How to Wash Bamboo Clothes and Fabrics

overhead shot of bamboo sheets

​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

When you check the fabric content and care labels of some silky smooth garments or certain brands of soft-to-the-touch bed sheets or bath towels, you may be surprised to see the fabric is made from bamboo. But how do you wash bamboo clothes and linens to keep them soft and supple?

Bamboo is a natural plant fiber like cotton and linen. However, many of the bamboo fibers have been chemically treated and may be labeled as rayon. Always check the labels on each particular item for the manufacturer's instructions for the best care. If the garment has a structured shape, like a tailored jacket, it may require dry cleaning because the interfacings that give it crispness will lose their shape after washing. Sweaters and knitted accessories made from bamboo fibers should be hand-washed to prevent stretching.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washer or large sink for hand-washing
  • Automatic dryer, outdoor clothesline, or indoor drying rack
  • Iron or clothes steamer

Materials

  • Laundry detergent
  • Stain remover
  • Oxygen-based bleach
  • Pine oil or phenolic disinfectant (optional)
  • Fabric softener or dryer sheets (optional)

Instructions

How to Wash Bamboo Clothes and Fabrics
Detergent Regular detergent
Water Temperature Cold to warm
Washer Cycle Gentle or permanent press
Dryer Cycle Low heat or air-dry
Special Treatments Do not use chlorine bleach
Ironing Settings Low
materials for washing bamboo fabrics
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida
  1. Pretreat Any Stains

    Enzyme-based stain removers or a small amount of a heavy-duty detergent like Tide or Persil are safe to use on stains on bamboo fabrics. Work a small amount into the stained area and let it work for at least 15 minutes before washing. To remove specific stains, follow the guidelines for that type of stain.

    pretreating any stains on bamboo fabric
    ​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    Avoid Chlorine Bleach

    Bamboo fabrics can be weakened by chlorine bleach. To remove heavy stains or if the fabric needs to be whitened or brightened, use an oxygen-based bleach soak. If bamboo sheets and towels need to be disinfected, choose a pine oil or phenolic disinfectant.

  2. Select a Detergent

    Bamboo can be washed with your regular laundry detergent. If the garment is heavily soiled, opt for a heavy-duty detergent that contains enough enzymes to break apart the soil.

    choosing detergent
    ​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 
  3. Choose the Washer Cycle and Water Temperature

    The gentle cycle is best for bamboo clothes to help the material maintain its suppleness and the normal cycle can be used for bamboo linens.

    Use cold water for lightly soiled bamboo clothing. For heavily soiled items and bamboo bed sheets and towels, select a warm water temperature in your washer and allow the clothing to presoak for at least 15 minutes in the warm water and detergent solution before washing to remove excess soil. Never use hot water for regular washing, because it can cause bamboo fabric to shrink.

    choosing a washing cycle
    ​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida
  4. Load the Washer

    To prevent pilling, always close all buttons and zippers and turn garment insides out before loading the washer.

    loading items into the washer
    ​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 
  5. Select the Best Drying Option

    Clothes and linens made from woven bamboo fabrics should be air-dried flat on an indoor folding rack or hung from an outdoor clothesline for best results. Knitted bamboo sweaters and accessories should be dried flat to prevent stretching. If quicker drying is needed, use the low heat cycle of the dryer. Remove the fabric while it's still slightly damp. High temperatures in a dryer can shrink bamboo sheets and clothing.

    line drying bamboo sheets
    ​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 
  6. Use a Cool Iron

    Keep the iron temperatures low, as well. If ironing is necessary, use a dry iron (no steam) at a low setting. Extremely high temperatures when ironing can scorch bamboo fibers. The scorching or yellowing occurs as the fibers begin to burn. While some discoloration can be removed, burned fibers cannot be revived.

    using a cool temperature iron
    ​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 

What Is Bamboo?

Bamboo has exploded as a new source for making fabric due to how quickly it grows without the need for excessive pesticides, water, or care. Bamboo regenerates quickly and even cleans the air while it grows.

Nearly all of the bamboo grown for fabric production is found in China and Taiwan. The fabric is made from Moso bamboo (Phyllostachys pubescens), which is actually a tropical grass. It is not the tall ornamental bamboo found in gardens or the type that pandas enjoy. The bamboo fibers are made by manipulating the grass until it separates into thin threads. These are then spun into thread for weaving or knitting.

Bamboo fabric is desirable because it is extremely soft to the touch, highly absorbent, and is said to have natural antibacterial properties to reduce perspiration odor during wear. Because bamboo fabric is soft and smooth, it is a good choice for anyone susceptible to skin irritation. The fabric's ability to absorb moisture and porous qualities make it a breathable material that also helps regulate skin temperatures. Bamboo clothes resist wrinkling, drape well over the body, and are biodegradable.

Cotton fibers are often added to bamboo before weaving to give the fabric extra structure. You may also find Lycra or spandex as a blended fiber to add a bit of stretch. Always follow the care label instructions for these blended fabrics.

Storing Bamboo Clothes and Fabrics

To keep bamboo clothing in optimal condition, hang shirts in a closet to prevent wrinkling. When storing folded clothes, do not make sharp creases or overstuff drawers because that can cause fibers to break.

Bamboo fabric needs to breathe. Avoid storing bamboo sheets and linens in plastic containers that can trap mildew and cause yellowing. Also do not put bamboo linens in cardboard boxes because the acid in the boxes can transfer to the items and damage them. Store linens in a cool, dry, and dark place.

Repairs

Since bamboo fabric is much like rayon, it may lose some of its strength and potentially tear when dripping wet. It's best to use polyester thread and a sharp needle when mending tears by hand or machine.

Treating Stains on Bamboo Clothes and Fabrics

Bamboo fabric, especially dark-colored bamboo sheets, can be prone to oil stains. The best route to removing oil stains from bamboo is to spot clean with a mild degreasing liquid dish detergent and hot water. If that does not work, try soaking the stain for a few minutes in a mixture of 1 part white vinegar and 4 parts water, then continue with your regular wash in cold water to avoid setting the stain further. To remove a blood stain from bamboo, spot clean with a tiny bit of hydrogen peroxide (first test a discreet area to see if the color bleeds or not) and wash in cold water.

Tips for Washing Bamboo Clothes and Fabrics

  • It's claimed that fabric made from bamboo has antimicrobial properties, meaning it stays fresher longer and requires less washing.
  • If hand-washing, rinse extra well to help prevent staining caused by the oxidation of cellulose that's in the build-up of leftover soap on the fabric.
  • When you bring home new bamboo towels, wash them in plain hot water right away. This tightens the weave of the towels and will greatly diminish snagging during subsequent washings.
  • If you wash and dry bamboo towels in a machine, do not add fabric softener or fabric sheets because it will negatively impact the material's absorbency.