In the world of pillows, bamboo pillows are the newest kid on the block. They seem to be everywhere! But are they really natural? Most importantly, are they really pillows? This article answers all such questions and more. Let’s get started.
What Are Bamboo Pillows?
Technically, a bamboo pillow should mean a pillow stuffed with some sort of bamboo-derived filling material. It’s true to an extent, but not always the case.
A bamboo pillow mostly contains memory foam (solid or shredded) and sometimes a tiny percentage of bamboo fiber produced from the cellulose of bamboo wood.
The bamboo in these pillows mostly refers to the fabric of the outer casing that holds the fill material. It is woven using one of the following types of regenerated cellulosic bamboo fibers:
- Bamboo viscose – aka bamboo rayon (first-generation bamboo fabric)
- Bamboo modal (second-generation bamboo fabric)
- Bamboo lyocell (third-generation bamboo fabric)
How Are Bamboo Fibers Manufactured?
Manufacturing bamboo fibers is a 5-step process that involves…
- Pulverization of bamboo into chips
- Pulpification of the chips
- Chemical dissolution of cellulose
- Extraction of fibers
- Cleansing and processing of the fibers
The initial mechanical pulverization of bamboo wood involves chopping, shredding, and grinding it into small chips, which are then soaked in a chemical solution.
The production of bamboo viscose and modal involves a solution of sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide, while that of bamboo lyocell involves amine oxide.
Both of them work toward breaking down the cellulose content of the bamboo chips. However, amine oxide does it without chemically altering the structure of the cellulose.
For bamboo viscose and modal production, sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide react to form sodium carbonate and water, which break down the cellulose via a process known as pulpification.
The resulting pulp is then dissolved, extracted using spinneret machines, and further solidified using caustic soda, ammonia, acetone, and sulphuric acid. It is this solid extract that forms the bamboo fibers.
Modal fibers, however, undergo another treatment after spinning in which the filaments are stretched to increase their molecular alignment and strength. For this reason, bamboo modal fabric is lighter and finer than bamboo viscose.
A similar phenomenon happens when cellulose comes in contact with amine oxide in the production of bamboo lyocell. Firstly, it dissolves to form a solution called dope and then precipitates in a water bath to result in bamboo lyocell fibers.
Although it is tempting to call both materials 100% natural, the use of chemicals makes them rather synthetic – just like latex. Also, they are man-made. Still and all, for the sake of simplicity, we will refer to bamboo viscose as well as lyocell as natural products in this article, although not pure.
Please keep in mind that the term “bamboo pillow” also refers to removable pillowcases made exclusively of bamboo viscose or lyocell. The material is durable, breathable, and dubbed hypoallergenic. Additionally, it gives the pillow a plush yet firm feel.
Because bamboo as a fill material inside the pillow is either nonexistent or negligible, we shall concentrate exclusively on bamboo casings and pillowcases (removable and fixed) in this article.
- Highly moisture wicking
- 100% vegan
- Not 100% natural
- Not antimicrobial
- Limited hypoallergenicity
- Not biodegradable
For instance, bamboo viscose has been scientifically proven to be naturally hypoallergenic, but let’s not forget that we must always use a pillowcase in conjunction with a pillow, the filling of which might or might not be hypoallergenic.
Similarly, bamboo viscose is believed to be soft and breathable, which helps an individual stay cool when sleeping. However, the cooling ability of woven bamboo viscose is often dismissed by the presence of memory foam, which is notoriously known to trap body heat.
Yet again, bamboo pillowcases are a great option for buyers of vegan products because no animals are harmed during their manufacture. However, it would be wrong to call them eco-friendly, although bamboo is natural and sustainable as the fastest-growing woody plant in the world!
This is because the production of bamboo viscose involves the use of strong, toxic chemicals and air pollutants. 50% of the solvents go into the environment as wastewater.
Are They Really Hypoallergenic?
Because the hypoallergenicity of bamboo fiber has been scientifically established, pillowcases made out of it could be a great choice for people with sensitive skin or allergies.
However, in the medical sense of the term, the hypoallergenicity of any product refers to the way it is manufactured by undertaking every possible measure to make sure it causes minimal instances of allergic reactions.
Additionally, no regulation in the United States strictly defines the term, which is why it is vague. The hypoallergenicity of bamboo, therefore, isn’t absolute. Yet, manufacturers of bamboo pillowcases liberally use it to market and sell their products.
That does not mean bamboo pillows could reduce instances of acne and other similar skin issues. But, we also have to take into consideration the presence of memory foam, which is known to cause rashes, headaches, and other similar allergic reactions.
Because the pillow fill and pillowcase must be considered a single, inseparable unit, it is not practical to make sweeping statements regarding the worthiness of bamboo pillowcases in fighting allergies.
To deal with instances of deceptive marketing, the US Federal Trade Commission in 2009 issued warnings against several retailers who were selling bamboo products.
