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Benefits of Bamboo

Bamboo plant

Uses of Bamboo

Bamboo is buzzing! No only is bamboo fast growing but its use around the world is growing rapidly too.

Today bamboo is used for much more than just panda feed! It has many benefits compared to other common materials.

Some uses of bamboo are in:

  • Flooring
  • Clothing
  • Furnishings
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Paper
  • Food - bamboo shoots are eaten by people as well as pandas!

This article will look at the first two of these uses in more depth, to explore the benefits of bamboo compared to other materials, and to consider any drawbacks it has.

Is Bamboo Environmentally Friendly?

Environmental Advantages of Bamboo

Bamboo has many environmental advantages . The main ones are:

  • Fast growing

Many people are surprised to learn that bamboo is not a tree but a grass. This is partly what makes it such a fast-growing crop - it can grow anything from 12 inches (30 centimeters) to around a meter in one day! This means it is easily replenished.

  • Low impact and high yield

Other benefits are that bamboo can grow in poor quality soil that could probably not be used for other crops, and that it absorbs carbon dioxide and emits oxygen. In comparison to crops such as cotton or hardwood, the same area will give a yield of ten to twenty times as much. Bamboo uses considerably water to grow than cotton does.

  • No pesticides or fertilizers

Because bamboo is naturally fast growing and resilient it can be grown without pesticides or fertilizers.

  • Versatile

Bamboo can be used in many different ways.

Does Bamboo have any environmental disadvantages?

Sadly, at the moment, the answer to this is sometimes yes.

  • Chemicals

To become useful to people, bamboo needs to be processed, and depending on its end use that process can involve the use of chemicals. For example, much of the bamboo flooring available is layered together with glue containing formaldehyde. This off-gases (emits) chemicals for a long time after manufacture.

When processing bamboo for use in clothing chemicals are also often used.

  • Poor quality working environment for some bamboo workers.

Although many bamboo manufacturers are ethical and fair, some are not. The vast majority of bamboo processing is currently done in China where standards are variable and many people are concerned that some workers may be exposed to high levels of dangerous chemicals on a daily basis. Although the Chinese government has set standards for factory working conditions, how strictly these are regulated is open to debate, as this article in The Economist suggests.

Therefore, when buying bamboo products, we need to be sure to do so from reputable and ethical sources.

Bamboo Flooring Material

As a building material, bamboo is most often used in flooring. The quality of bamboo used is extremely important so if you opt for bamboo, take care when choosing your floor. Some manufacturers have leapt on the bamboo-bandwagon and are trying to cash in on its popularity and "green" image by producing cheap products.

If the quality of the bamboo is good, and the manufacture has been done responsibly, bamboo flooring can last a long time and remain in very good condition. Like wood, it needs to be treated with respect: water spills mopped up, and care taken to avoid scratches.

  • Don't buy Cheap Bamboo Flooring

But these cheap products are cheap for a reason and in the case of bamboo flooring buying expensive is likely to save you money in the long run whereas buying cheap will cost you more!

Bamboo Flooring Can Look Beautiful

This floor looks as good as any wooden floor.

This floor looks as good as any wooden floor.

Questions to consider when researching bamboo flooring to buy:

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Which variety of bamboo makes best flooring?
    • Moso
    • Any variety is okay
    • Sasa
  2. What age should bamboo be when used for flooring?
    • A few months old
    • 5 - 7 years
    • 10 years or more
  3. It's not worth paying for more expensive bamboo floor - true or false?
    • False
    • True
  4. New or young bamboo…
    • contains little moisture and so is brittle
    • contains the right amount of moisture and is perfect for floor
    • contains too much moisture for floors and often shrinks, warps and discolours

Answer Key

  1. Moso
  2. 5 - 7 years
  3. False
  4. contains too much moisture for floors and often shrinks, warps and discolours
  • New or Old Bamboo?

