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I have been using bamboo socks and t-shirts, and I have read online about the fact that two main disadvantages of the industrial production of bamboo are:

1) Some companies process the bamboo chemically. The plants are cooked in a cocktail of chemical solvents - primarily sodium hydroxide (lye, or caustic soda, as it's more commonly known) and carbon disulfide, which are both known to be harmful to human health.

2) In some countries Bamboo is being cultivated with lots of chemical fertiliser or - even worse - entire areas have been converted to bamboo cultivations.

Therefore, since bamboo is very easy to grow, I would like to pose the following question:

The other method to process bamboo is mechanical. This involves crushing the plants into a mush, using natural enzymes to break it down and then combing out the fibres and spinning them into a yarn. Is it possible to do this at home or on a non-industrial scale anyway? What would it take?

What are the major obstacles to making bamboo fabric at home? What would be a good estimate of the surface of planted bamboo required per meter square of fabric material?

  • 1
    The first process you describe essentially produces rayon, if I understand correctly. Some countries (the US at least) have rules preventing that being sold as "bamboo", to help consumers differentiate. – Highly Irregular Dec 19 '15 at 1:55
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This question reminds me of

in that it is asking if it is possible to do some industrialized process at home. Well, of course it is, but that's only because anything is possible.

I think there are two ways of making bamboo fabric, sometimes called "bamboo rayon" and "bamboo linen" to distinguish them.

Bamboo rayon

The process for making bamboo rayon is described on OrganicClothing.blogs.com (direct quote):

  1. Bamboo leaves and the soft, inner pith from the hard bamboo trunk are extracted and crushed;
  2. The crushed bamboo cellulose is soaked in a solution of 15% to 20% sodium hydroxide at a temperature between 20 degrees C to 25 degrees C for one to three hours to form alkali cellulose;
  3. The bamboo alkali cellulose is then pressed to remove any excess sodium hydroxide solution. The alkali cellulose is crashed by a grinder and left to dry for 24 hours;
  4. Roughly a third as much carbon disulfide is added to the bamboo alkali cellulose to sulfurize the compound causing it to jell;
  5. Any remaining carbon disulfide is removed by evaporation due to decompression and cellulose sodium xanthogenate is the result;
  6. A diluted solution of sodium hydroxide is added to the cellulose sodium xanthogenate dissolving it to create a viscose solution consisting of about 5% sodium hydroxide and 7% to 15% bamboo fiber cellulose.
  7. The viscose bamboo cellulose is forced through spinneret nozzles into a large container of a diluted sulfuric acid solution which hardens the viscose bamboo cellulose sodium xanthogenate and reconverts it to cellulose bamboo fiber threads which are spun into bamboo fiber yarns to be woven into reconstructed and regenerated bamboo fabric.

tl;dr

Right, too long, didn't read, i.e. don't try this at home!

Bamboo linen

Apparently bamboo can also be processed into "bamboo linen", i.e. using the same process as with flax or hemp.

I have processed bamboo before, not for fabric, but for (Japanese) basket weaving and I have to admit that I find it difficult to imagine that you can get any joy out of it if you have to do it at home. Bamboo is very hard (after all, you can build houses out of it). Also, we have used natural bamboo baskets in the kitchen (as sieve, storage baskets, etc.), some items for up to 10 years, washing with dish-washing liquid as usual and the bamboo didn't mould or break. This long exposure to water without any kind of breaking down should also mean that processing it into fabric (where it should break down) is more difficult.

One commercial producer of bamboo linen is Litrax. Its bamboo linens are described/advertised on textileworld.com. The processing, however, uses "fine-tuned enzymatic cocktails", as is to be expected. Again, this probably means you should give up on trying to make bamboo fabrics at home.


If you're mainly interested in processing bamboo, I can warmly recommend basket weaving. With a handful simple tools (some of which can be improvised), you can cut, dry, process and weave bamboo into baskets that are almost indestructible (and look pretty, too). Searching Google for images of 竹細工 (Japanese bamboo basket weaving) gives a good idea of what is possible.

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You could try cow dung as a "fine-tuned enzymatic cocktail". Cows break down grass by hosting lots of mirco-organisms. They might do the work for you.

  • 3
    Without references to this process actually being used, this looks like a troll answer. – Jan Doggen Mar 13 '18 at 12:52

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