How to Wash Bamboo Clothes and Fabrics

Pyramid of bamboo washcloths.

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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?

How to Wash Bamboo Clothes and Linens

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 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. 

Unless your bamboo garment is heavily soiled, use cold water, a good detergent, and the gentle wash cycle for regular machine washing to help the fabric maintain its suppleness. To prevent pilling, always close all buttons and zippers and turn the garment inside out before washing. Sweaters and knitted accessories made from bamboo fibers should be hand washed to prevent stretching.

For heavy soil and for bed sheets and towels, select a warm water temperature in your washer and allow 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.

Stain Removal from Bamboo Fabrics

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.

To remove specific stains, follow the recommendations for each type of stain. Enzyme-based stain removers are safe to use on bamboo before washing.

How to Dry and Iron Bamboo Clothes

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

Keep the iron cool, as well. 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. If ironing is necessary, use a dry iron (no steam) at a low setting.

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 actually made from Moso bamboo (Phyllostachys pubescens), which is 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.