Friday, August 21, 2009

"Bamboozled by Bamboo"

How's that for a title?

Well, you learn something new everyday. Yesterday I learned something new about bamboo. It took me all day to "process" the information. Here it comes. Sigh. A little background:

"Bamboo" fabrics are commonly used in diaper making, and they are also relatively new. I remember the first time I got my hands on some. Kristin and Tami and I stood around petting this wonderfully soft, delicious fabric. I couldn't wait to put it into my diapers! We also dreamed about jammies and other wonderful things we could make for ourselves. It is soft, and thin/trim, and absorbent. When I would tell people about this wonderful fabric I had made from bamboo, I was met with astonishment--flooring, bowls, and other things, yes, but fabric? Companies online boasted that bamboo fabric is antibacterial and antimicrobial (wonderful features in a diaper)!

Yesterday I learned that bamboo is not what I thought it was. It is actually a rayon. To understand, I had to learn a little about how a fabric is made in the first place. "Rayon" is actually describes a process...not an end product. [Just like "fleece" describes the surface of the fabric, but does not automatically mean "polyester."] I never knew that. I thought of rayon as: fragile, wrinkly, unwashable, man-made, like polyester, and most importantly, EWWWWW. But I love my bamboo! According to the Federal Trade Commission:

"As the Commission charges, even if the rayon used in the companies’ clothing and textile products is manufactured using bamboo as the cellulose source, rayon does not retain any natural antimicrobial properties of the bamboo plant. The rayon manufacturing process, which involves dissolving the plant source in harsh chemicals, eliminates any such natural properties of the bamboo plant. Similarly, the Commission charges that the companies’ clothing and textiles are not made using an environmentally friendly process."

Why is this important?

According to the FTC, who brought charges against four manufacturing compainies, "that these four companies make a number of other 'green' claims about their clothing and textile products, none of which are true or substantiated."

As customers, we have been led to believe certain wrong things about the bamboo fabric. While I think the fabric has a lot of GREAT qualities, I'm very sad to learn that I was misled. I would have rather known the truth up front.

How does this impact Pampered Cheeks?

Well, now that I know the truth, I can not further mislead my customers. Which means that I must properly label my diapers. Any diapers made from my stash of "bamboo" must have the fiber content listed as "Rayon" or "Rayon made from Bamboo." I can only use the latter if I know for certain that bamboo is used as the cellulose source. :(

It's not the end of the world, for sure! But it is perhaps the end of a fad. :) I think many customers will be turned off by the gritty details. Some people, like me, will love the fabric anyway. Some people, however, loved the former, incorrect thought that Bamboo fabric is a green product and that it has antimicrobial properties.

I do have one thing to say though: it explains why my "bamboo" fabric shrinks and shrinks and shrinks!!! Also, the fabric I use is not "100% bamboo"--it is blended with cotton and a touch of polyester for stability. Ugh...just thinking about the false claims of these companies makes me sick...but whatever!

Articles from the FTC:
Charges against companies for false claims

For Consumers

For Manufacturers


  1. I read this yesterday too. I had often wondered why so many people thought of bamboo as being "green" since obviously it's going to take a LOT of processing to turn a bamboo plant into a soft yummy fabric.
    Bummer. Oh well, for other reasons, I've come to prefer cotton velour over OBV and I think that hemp is just as good, if not better as a soaker material. Kind of makes you scratch your head at all the claims of 100% ORGANIC bamboo though, huh? Sure the plant may have been grown organically, but if you have to use a bunch of chemicals to process it surely you can no longer call it organic.

  2. I wondered about the organic thing too. A thread I just read on hyena cart forums said that organic also means that there are no residual chemicals left on the fabric after processing. They cited that organic cotton fabrics are bleached during the processing (and that's true--my organic cotton is pretty white). But I'm with you, I really am preferring hemp for soaking and cotton velour. I've had hemp in the long long past that was really scratchy and really stiff, and so I started out with a bias against it. But so far I've really loved it all of Tirzah's diapers that I've used it in.

  3. Interesting stuff! But bamboo is still yummy :)

  4. Is the FTC trying to pull one over on you? FTC makes false claims on Bamboo Fabric with no evidence. Read the full story…
    Green Earth News -

  5. Thanks for the info, Steph. I learn so much from you