamboo fabric belongs to a category that falls between natural and synthetic.


What Chemicals are Used to Make Bamboo Fabric?

The solvent used to process bamboo viscose is carbon disulfide. Environmentalists claim that carbon disulfide may endanger factory workers. In addition, they point out that these chemicals cause wastewater and air pollution. While some bamboo manufacturers are certified and claim closed loop manufacturing with chemical recovery rates of 75%, some independent sources of research show that carbon disulfide recovery rates are around 50%.


Other chemicals, such as sodium hydroxide (also called caustic soda) and sulphuric acid, are also used during processing. Caustic soda has been approved for textile manufacturing by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), and when handled and disposed of appropriately, this product should not pose health risks to humans.

What is Bamboo?

Bamboo is not actually a tree, but a fast-growing tropical grass that can reach heights of 60 meters! It is naturally regenerative: while it reaches maturity in roughly 4 years, it sends out new shoots each year, so it can replace cut material.

Bamboo does not need pesticides or fertilizers, and can protect soils from erosion.

Bamboo fabric is made from Moso bamboo, a different type of bamboo than that which giant pandas eat.


Where Can I Buy Bamboo Fleece?

Celtic Cloths Wholesale and Wazoodle both carry bamboo fleece. For more cloth diaper retailers, read our cloth diaper fabric page here.


Amazon is another great source for cloth diaper fabrics. The following links are to bamboo fabrics sold on Amazon.com

Organic Bamboo Fleece Fabric (sold by the yard) Organic Bamboo Velour Fabric (Sold By the Yard)

Sources:

United States Free Trade Commission Press Release, Feb 3, 2010. “FTC Warns 78 Retailers, Including Wal-Mart, Target and Kmart, to stop labelling and advertising rayon textile products as ‘bamboo’”.http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/02/bamboo.shtm

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Feb 1, 2010. “Bamboo textiles no more ‘natural’ than rayon”.http://www.cbc.ca/news/story/2010/02/01/consumer-bamboo-rayon.html


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