When it comes to choosing eco-friendly and sustainable fabrics for our babies’ clothing, the options are plentiful. Although GOTS organic cotton is possibly the best seller, bamboo rayon (bamboo viscose) is becoming popular, too. In this post, we will focus into the differences like their environmental impact and the truth about “said” properties of those fabrics from your babies’ health perspective.
The article a bit long, but we believe worth to give 10 minutes to read it 😊
What is Bamboo Rayon (or bamboo viscose)?
The important fact about Bamboo or “Bamboo rayon” is, technically it is Rayon or Viscose; a man-made fibre that chemically created from natural cellulose sources such as wood, cotton seeds or Bamboo tree. The cellulose origin doesn’t change the production method.
The Viscose production process simply consists below steps:
* Dissolving the cellulose source in a “strong” chemical solution,
* Made a dough from that solution by evaporating the solvent,
* Pull fibres from that dough through a spinneret (just like making spaghetti pasta, showing below) then dry/treat them, and then cut as staple or wrap as continuous filament according to use field.
Then regular spinning/weaving/knitting/dyeing/printing and clothing production made with that fibre like other textile materials.
The point we will consider here is the first 2 steps first. Unfortunately, the chemical solution used in the production of viscose (whatever the source) is “highly caustic and contains strong” chemicals such as sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide, which can be harmful to human health; Second, this production has a significant environmental impact, as it requires vast amounts of water and energy, then produces hazardous chemicals that can pollute waterways and harm wildlife. Of course, some companies have developed more sustainable methods for producing viscose, such as using closed-loop systems to recycle chemicals and reduce water use, that is great; But they must use the above-mentioned or similar strong chemicals to dissolve wood/bamboo in the solution, too.
So, simply, it is possible that some chemical residues may remain on rayon fibres after production, particularly if the manufacturing process is not properly controlled and managed. Chemicals used in the production of bamboo (or any other) rayon, can be irritating to the skin and may cause allergic reactions in some people. It should be noted that rayon fibres go through a rigorous washing and treatment process before being sold to consumers to reduce such risks. (Where makes greater environmental impact of excess water use and bigger pollution possibility.)
Overall, the risk of developing eczema or an allergic reaction from rayon fibres is generally considered to be low for an ordinary adult... However, the babies and especially the Newborn or Preemies are particularly much more sensitive to chemicals as known. So, it is not an exaggeration to say they should be avoiding from rayon or other synthetic fibres until their skin is well-developed.
What Is Organic Cotton?
If we look at “Organic Cotton” the picture entirely changes.
Organic Cotton uses water while growing too, but not harmful chemicals like pesticides or fertilisers. So, organic cotton fibre production stage is incomparable safer and better for the World or for our babies’ future, by comparing to bamboo rayon. That is the first major difference.
In the fabric production stage, similar dyestuff or auxiliary materials uses in bamboo rayon or organic cotton fabrics; but, when a GOTS certified material/supplier selected (like Clean&Safe) all the chemicals, auxiliary materials, process, and environmental impact is under strict (and really strict!) rules and observations. Even if companies may claim “Oeko-Tex” certified rayon fabrics used in the product, that is valid just for a small part of the production chain, the dyeing/printing part only in general.
(Oeko-Tex is not bad, contrary is necessary in the dyeing/printing stage; All GOTS certified dyeing/printing companies are naturally having Oeko-Tex standards and have much stricter and sensitive restrictions for both used materials and processes.)
As it grows without fertiliser, pesticide or harmful biocides, the Organic cotton does not carry any chemical load to the fabric/product made from it. And if manufactured in GOTS chain (like Clean&Safe) all Ginning, Spinning, Weaving/Knitting, Dyeing/Printing, Sewing and even selling stages are under continuously controlled according to very strict technical, environmental, and social conditions. So, it is much better for the World and the future.
Here is the simple comparison chart to give you a sheer and clear idea.
Picture 1: comparison of product certifications.
Regarding technical properties of both material; we can compare the below important aspects.
The softness is almost the same for both. Bamboo rayon feels softer due to its adjustable filament thickness, but properly selected and combed organic cotton is soft as the bamboo rayon. Sometime bamboo rayon feels like silk (Rayon’s historic name is “fake silk”) due to post processes (chemicals like strong acid or strong alkaline bathing) after filaments pulled from the spinneret. The spinneret is a part used to make filaments from wood dough under a pressure like seen in picture 2.
Picture 2: Spinneret giving out rayon filaments. Photo: ITCF Denkendorf, source Textile Network.
Breathing property; Organic cotton is breathable and gentle to the skin, and that is the same for bamboo rayon. Breathing usually depends on the fabric structure instead of the fibre used.
The absorbency is a difference point; Organic cotton is much higher absorbent than Bamboo rayon, it can absorb water up to 27 times of its own weight. Bamboo is also absorbent, but not as much as Organic cotton.
Durability is the final important aspect we consider. As guessed, organic cotton is much more durable, and can withstand frequent washing and wear, as expected in a baby wear. Bamboo rayon is less durable and may not hold up as well over the time. Articles show very low pilling resistance of staple bamboo rayon fabric in various works. Also, it is well known that the wet strength of rayon fabrics is much lower than dry form.
The last and most important point we have to say is a big “misconception”, unfortunately.
That is, “Bamboo is antibacterial”.
Yes, Bamboo tree has antibacterial properties to protect itself against pests. However, almost none of that ability transfers to bamboo rayon! The reason for that fact is the manufacturing process of rayon, the harsh/extreme chemical solution extinguish many properties of bamboo wood. There is lots of scientific/research info exist about that fact, its antibacterial properties “not much better” than cotton. That fact shown here with some figures taken from scientific research.
So, let’s come to the conclusion.
First, nobody can interfere with your free choice. Whatever we explain here for the benefits and well-being of the newborn and babies.
Technically, the Organic Cotton, especially GOTS certified product is the best choice in baby clothing. This choice is much better than Bamboo rayon, or other rayon. We’re saying this for the baby’s health, comfort, for its better health in older ages, and the World’s future. So, we advise using GOTS Organic Cotton clothes for your newborn and babies’ like the Clean&Safe.
GOTS certified Organic Cotton and specifically the Clean&Safe products does not carry/transfer any chemical load to the baby’s skin. You may read our other articles to learn our Clean&Safe approach. The Clean&Safe products are specially designed and produced with our own patented method (2019/12061 patent application number, Simurg Tasarim Ltd Sti. (5274799)) to ensure the best possible protection of your babies on top of GOTS certification.
This will be a much better for their well-being above of all the details like the colour or the print etc…
Thanks for your reading 😊
Mahir Ozden, Textile Engineer (PhD), Simurg Textile Designs