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Bamboo Viscose 101: Is it an Eco-Friendly & Sustainable Fabric?

June 12, 2023Lifestyle

The sustainability of bamboo fabric has long been a hot topic of debate. What exactly is bamboo viscose, and is it truly an environmentally friendly option? What are the known bamboo viscose fabric properties? is bamboo clothing really sustainable? In this article, we dive into the realm of bamboo viscose to unravel its eco-credentials, production process, and overall sustainability. 

Is Bamboo Viscose an Eco-Friendly & Sustainable Fabric?

It’s safe to say that bamboo is not just a tasty treat for pandas anymore! This material has become the latest darlings of the sustainable and zero-waste movement and for good reason. From super-soft bamboo clothing to biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes and even bamboo straws, this incredible plant is making waves for its minimal environmental impact and regenerative quality. 

Thanks to bamboo’s long root systems, which can protect steep banks from erosion, the plant can actively help the soil! On top of that, bamboo plants can generate 30% – 35% more oxygen than an equal area of forest. Plus, it can self-regenerate from its own roots!

But is the hype around this fiber justified? Is bamboo environmentally sustainable or yet another greenwashed fabric? Read on to discover all the answers in our bamboo viscose 101 guide.

What is Bamboo Viscose?

In order to question “Is bamboo fabric environmentally friendly?”, we first need to understand the fiber. With its strong fibers and rapid growth, it’s no surprise that bamboo is now being transformed into alternative fabrics. In simple terms, viscose is a regenerated cellulose fiber created through a special process. This process extracts cellulose fibers from plants like eucalyptus, beech, pine, and of course, our beloved bamboo. So, what does this mean for bamboo viscose? Well, it’s a fabric that sits right in the middle—neither fully natural nor entirely synthetic. 

It’s a fantastic semi-synthetic fiber that combines the incredible qualities of bamboo with the versatility of the viscose process.  

How is Bamboo Viscose Made?

The adventure begins with the bamboo pulp, the raw material that holds the secrets to the magic we’re about to witness. Through a series of meticulous steps, the cellulose is extracted from the bamboo pulp.  

In the most common method, the bamboo pulp undergoes a transformation known as the viscose process. First, the bamboo is broken down into tiny chunks, creating the foundation for cellulose extraction. The chunks are then introduced to a solution containing sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda. This chemical helps separate the cellulose from the bamboo, laying the groundwork for further enchantment.

 In the quest for transformation, carbon disulfide enters the stage. The extracted cellulose is compressed into sheets and exposed to this compound, along with a dash of sodium hydroxide. This combination results in a viscous syrup that gives bamboo viscose its distinctive properties. However, we can’t ignore the presence of these chemicals in the process.

Next, the syrupy cellulose is passed through a spinneret, which works its magic by turning the cellulose into fine strands. These strands take a plunge into a bath filled with sulfuric acid, sodium sulfate, and zinc sulfate. Though it may seem like a scene straight out of an alchemist’s lab, these substances help create the filaments needed for weaving the fabric.

After an intricate dance of chemicals and processes, the filaments are spun into yarn, ready to be woven into the splendid fabric we know as bamboo viscose. It’s an enchanting transformation that combines nature’s bounty with human ingenuity.

The most environmentally sustainable way to make Bamboo Viscose


In another eco-friendly approach, the bamboo viscose fabric journey begins by crushing the bamboo leaves and inner pith, extracting the precious bamboo cellulose. The extracted mixture then takes a relaxing soak in a natural enzyme solution, bidding farewell to carbon disulfide and welcoming a greener path. After a refreshing cleanse, the fibers are washed and spun into yarn, eagerly awaiting their transformation into the fabulous fabric. The cherry on top? This entire process operates within a closed-loop production system, minimizing waste and environmental impact.

The sustainability of bamboo fabric varies a lot. So, the next time you wrap yourself in the silky embrace of bamboo viscose, remember the journey it took from the bamboo forest to your wardrobe. 

Is Bamboo Viscose Toxic?

Let’s clear the air surrounding bamboo viscose and its potential toxicity. The bamboo tree itself isn’t toxic. However, if your skin is prone to irritations, this fiber might not be the best option. You see, during the manufacturing process, chemicals like sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide often make an appearance. While these components may not linger in the final garments, they might not be the best match for your delicate skin. 

So, let’s move on to the next part: is bamboo environmentally sustainable?

Is Bamboo Viscose Eco-Friendly?

Bamboo itself is a superstar when it comes to sustainability. It’s a fast-growing plant that requires minimal water, and no pesticides, and can thrive in diverse climates. The renewable nature of bamboo makes it an attractive choice for eco-conscious individuals.

