According to a recent article in the Australian Choice Magazine, the soft “bamboo” fabrics on the market are actually rayon, or viscose – two names for the same fibre made from the cellulose in plants like bamboo.
This is the fibre produced with the harsh chemical treatment discussed in my earlier article on bamboo nappies, and in 2009 the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) decided that it should no longer be advertised or labelled as bamboo – only the mechanically processed bamboo products could maintain that label.
The good news is that some companies have begun using a less polluting process to make the soft bamboo fabric, called “Lyocell”. This is a “closed-loop” system, so that 99.5% of the chemicals used are captured, to be used again.
It’s worth noting however that according to the FTC there is no evidence that bamboo viscose retains the antimicrobial properaties of the plant.