How to Clean and Care for Bamboo Clothes and Fabrics

Pyramid of bamboo washcloths.

Courtesy of Amazon.com

When you check the fabric content and care labels of that soft-to-the-touch shirt, baby blanket, sheets, or bath towel, 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 care 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. 

How to Wash Bamboo Clothes
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

Project Metrics

There are a few factors to keep in mind before washing bamboo.

Working time: 30 minutes to 1 hour (depending on how soiled the item is)

Total time: 2 hours

Skill level: Beginner

What You'll Need

Supplies

Tools

Instructions

  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.

    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.

  3. Choose the Washer Cycle and Water Temperature

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

    Use cold water for lightly soiled bamboo clothing. For heavy soil and for 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 the fabric to shrink.

  4. Load the Washer

    To prevent pilling, always close all buttons and zippers and turn garment insides out before loading the washer. Sweaters and knitted accessories made from bamboo fibers should be hand washed to prevent stretching.

  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 and remove the fabric while still slightly damp. High temperatures in a dryer can shrink bamboo sheets and clothing,

  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.

Storing Bamboo Clothes

To keep bamboo clothing in optimal condition, hang shirts in a closet to prevent wrinkling. When storing folded clothes, do make sharp creases or overstuff drawers because that can cause fibers to break.

Why Choose Bamboo Clothes and Fabrics

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 even has some natural antibacterial properties to reduce perspiration odor during wear. Because of the softness and smoothness of the fabric, it is ideal for anyone susceptible to skin irritation. The fabrics ability to absorb moisture and porous qualities make it a breathable fabric which also helps regulate skin temperatures. Bamboo clothes resist wrinkling, drape well over the body, and are biodegradable.

To give bamboo fabric extra structure, cotton fibers are often added before weaving. 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.