However, when it comes to bamboo viscose, things get a bit more complicated. The manufacturing process of bamboo viscose involves chemicals and energy-intensive procedures. Sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide are commonly used, which raises concerns about their environmental impact. Additionally, the process can generate wastewater that requires careful management to prevent pollution.

Is Bamboo Viscose Sustainable?

Some manufacturers have adopted more eco-friendly methods like the mechanical process, which involves crushing bamboo leaves and using natural enzymes to extract bamboo cellulose. This method reduces the reliance on harmful chemicals and embraces a closed-loop production system.

When choosing bamboo viscose, it’s essential to look for certifications such as the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 or the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). These certifications ensure that the fabric meets specific environmental and social criteria, providing more confidence in its eco-friendliness.

So, is bamboo viscose truly eco-friendly and sustainable? Well, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. While it offers potential sustainability benefits compared to conventional fabrics, the manufacturing process and sourcing practices play a significant role in determining its overall environmental impact. As an eco-conscious consumer, it’s vital to consider the entire lifecycle of the product and make informed choices based on transparency, certifications, and responsible manufacturing practices.  

Is Bamboo Viscose Better Than Cotton?

Bamboo is known for its fast growth and minimal need for pesticides or fertilizers. It requires less water compared to cotton, which is a water-intensive crop. However, the manufacturing process of bamboo viscose involves chemicals, such as sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide, which raises concerns about its environmental impact.

Bamboo viscose fabric is often praised for its softness, smooth texture, and breathability. It can provide a luxurious and comfortable feel, similar to high-quality cotton fabrics.

Both bamboo viscose and cotton fabrics are versatile and can be used for various clothing and textile applications. They can be blended with other fibers to enhance their properties. At the end of the day, It really depends on your personal preference!

Best Sustainable Brands For Eco-Friendly Bamboo Clothes

1. Boody

Price: From $15 

Sustainable Materials: Bamboo fibers

Boody offers an array of eco-friendly and sustainable products made of bamboo. From socks and underwear to bras, undershirts, accessories, and even baby clothes. With a minimalist approach, the eco-conscious brand emphasizes complete transparency throughout their supply chain, ensuring that every step, from the bamboo crop to the hands of the consumers, is accountable and sustainable. They are driven by a passion for minimizing their environmental impact and empowering their customers to embrace a more eco-conscious lifestyle.  

2. Ettitude

Price: From $56

Sustainable Materials: CleanBamboo fabric

When it comes to men’s comfort and sustainability, Ettitude stands out as one of the top bamboo clothing brands. Their collection of luxurious men’s sleepwear offers a blend of superior comfort and eco-friendliness. Crafted from silky-smooth fabric, these sleepwear pieces are not only breathable and moisture-wicking but also hypoallergenic, ensuring a restful night’s sleep.

As a B-certified corporation, Ettitude is committed to sustainability. They use an exclusive CleanBamboo fiber, which is produced through a non-toxic, closed-loop system that saves an impressive 98% of water compared to traditional methods. Furthermore, Ettitude sources their raw materials from FSC-certified sustainable forests, ensuring responsible forestry practices are followed. 

3. Cozy Earth

Price: From $48

Sustainable Materials: Viscose from bamboo

Cozy Earth is not just your go-to destination for luxurious bamboo bedding and bath options; they also offer an impressive selection of men’s loungewear that combines comfort and style. Whether you’re lounging indoors or enjoying outdoor activities, their temperature-regulating viscose from bamboo fabric ensures that you stay comfortable throughout the seasons. You can choose from their ultimate loungewear bundle or mix and match your favorite joggers, tees, hoodies, and pullovers. It’s no wonder that even Oprah herself has recognized these ethically-produced bamboo pajamas and joggers as some of her favorites for the past two years. 

Conclusion: Is Bamboo Viscose Eco-Friendly And Sustainable?

The truth is, the term ‘eco-friendly’ is often thrown around without proper scrutiny, leading to greenwashing and misleading claims. While some products may claim to be eco-friendly, not all bamboo viscose fabrics meet the highest environmental standards. To put it simply, bamboo viscose is sustainable and somewhat eco-friendly. However, the manufacturing process is intense. If you want to be 100% certain that bamboo is environmentally sustainable, make sure to check whether or not your favorite brands use a closed-loop system to make bamboo viscose. 

About Author

Konstantina Antoniadou

Freelance sustainability and fashion writer with an ongoing curiosity to explore new innovative technologies, and report on trends in “green” industries.