Although bamboo grows rapidly, there are changes to how it grows over time, and it takes 5 to 7 years to fully mature. Bamboo loses moisture as it matures, and if it is older than 7 years when it is harvested will be too dry and brittle. Since young bamboo contains more moisture than mature bamboo, if it is used to make flooring it is likely to shrink or warp. It is also more inclined to discolor than mature bamboo. Therefore, when choosing bamboo flooring, be sure that it is mature bamboo. Cheap flooring is usually manufactured from bamboo that is too new. There are many different varieties of bamboo, and that most suited to flooring comes from the Moso plant.

  • How Bamboo Flooring is Made

Because bamboo is a grass, not a wood, layers are glued together to make flooring. First the bamboo is dried and then boiled, and layering the bamboo gives a strong and long lasting product - so long as the correct type of bamboo is used of course.

  • Use of Formaldehyde in Bamboo Flooring

The drawback with this production method is that the glue used often contains formaldhyde. This is toxic, though there are differing opinions on the level at which is becomes so. Some manufacturers, such as USA company Green Floors, avoid formaldehyde altogether, while others, such as Australian company Kaizan, say that alternative chemicals are more dangerous and that in low levels formaldehyde is safe. US regulations allow higher levels of formaldehyde than EU regulations do. In better quality bamboo flooring the amounts of formaldehyde are generally likely to be lower.

  • How to Buy Bamboo Flooring

If you are planning to buy bamboo flooring, it is a good idea to obtain a sample first and treat it to the worst that your home could be expected to endure. Allow your pets to scratch at it, spill water on it, and see how it holds up! Ask the retailer for information the type of bamboo used and how it has been made. A trustworthy retailer will be pleased to answer your questions. To be sure you know what questions to ask, take the quiz in the blue box above.

Bamboo Clothing

This cardigan is made from bamboo with some organic cotton.

This cardigan is made from bamboo with some organic cotton.

Benefits of Bamboo Clothing

Bamboo clothing is usually worn in place of cotton or synthetic fabrics. How does it compare to these?

  • Bamboo vs Cotton

In comparison to cotton, bamboo is softer, and feels very pleasant on the skin. Strangely bamboo is good at keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter. Like cotton it is a naturally breathable fabric, but it is much better at wicking moisture away from the skin. It is also naturally anti-bacterial. For this reason it is good for socks or as a base layer when taking part in outdoor activities. Our family love bamboo socks and we now buy both regular socks and sports socks in the fiber.

  • Bamboo vs Synthetic fabrics

Compared to synthetic fabrics, I find bamboo much more comfortable. As one retailer of bamboo clothing says, you get don't end up sweaty and smelly after wearing bamboo!

  • Controversy over Bamboo's Production

There is some controversy over the most common method used to convert raw bamboo into yarn suitable for clothing. Although it is possible to make the yarn mechanically this is costly and done rarely. (The finished fabric is similar to linen.) Often bamboo is broken down with caustic soda and carbon disulfide, chemicals which can cause allergic reactions. Additionally the chemicals can be pollutant. However, these chemicals and others are also commonly used in the manufacture of other fabrics; for instance caustic soda is used in making cotton and many chemicals are used in the manufacture of synthetics.

As with bamboo flooring, it pays to do some research before buying bamboo clothing. Some manufacturers are more responsible than others and will reuse chemicals and ensure that workers' safety is paramount, while others take even more care and use alternative chemicals that they consider to be safer.

  • OEKO-TEX® Certification

The best way to ensure you are buying bamboo clothing that is ethically produced and free from harmful chemicals is to buy only clothing that has OEKO-TEX® certification. This body regulates the use of chemicals in textiles; it limits the use of some chemicals and bans others. For instance carcinogenic (potentially cancer inducing) dyes are not permitted.

My Verdict on Bamboo

Although there is little doubt that bamboo is not as perfect as some manufacturers suggest, it is considerably better than many of the alternatives. For clothing, bamboo has a far lower impact on the environment than either non-organic cotton or synthetics, which are largely what it replaces.

Like most products, there is a vast variation in how sustainably and ethically bamboo is grown and processed, so it is not possible to say bamboo products as a whole are good or bad. As with any product, when buying bamboo it would be wise to investigate a little and confirm that the retailer knows the origin and production methods of its bamboo.


Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on June 17, 2013:

A lot of people don't realise that, but it's very soft and comfortable. Thanks for your comment.