Of them, Sears Holdings Corporation was asked to pay a fine of $475,000 as well as do away with misleading advertising for its line of 100% bamboo products. Following suit were other large companies, including Macy’s and Amazon.com.
As per a report published in Time Magazine, roughly $1.3 million was collected as a fine for violating the Textile Products Identification Act.
Although the warnings and subsequent implementation of settlements have led to retailers mostly adhering to the FTC’s requirements, deceptive marketing practices still run rampant, especially among small traders.
Today, reputable sellers will never claim that bamboo pillowcases are made of 100% bamboo. Even then, properties such as hypoallergenicity could be an exaggeration.
Are They Environmentally Friendly?
Bamboo pillowcases cannot be labeled as environmentally friendly, although bamboo is 100% natural.
Bamboo fabric’s high level of sustainability has already been discussed. The majority of it is grown naturally without the use of fertilizers or pesticides. Overall, less water is used because bamboo can thrive in most agricultural locations without irrigation.
Additionally, it can also sprout from its roots, saving hours of labor each time it needs to be planted and replanted. Its sourcing does not deplete natural resources, which is why the fiber derived from it is often termed carbon neutral.
Even then, bamboo fibers are far from eco-friendly. They lie somewhere between naturals and synthetics because of the extensive use of chemicals during their manufacture and processing.
For instance, the production of bamboo viscose and modal fibers requires carbon disulfide – a toxin that causes issues in the human reproductive system. It not only poses a threat to the factory workers, but also pollutes the air via emissions and the water via waste release.
Only 50% of the chemicals are recovered in most factories, which means the other 50% goes into the environment. Other potential hazardous chemicals used in the process include sodium hydroxide and sulfuric acid, which can equally harm the environment.
The third-generation bamboo fabric, bamboo lyocell (marketed as Tencel®), is currently the best substitute. Because Lyocell is produced in a “closed-loop system” with 99% of the solvent recycled, it is less harmful to the environment.
Even still, it is impossible to completely discount bamboo fiber’s damaging effects on the environment.
Additionally, the production of bamboo might not be as sustainable as it should be. It would not be environmentally benign in the truest sense of the word if, for example, the plantation of bamboo necessitates the conversion of natural forests into farms, the eradication of ancient and endangered flora, or the practice of unlawful means.
Lastly, bamboo is biodegradable, but bamboo fabric isn’t because the chemicals used in the process of manufacture break down the cellulose in a way, that it cannot degrade. For the same reason, bamboo fabric cannot be labeled as antimicrobial, despite what manufacturers claim.
Are They Organic?
Because bamboo plantations do not require pesticides and chemical fertilizers, bamboo is mostly grown organically. However, you will seldom see pillowcases with bamboo fabric being certified organic because of the way the fibers are processed – using chemicals.
Do They Get Dust Mites?
When it comes to dust mites, bamboo pillowcases are no exception. Like all bedding, they, too, are prone to dust mite infestation, regardless of their hypoallergenicity. However, regularly washing your pillows helps in keeping the dust mites at bay.
Do They Make You Sweat?
Bamboo cloth is permeable and works well to wick away moisture. It has excellent air permeability, which is advantageous for hot sleepers. Because of the fabric’s micro-holes and gaps, the pillowcases are incredibly comfortable to sleep on.
We must keep in mind, nevertheless, that memory foam is typically used as the filling in most bamboo pillowcases. As a result, bamboo fabric’s ability to keep you cool eventually becomes moot.
Why Does a Bamboo Pillow Stink?
Although bamboo pillows are excellent for your health, they may not smell so wonderful when they are first opened. It is important for you to realize that this is not the scent of bamboo cloth. The fill substance, which is typically memory foam, releases gases that result in the odor.
During the drying and curing process, polyurethane and other chemicals used to make this material evaporate and release compounds into the atmosphere. Of course, the smell of a bamboo pillow dissipates quickly. It eventually disappears after washing the pillow cover and using the pillow for a bit.
How to Get the Smell Out of Bamboo Pillows?
To get the smell out of a new bamboo pillow, let it sit outside in the fresh air for a few hours after opening it. Doing so will dissipate gases quickly. Once the smell is gone, it will never return!
How Long Does it Take for a Bamboo Pillowcase to Dry?
To dry your pillowcase, hang it up or lay it flat. Letting the pillow air dry for about three to four hours will accomplish this task. However, placing it directly underneath a running fan might help expedite things if you prefer a faster drying time. Check that there aren’t any damp spots before putting the cover back on and sleeping on your pillow again!
How Often Should You Change Your Bamboo Pillow?
It is recommended to change your bamboo pillow cover every 2-3 years, depending on how often you wash the pillow. If you are prone to allergies or are particularly sensitive to dust mites and other allergens, it is advised to replace the covers more frequently.
Are Bamboo Pillows Good for Neck Pain?
