Bamboo fabrics are known to have excellent quality. It’s durable, comfortable to wear, and anti-bacterial, making it an extremely popular choice. That said, how do you wash bamboo fabric and not damage it?
To wash bamboo fabric, pre-treat and remove existing stains before washing. The key to washing bamboo fabric is to be as gentle as possible to avoid pilling and other damage. This means either hand washing your bamboo clothing and sheets or setting your washing machine to the gentle cycle.
Just like any other fabric, washing clothes and sheets made out of bamboo is a long process. This, along with a few helpful tips, is what I’m going to walk you through in the next sections.
1. Pretreat Existing Stains on Your Bamboo Fabric
Excessively washing your bamboo fabrics can lead to damage. Although the material itself is known to be very durable and long-lasting, it’s very delicate when it comes to its washing needs. This applies to how frequently they are washed.
Because bamboo fabrics can stay fresh a lot longer than other fabrics, I recommend washing them after at least six uses for clothes and at least two weeks for sheets, pillows, and towels, provided that they don’t smell yet or they didn’t get any stains.
If your bamboo fabric has existing stains, the first step is to pretreat them. Remove the stain, so you won’t have to load them more than once. If this isn’t possible because of how heavy the stain is, at least reduce it so a gentle cycle will be enough for the fabric.
Here are some things to consider when pretreating a stain:
- Prepare a mister and a detergent. It’s fine to use a heavy-duty detergent for now since we’re going to use only a few drops of it. Just avoid bleach or anything bleach-based. An enzyme-based detergent will work better.
- Spray water on the stain using the mister. Lightly rub some detergent until it is almost gone. You can just sprinkle the detergent and skip the rubbing if we’re talking about a light stain.
- Let it sit for about 15 minutes before loading it onto the machine. A good detergent will remove the stain (or most of it) before machine washing.
Don’t Dry-Clean Your Bamboo Fabric After Pretreatment
Dry cleaning is usually not recommended by manufacturers because the chemicals used in it can damage bamboo fibers. There are some that are strong enough to be dry-cleaned, but to be safe, it’s best to opt for the manual hand wash or rely on your regular washing machine.
To know if your bamboo fabric is dry-clean-safe, refer to the care label that comes with it. It will tell you what you can and cannot do to clean the clothing or sheet.
Don’t Leave Your Bamboo Fabric Wet for a Long Time
If you got your bamboo clothing or sheet wet, don’t leave it as it is. Don’t just throw it in the laundry hamper, expecting it to dry there. If you do, then you will be exposing your bamboo fabric to the risk of mold and mildew growth.
This may be a small and easy-to-solve issue for most materials, but not for bamboo sheets since you can’t turn to the good old vinegar and bleach to remove the mold.
2. Choose a Proper Detergent
After pretreating the stain, make sure to choose a proper detergent first before washing it by hand or machine. Using eco-friendly detergents is an excellent way to clean bamboo fabric because they usually don’t contain bleach. You can also opt for liquid detergents, as long as they’re mild and not bleach-based.
Some things that you should avoid are washer balls and harsh detergents since these can quicken the pilling of the fabrics and may even cause wear and tears even after just one wash.
The detergent you’ll use will play a big part in washing bamboo fabric. You can usually get away with using regular detergents to wash bamboo fabrics.
However, if you really want the best and most gentle product, look out for plant-based detergents, like the Gain Botanicals in Orange Blossom Vanilla (available on Amazon.com). It’s compatible with bamboo fabrics, gentle on the skin, and free from dyes and phosphates.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Chlorine Bleach
Don’t use chlorine bleach on your bamboo fabrics. No matter how soiled your bamboo fabric is, chlorine bleach will only cause more bad than good. It’s too harsh for the bamboo fibers and will weaken them even after just a little drop. Some are also strong enough to leave holes or completely disintegrate the clothes and sheets.
I’m not saying that you should avoid all kinds of bleach. If you really need to remove a stubborn stain, you can always look for a bleach that’s either enzyme or oxygen-based. Both are less harsh yet equally effective. You still shouldn’t use them often, though.
Avoid Using Fabric Softeners on Bamboo Fabric
Just like chlorine-based bleach, fabric softeners have chemicals that can damage bamboo fabrics. Besides, you don’t really have to worry about maintaining the softness of the fabric since it can retain this quality even after several washes.
3. Set Your Machine to the Right Cycle and Temperature
No matter if we’re talking about bamboo clothing, sheets, pillowcases, or blankets, you only need to remember one thing when washing them: be gentle. Although the material itself is durable, it still needs a lot of care in terms of cleaning. This applies to the cycle of your washing machine, the water temperature, and the type of detergent you’ll use.
If there’s a hand wash cycle in your washing machine, you should use it instead. It’s a lighter option than the gentle wash and will be much better in taking care of your bamboo fabric. You can read my other article if you want to know more about the hand wash setting.
The temperature, on the other hand, will depend on the specific type of bamboo fabric. Bamboo rayon viscose is best washed in warm water, while other manufacturers advise washing their fabric only in cold water.