Charlie Cheesman from England on June 17, 2013:

Interesting I never new bamboo was used for clothes thanks.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on March 04, 2013:

Glimmer Twin Fan, I love my bamboo socks, so comfy. Thanks for your comment.

Claudia Mitchell on March 03, 2013:

A little while ago I bought socks made from bamboo! Who knew! I have seen some gorgeous bamboo floors available and it's nice to have many alternatives. Interesting hub.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on March 02, 2013:

Thanks Bridalletter, glad you enjoyed the hub.

Brenda Kyle from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA on March 01, 2013:

So wonderful that you shared information I knew so little about. Very in depth and useful. The floors truly are beautiful.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on March 01, 2013:

Eddy, thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on March 01, 2013:

Yes, Robie, bamboo clothing. So soft and lovely. Glad you liked this and thanks for the comment and vote up!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on March 01, 2013:

Thanks for the info John!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on March 01, 2013:

iguidenetwork, I've had bamboo shoots, but not in coconut milk - that does sound delicious and I will try it out soon, thanks for the tip!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on March 01, 2013:

CarolAnnHeadrick, sounds as if you've got bamboo in your garden. That sounds great. I will take a look at your hub, thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on March 01, 2013:

precy anza, indeed, there are many uses for bamboo. Thanks for adding another!

Angelo52, thanks for your comment and glad you enjoyed the hub.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on March 01, 2013:

rajan, from the comments here, you are definitely not alone in not knowing about bamboo clothes! Glad to enjoyed the hub and thanks for your comment and for sharing.

Vellur, I agree, buying ethically is the most important concern. Thanks for your comment.

Eiddwen from Wales on February 27, 2013:

Thank you so much for sharing this interesting and wonderful hub.


Robie Benve from Ohio on February 26, 2013:

Bamboo clothing??? Get out of here! Amazing! Wonderful! Need to try it!

Great hub, full of insights and info, I especially love to pros vs cons. voted up and all. :)

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on February 26, 2013:

Prasetio, thanks very much for adding that information about Indonesian bamboo. I am so heartened to read that most of the products are environmentally friendly.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on February 26, 2013:

truthfornow, glad it was useful to you and thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on February 26, 2013:

bdegiulio, I think a lot of people only know about the flooring. The clothes are really nice to wear, so soft. Glad you found this interesting and thanks for your comment.

John Holden on February 26, 2013:

Oh yes Melovy, bamboo grows very well in some parts of the UK, worth seeking out large gardens with established bamboo - of course it will be nothing like as grand as it is in its native habitat, but still pretty grand.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on February 26, 2013:

Hi MsDora, glad you enjoyed this and thanks for your comment. Definitely a grass yes!

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on February 26, 2013:

Bill, my computer or Hubpages is playing up because I tried to reply to you and it disappeared, so let's hope this works! I loved your story about the bamboo of your childhood. It must be amazing to see it grow so fast. The fastest growing plant we've got is a buddleja, and it's nothing like that.

Thanks for your comment.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on February 26, 2013:

Ha, ha John, I love the image of vicious big toes! And thanks very much for sharing the information about bamboo scaffolding, that would be amazing to see.

I didn't know that bamboo could grow in the UK either, so thanks for that info too!

John Holden on February 26, 2013:

Agreed, I've got vicious big toes and can wear holes in socks in one wearing, but never with bamboo socks.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on February 26, 2013:

sanathara, thanks.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on February 26, 2013:

seanorjohn, you're not alone in not realising it is a grass. I even read a semi-official document that referred to it as a tree. But it's definitely not! I do hope that the ethical producers are those who win out because I think bamboo has great potential.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on February 26, 2013:

Nettlemere, I think you've just been unlucky with the socks and maybe got a poorer quality pair. I have one pair that got holes in the toes quite quickly and every other pair we have are great. I agree with you that bamboo floors look beautiful! Thanks for stopping by, always good to see you!