If you’re referring to bamboo as a fabric material in the pillowcase, it doesn’t have anything to do with neck pain. It neither alleviates nor aggravates the condition.
If you’re referring to the bamboo pillow as a whole, including the pillowcase and the memory foam fill, know that it can improve the alignment of your neck. Scientific research has also demonstrated how memory foam pillows can reduce neck fatigue.
Are Bamboo Pillows Good for Snoring?
Bamboo as a fabric material for pillowcases doesn’t play any role in improving snoring or making it worse. However, the memory foam fill that makes up the pillow has been scientifically proven to be ideal for snorers.
Can you Wash Bamboo Pillows?
Absolutely! You can wash bamboo pillows. You can toss them in the washing machine, but you should dry them out naturally instead of using heat to maintain the integrity of the pillow and prevent it from shrinking.
You may also want to read: How to Wash Pillows by Hand and in a Washing Machine: A Complete Guide
Is Bamboo Comfortable to Sleep On?
Yes, bamboo is very comfortable to sleep on. The natural material is breathable, which means that it keeps you cool while you sleep. It also wicks away moisture to prevent sweat buildup, which helps keep your pillow fresh.
How Long Does it Take to Get Used to Sleeping on Bamboo Pillows?
Bamboo pillows have been known to take time to get used to. Many users reported that the best results were not seen until after three-four weeks.
Can Bamboo Pillows Cause Headaches?
It is common to experience headaches due to sleep deprivation or sleeping on a pillow too high. However, there is no data that states that bamboo-infused pillowcases cause headaches.
Are Bamboo Pillowcases Good for Acne?
Yes, it is. Bamboo pillowcases are hypoallergenic, free of irritants and allergens, and gentle on skin afflicted with acne, eczema, or psoriasis.
Are You Supposed to Put a Pillowcase on a Bamboo Pillow?
When talking about bamboo pillows, we are already talking about bamboo pillow cases, not the pillow itself. So no, placing a regular pillow case over the bamboo pillow case will offer no benefit to the user who sleeps on it.
Are Bamboo Pillowcases Good for Hair?
Yes! Bamboo pillowcases are great for hair because bamboo fiber is naturally anti-static, which means it will help prevent tangles in your hair.
Are Bamboo Pillowcases Better Than Silk Pillowcases?
Both materials offer a soft and smooth texture and have their benefits. Although because of its breathability, bamboo is more comfortable and effective at keeping you cool than silk. While both fabrics are easy to care for in a home washing machine, bamboo can be washed repeatedly without damaging the fabric.
Which Is Better Organic Cotton or Bamboo Fiber?
Although both have their benefits and organic cotton is additionally certified for its antimicrobial properties, in terms of comfort and durability, bamboo fiber is the clear winner. It’s cooler than cotton and doesn’t pill or shrink.
Which Is Better, Bamboo or Silk Pillowcase?
While comparing bamboo fiber to silk, you must remember that both materials have their benefits. However, while silk and bamboo sheets feel soft against the skin, bamboo fabric lasts longer, gets softer with time, and is hypoallergenic and antibacterial.
Do Bamboo Pillows Turn Yellow?
Like other pillows, bamboo pillowcases can become discolored or yellow over time if you do not clean it or wash it regularly.
Are Bamboo Pillows Better than Down Pillows?
When comparing bamboo pillows to Down pillows, it is hard to do so because the former are pillowcases while the latter is a fill material. But each has its own specific set of benefits: if you want comfort and all those other good things, use Down pillows in bamboo pillowcases.
Are Bamboo Pillows Better than Feather Pillows?
Both types of pillows can make a difference in your sleep. For the best results, use feather pillows put in bamboo pillowcases.
Are Bamboo Pillows Better than Latex Pillows?
Although bamboo pillows and latex pillows are used in different ways, they both provide the benefits of comfort and support. To reap all these rewards, use a latex pillow put into a bamboo pillowcase.
Are Bamboo Pillows Better than Wool Pillows?
There can’t be a fair comparison between the two as the bamboo pillow is actually a pillowcase, while wool is a filling material. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be used together! If you want the best of both worlds—bamboo’s excellent benefits and the soft comfort provided by wool filling material—try putting a regular old-fashioned wooly pillow in one of those nifty bamboo covers.
How Much Do Bamboo Pillows Cost?
Depending on their size, style, adjustability, fill material, and other considerations, bamboo pillows can range in price from $9 to $200. While most people would consider that price range to be too high, if you explore around, you might be able to find affordable solutions when there are deals.
Why are Bamboo Pillows so Expensive?
The work and expense involved in producing bamboo fabric are what drive up the price of bamboo pillows. Although bamboo is commonly available and can be farmed responsibly, the production process requires costly tools and chemicals.
Where to Buy the Best Bamboo Pillows?
To purchase the best bamboo pillows, visit the following sites: