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Are all cotton sheets the same? Is Egyptian cotton the same as cheap cotton?
Well, that’s true with bamboo too.
Did you know that there are over 10,000 members in the bamboo family, and their characteristics are very different from each other? This diversity becomes more complex when you consider how the material is processed to convert it into textile usable to make clothing, sheets, towels, etc.
This is why it’s important to remember that not all Bamboo sheets are created equal and if you’re out shopping for bamboo sheets, there are some things you should know!
Now, it’s no surprise that bamboo has become a very popular fabric for making bedsheets.
Take a quick stroll down the bedding aisle of any home store, and you will come across bamboo bedsheets. These sheets have become quite popular because of their lightweight feel and luscious texture, and because of the eco-friendly properties of the bamboo used to make these sheets.
Bamboo sheets are softer than linen and cotton, naturally hypoallergenic, moisture absorbing, and sustainable, and are available with varying labels and price tags. Thanks to the way their fibers are structured, they also keep you warm in winter and cool in summer.
So, are all bamboo sheets the same?
The one trait they all share is that they come from the bamboo planet, but that’s where the similarities start to get blurry.
Given the plethora of bamboo sheets in the market, it can be difficult to know how to buy the right bamboo sheet, especially if it’s your first time buying one.
And this is where we can help!
In this guide, we help decode the different labels, so you can select the best bamboo sheet.
Now, we could help you know which strain is better, but since manufacturers never mention the source strain, we’re going to skip that aspect and focus only on the way it’s converted from plant to usable material.
Once you understand that step, you should have a pretty good idea of how to buy the best bamboo sheets for yourself.
To get the best bamboo sheet, you should first know where the different bamboo fabrics come from.
According to the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America), bamboo is a natural fiber that can be processed either chemically to make regenerated manufactured fiber or mechanically to make natural bast fiber.
Regenerated cellulose fibers involve plant fiber (natural raw cellulose) like eucalyptus or bamboo that is converted into fabric through a chemical process. Such fibers are neither natural fibers nor truly synthetic fibers.
Meanwhile, bast bamboo fibers are made mechanically with the same processes that are used to make linen from flax and hemp and have similar sustainability considerations and benefits.
Currently, there are a few generations or varieties of bamboo fabric available that can be differentiated based on the process involved in their production. Since these processes involve different chemicals and have different environmental impacts, it’s essential that you pay attention to the type of fabric you purchase.
Quick disclaimer: we produce sheets, shirts, and others using both the viscose, modal, and the lyocell process, so we will be honest about all the benefits and downsides of all the processes, since we use them interchangeably.
The varieties are:
100% Bamboo rayon or viscose
Most bamboo sheets available on the market today are made of bamboo rayon or viscose. Rayon and viscose are interchangeable terms - the term viscose is widely used in Europe, while rayon is the preferred name in North America.
The viscose process was created in 1905. Bamboo products made using the rayon/viscose process resist bacteria and odor and are exceptionally soft, thermo-regulating, moisture-wicking, and naturally hypoallergenic. And since this kind of bamboo is very absorbent, it takes on dyes very easily, so you have a plethora of color options to choose from.
Viscose is the most absorbent and the 2nd moistest of all versions of Bamboo. Sheets and other textiles made using the viscose process are also the most customizable. This customization allows manufacturers like us to be able to add other things to the material like copper, collagen, and other elements to enhance it.
However, the problem with bamboo viscose and rayon has to do with the solvent used in the process. The viscose process uses a solvent called carbon disulfide (CD), which is a highly toxic chemical when not handled appropriately.
During the 1930s when American companies were still learning how to produce viscose-based products, 30% of the workers had health issues caused by the mishandling of CD. Thankfully, following this finding and other major developments, new processes were created to keep the workers safe while handling the chemical. This reduced (or, in some cases, even eliminated) the risk of the chemical getting out to harm the nearby environment and safeguard the consumer, so the final product doesn’t have any of the toxic chemicals.
Ultimately, the viscose process is the most versatile and allows for the coolest materials possible, but it has that one major problem that makes it hard to fully love. This almost-perfect situation is why we use viscose in the safest possible way because, above all, we prioritize your safety while making sure to respect our beautiful planet in all the cool products we create for you.
100% bamboo modal
This bamboo fabric is made via the same process used to make viscose, but modal fabrics go through extra processing in order to stretch them. As a result, bamboo modal is not only finer and lighter than viscose, but it is also quite strong.
Bamboo modal is most suitable for athletic clothing or other uses where the fabric is treated slightly harshly. And while it’s not recommended to tumble-dry viscose, it is completely safe to tumble-dry modal.