CarolAnnHeadrick on February 26, 2013:

I love bamboo for its beauty, shade, attraction of birds, and hearing the wind rustle the leaves. Pictures are in today's blog.

iguidenetwork from Austin, TX on February 26, 2013:

I have heard/seen/used bamboo for fencing, decorating, housing, scaffolding, kitchen and dining items and have eaten bamboo shoots too (cooked in coconut milk, which is really delicious), but never heard about clothing from bamboo. And that makes this wonder grass even more amazing. Voted up and awesome. :)

Angelo52 on February 26, 2013:

Very interesting article on the use of bamboo for flooring and clothes. The flooring I have seen but, like many others here, I have never heard of bamboo clothing.

precy anza from USA on February 25, 2013:

Wow! Haven't heard about bamboo socks! That is interesting. There are really a lot of uses for bamboos. Another interesting use of it I wanted to try myself was the natives cooking their food inside the bamboos. :) Voted up and shared!

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on February 25, 2013:

Great hub. Yes as you say we must buy ethically produced bamboo clothes if we choose to buy them. Informative and very useful hub. Voted up.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on February 25, 2013:

Awesome hub Melovy! Had no idea bamboo could be used for making clothes. This is a very informative hub.

Voted up, useful and interesting. Sharing this.

John Holden on February 25, 2013:

I had several pairs of bamboo socks. They were incredibly hard wearing and very comfortable.

When I lived in East Anglia I also used to grow bamboo - many different types.

BTW, in countries where bamboo grows large and is plentiful it is used for scaffolding buildings. It's an amazing sight seeing a 21st century building surrounded in bamboo scaffolding.

Yvonne Spence (author) from UK on February 25, 2013:

Carol7777 glad you enjoyed this and thanks very much for pinning!

Peggy W, It seems that there is little we use that doesn't have some downsides, and although bamboo does have many benefits we need to be aware of both sides I think. I didn't know it could be used structurally - it is indeed very versatile. I also love that it helps reduce carbon dioxide because some fast-growing trees are less effective at that.

Glad you found this useful and thanks very much for sharing it.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on February 24, 2013:

I live in Indonesia where we can found many types of bamboo tree. We can use it for various product and most of the products are Environmentally friendly. Because we made it from natural source. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!


Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on February 24, 2013:

I didn't know about bamboo clothing. Thanks for teaching me something that I did not know. Voted up and useful.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on February 24, 2013:

Great info Yvonne. I knew about bamboo flooring but never realized they made clothing out of it. Very interesting. Voted up and sharing.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 24, 2013:

Great information. Thanks for sharing. It really gives me an appreciation for the --the grass? Voted Up.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 24, 2013:

We were looking at a display of bamboo clothing last summer. It really is incredible to see and touch.

We had a bamboo in our backyard when I was a child. Every year it would grow to twenty feet, and then for the winter we would cut it down to the ground, and every year during the summer it would grow to twenty feet again. It is still the fastest growing plant I have ever seen.

sanathara on February 24, 2013:

very useful hub...

seanorjohn on February 24, 2013:

Didn't realise baboo was a grass. This is a very versatile product. I too would be concerned at Chinese workers and their health.

Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on February 24, 2013:

I love the feel of bamboo socks, but found the ones I bought didn't last as long. (I am very hard wearing on socks). I love the look of the bamboo floor and would certainly consider getting one.

Mike Robbers from London on February 24, 2013:

A very interesting article! I knew about bamboo being used in feeding pandas and making furniture, but I had no idea that bamboo can also be used for clothing! or that it grows so fast! Thanks for sharing! Voted up and interesting!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 24, 2013:

This information about bamboo flooring and clothing is very useful. I had no idea that formaldehyde is often used when making the flooring or that possible carcinogenic chemicals could possibly be used when making the clothing. As to the working conditions, one can only hope that the workers are treated right. So much to consider! My first introduction to the use of bamboo was in seeing furniture made out of it years ago. I have read that bamboo can be used structurally in buildings and bridges. Nice to know the sustainable factor. It surely does grow quickly! Up, useful, interesting votes and will share.

carol stanley from Arizona on February 24, 2013:

I have seen some beautiful bamboo floors and love them. We have tile which is best for Arizona and it does keep the house cool. You did a great job describing all aspects of Bamboo. Voting up and pinning.