Bamboo is the fastest growing, high yield, low input crop on earth and has amazing potential as a source of sustainable material. Bamboo thrives naturally: The yield per hectare is 10 times greater than most other clothing materials and it takes care of itself: The extra water, fertilisers and pesticides needed to farm it is almost zero. In this blog we’ll break down how bamboo t-shirts are made, how you can customise them for an amazing design and we’ll be putting it head-to-head with organic cotton to answer why we think one of these two fibres makes the best t-shirts in the world.
How bamboo goes from trees to tees
Bamboo fabric is what is called a reconstructed or ‘semi synthetic’ fabric. It’s not naturally soft and stringy like cotton; bamboo is tough and woody and needs to be broken down into something useable as a clothing fabric.
“After harvest it goes through several stages of crushing, soaking and pressing until it is reduced down to its most basic elements at a molecular level (polymers) and turns into a mushy goo.”
The goo is then shot through a nozzle to make stringy bits that get spun into a fabric ready to be made into t-shirts.
Naturally silky and soft
Bamboo t-shirts don’t feel like you might expect. It’s soft and has a silky texture – a bit like cashmere. It’s naturally anti-static so feels light and breathable when worn. It’s also ideal for folks who find synthetics or polyester clothing cause irritatation to your skin. Bamboo grows in abundance and doesn’t require any fertiliser or pesticides which means when you wear it you don’t come into contact with any nasty chemicals.
Organic cotton vs bamboo t-shirt – which is the best material?
We’ve said that bamboo is a sustainable crop on paper. But we use organic cotton to make t-shirts for a reason, and that’s because of what happens with bamboo, after it’s grown, to make it into a fabric. Turning a woody material bamboo into a fabric can be a difficult process, and whilst a lot can be done mechanically, crushing and pulping, it almost always involves heavy use of chemicals to break the wood down to the point where the cellulose can be remade into a fibre. Organic cotton, on the other hand, is almost ready to spin straight off the plant, and whilst cotton can be a high input crop, organic farming – using pest traps, co-planting and the special ingredient, cow poo – can be done in a way that is not detrimental to the ecosystem in the way that cotton used to be.
What we recommend
The cult following bamboo has is attributed to the incredible softness of the fibre. But looking closely, often clothes sold as bamboo are 70% organic cotton. The reason for this is that bamboo fibre sometimes has a drape that is a bit heavy and droopy, and blending it with organic cotton gives it a stability. So much of that famous softness is from the organic cotton part of the material – there’s little difference in feel after all.
For environmental impact, bamboo t-shirt input is low in the field and high in the factory, almost the opposite of organic cotton which can be harder to grow but easier to process into usable materials. And bamboo tees are often mostly organic cotton anyway. If you request bamboo tees we will order them in, but we would always recommend organic t-shirts first – and best of all, they’re even better value.
How to place an order online
If you’re thinking about ordering custom bamboo t-shirts, it’s super easy. For small orders under 50 items we use state-of-the-art digital printing that prints custom designs in fine detail. You can dive right in and create incredible artwork or an eye-catching company logo with our online tools without any technical design know-how. The whole process can be really fun.
If you’re looking to order more than 50 items we can help you out with that too. For screen printing we work with vector format for the best quality finish. Sorting out a snazzy design in this format is easy using some basic design software like Adobe Illustrator and we have loads of templates on our website to help you out. You can get a quote instantly for a screen printed bulk run here. Or if you’re not fussed about design we, can source in men’s and women’s blank bamboo t-shirts for you too.