Bamboo modal is characterized by its extra softness and high-wet strength. In fact, it is also often known as the softest fiber in the world.
However, since bamboo modal is significantly airy and thin, it doesn’t make for good sheets or other bedding. This is because your sheets will be incredibly soft and luxurious, but it is also prone to getting holes because of how thin it is.
This problem with holes is why it’s rare to find 100% bamboo modal (or just modal sometimes) sheets, because while it’s amazingly soft, it needs something else to keep it from getting holes after a few months.
If you do find some bamboo modal sheets, just be mindful to get one that’s blended with something else; that way, your luxury sheets last longer than a few months.
100% bamboo lyocell
The newest type of bamboo sheets, lyocell is a relatively young process, almost 100 years younger than its viscose predecessor. The lyocell is also a viscose-type process, but it was created in 2003 and was given its own name because it is different in critical ways.
The lyocell process involves raw bamboo pulp dissolved with a non-toxic solvent that produces non-hazardous and non-toxic byproducts.
The fiber is made using a closed-loop system that can recycle up to 98% of the water used for the fabrication. The resulting bamboo lyocell is almost as soft but much stronger than bamboo rayon. Plus, it requires a lot less water and energy to produce, and is free from toxic, harmful chemicals.
The major downside to this process is that we’re not able to modify the material much during the process, so we can’t make it enhanced by adding things like copper, zinc, collagen, or any of the other fun things we like to add to our materials to make them amazing for your body.
All together, our bedsheets created using the lyocell process are by far the most eco-friendly sheets possible based on current technology. They’re soft, breathable, and durable, so it’s the perfect option if you don’t mind skipping out on a few of the other unique benefits that viscose allows us to add.
Raw bamboo linen fiber
While lyocell, modal, and viscose all involve a chemical process, bast bamboo fiber or bamboo linen is made mechanically and doesn’t involve any chemicals. The process is quite similar to the process used to make common linen fabrics from flax or hemp.
Bamboo’s wooden parts are crushed mechanically, and then the walls are processed (this involves washing and enzyme retting). The extracted bast bamboo fiber is then spun into yarn, and the result is a slightly coarse, easy-to-wrinkle, sustainable fiber that is not too suitable for soft bedding products.
Bamboo linen bedding involves high maintenance since it requires constant ironing after washing. Plus, since bamboo linen is a more costly and labor-intensive process, it only makes up a small percentage of the bamboo fabric available today.
We only recommend bamboo linen if you’re going for that beach house rough sheets look, otherwise, it’s very impractical to own bamboo linen sheets.
Bamboo cotton blend
The most common bamboo blends are 30% cotton and 70% bamboo viscose or 60% bamboo viscose and 40% cotton. While blended fabric is a little stronger than 100% pure bamboo, it is not as soft.
Plus, once you add cotton, the bamboo blend becomes a less sustainable option. This is because producing cotton is labor-intensive, wastes a lot of freshwater, and involves toxic chemicals.
The weave affects how the fabric looks and feels. So, for example, even though bamboo twill and sateen are made with 100% bamboo fiber, they have vastly different textures.
Sateen involves a 3-yarn-over and 1-yarn-under weave and is used to make lustrous and smooth bedding with a higher thread count and a close, thick structure. This weave results in a larger thread surface, giving sateen its signature luminous sheen and soft-silky feel.
At the same time, this exposed surface makes sateen more delicate than twill weave, which is why it’s important to take care of bamboo sateen sheets to extend their life.
On the other hand, twill is very fine, short, and tight. It resembles the weave you see on jeans and is identified by a diagonal twill or rib line. And while it is not as soft as sateen, it is still softer than sheets made of bamboo cotton blends or pure cotton.
Twill bamboo sheets are usually cheaper than sateen and have a more matte look. However, because the fabric has a looser weave, twill sheets tend to shrink more than sateen sheets.
Tips for choosing bamboo bedding
We understand that finding the perfect bamboo sheets is very important. So, when looking for bamboo bedding, make sure you keep the following tips in mind:
- If you want soft bamboo sheets, opt for bamboo lyocell or viscose sheets with a sateen weave.
- Make sure you wash bamboo sheets with cold water. You can line-dry or tumble-dry the sheets on low.
- Try to opt for manufacturers that offer a trial period. With a trial period, you can test the feel and look of the fabric and make sure that the sheet matches your decor before you buy it.
The Final Takeaways
Without a doubt, when it comes to bedding, bamboo is generally going to be more comfortable than cotton. Now, keep in mind that it’s challenging to determine the quality of a set of bamboo sheets from the different characteristics used in the product description, so it’s important to test them out for yourself.