A good rule of thumb is to use 30-40 °C (86-104 °F) for a warm wash and 20 °C (68 °F) for a cold wash. Be sure to check the label on the fabric to determine which temperature works best for the product.
4. Load All Your Bamboo Clothing, Sheets, Pillowcases, etc.
Once you’re sure that all settings are right, it’s time to load your bamboo fabrics onto the machine.
You can wash bamboo alongside other fabrics, but if you want to make sure that your bamboo clothing and sheets stay in their best condition, I recommend going for a separate wash. Either way, ensure all are buttoned, zippers are closed, and garments are inside out.
Take note that if your fabrics are heavily soiled, you should first soak them in the machine for about 15 minutes. Use warm water up to 40 °C (104 °F). This applies to those that still have heavy stains even after pretreating.
If your load underwent the 15-minute presoak, use cold water (as low as 20 °C / 68 °F) for the actual wash.
5. Air Dry Your Newly-Washed Bamboo Fabric
Bamboo fabrics, especially if they’re woven, are best when air-dried. Simply hang them on your clothesline, and wait for a few days. However, there may be some exceptions, especially when the weather doesn’t permit it or if you have limited space.
Here are other things to keep in mind after washing your bamboo fabric:
Don’t Hang Bamboo Fabric Outside When It’s Too Hot
Be careful not to expose your bamboo fabric to extreme heat. If it’s too hot outside, it’s best to use your indoor clothesline or even a low-heat dryer cycle if you’re in a rush. Keeping them under the sun can heat the bamboo fibers and shrink the fabric.
Don’t Stretch Your Bamboo Fabric
Knitted bamboo fabrics are a little trickier since they need to be laid out flat during the drying process to avoid stretching them. Bamboo lycra and bamboo spandex are two of the very few blended fabrics that you can safely stretch.
Other than these, you have to be very careful not to stretch out your bamboo clothing and sheets since they can ruin their structure and shape. This applies to washing, drying, and storing the fabrics, so avoid things like frequent dryer runs or forcing the materials to fit the wrong size.
Don’t Leave Bamboo Sheets in the Dryer for Too Long
If you used a dryer to dry your bamboo fabrics for whatever reason, make sure not to leave your sheets and clothes in there for too long. Once the cycle stops, take it out immediately.
Even if it’s in low heat, it can still shrink the fabrics if exposed for too long. If you need to dry them some more, hang them on your clothesline or in front of a fan (if you’re in a hurry).
6. Iron the Bamboo Fabric at a Low Temperature (If Needed)
Every manufacturer may have different guidelines for proper fabric care, even if they’re using the same material. Not all bamboo fabric materials are created equal. Some may tolerate dry iron, while others prefer steam. Always check the care label.
Air-drying bamboo fabric on a clothesline is a highly recommended way to prevent wrinkles and prevent the need for ironing your clothes.
However, if you need to be formal and presentable in your clothing, or perhaps your sheets are too crumpled, and you need to iron them, apply the same rule as the previous steps: keep the temperature low. Using a high-temp heat iron can cause discoloration or, worse, scorched bamboo fibers.
7. Neatly Hang Your Bamboo Fabric in an Airy Closet
Bamboo fabrics have to be stored in a place where they can breathe. This means airy and spacious areas or locations that won’t accumulate moisture over time. You also have to avoid using plastic bags when storing the said fabric to prevent the growth of mold and mildew. Plastic containers can also cause discoloration to your clothing and sheets.
Basically, your storage should be three things: cool, dark, and dry.
If you prefer folding your bamboo clothes, you can check out this step-by-step guide to folding your clothes.
How To Keep Your Bamboo Fabric From Pilling
Pilling is one of the most common issues among bamboo fabrics. If you don’t know what it is, it’s basically when small lint balls form on the surface of the sheets and clothes.
You can easily remove them by manually picking out the lint using your hands or a special fabric comb. However, prevention is always better than cure, so here are some things that you can do to prevent the bamboo fabric from pilling:
- Opt for short and gentle wash cycles whenever it’s time to clean your bamboo fabrics.
- Wash your bamboo fabrics inside out.
- Don’t wash the fabrics with hot water. The ideal temperature is 30 °C (86 °F), but you’ll be fine as long as you don’t go over 40 °C (104 °F).
- Hand wash your bamboo fabrics and air dry them every wash day if possible.
- Avoid using products with harsh chemicals, including but not limited to chlorine bleach and fabric softeners.
All in all, you just need to keep the golden rule in mind: “The gentler you are toward your bamboo fabric, the longer it will last.” As long as you follow this, you can rest assured that you can enjoy your bamboo clothing and sheets for a long time.
To wash bamboo fabric without damaging it, you must follow the steps below:
- Treat pre-existing stains using a very small amount of heavy-duty detergent for up to 15 minutes.
- Choose a light detergent, either powder or liquid, and then set your washing machine’s settings to a gentle cycle.
- Take the fabric out immediately after the wash cycle and sundry them. Don’t keep them in water for too long to avoid pilling.
Remember: using a gentle washing method, cold to warm water temperature, and non-bleach-based detergent are the main keys to well-cared-for bamboo fabrics.