Bamboo pillows are extremely popular these days. But are they made of bamboo? How organic and environmentally friendly are they? In this article, you’ll find out.
- Bamboo Pillow Case VS Bamboo Pillow
- What is a bamboo pillow case made of?
- What is a bamboo pillow made of?
- Are bamboo pillows sustainable?
- Are bamboo pillows environmentally friendly?
- Are bamboo pillows organic?
- Are bamboo pillows toxic?
- Are bamboo pillows dangerous?
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Bamboo Pillow Case VS Bamboo Pillow
First, we need to point out that a pillow is generally made of two parts:
- the pillowcase
- the pillow
Bamboo pillowcases are made with rayon, a semi-synthetic bamboo fiber, and are often made from a rayon/polyester blend.
In contrast, the pillow inside a bamboo pillow is normally made of shredded memory foam, which is an artificial material.
Pillows are normally named after the stuffing and not the encasement.
This means that most “bamboo” pillows can be more accurately described as “shredded memory foam” pillows.
Also, according to the FTC: “unless a product is made directly with bamboo fiber — often called “mechanically processed bamboo” — it can’t be called bamboo.”
This means that a manufacturer needs “competent and reliable evidence, such as scientific tests and analyses, to show that it’s made of actual bamboo fiber.”
In summary, bamboo pillows are partly derived from bamboo but are also made from a variety of other materials as well as various chemical manufacturing processes.
This means that if you’re looking for a 100% natural and organic pillow, then it’s probably best to shop for something else.
If you’d like to know more about the benefits of bamboo pillows, then read: Are Bamboo Pillows Good?
What is a bamboo pillow case made of?
Bamboo pillowcases are made with rayon (also known as viscose), a semi-synthetic bamboo fiber that is soft, shiny, and absorbent, similar to silk.
Viscose rayon is made from the fast-growing bamboo plant that is part of the grass family.
Bamboo plants include some of the fastest-growing plants in the world. Some species can grow as fast as 1 mm every 90 seconds or 3 feet (91.44 cm) per day!
The bamboo fiber used to make bamboo pillowcases comes from the bamboo species most similar to timber (in total there are more than 1,400 species). The tropical woody bamboos are known scientifically as “Bambuseae”.
The woody bamboo is harvested and put through a chemical process called the “Viscose Rayon Manufacturing Process”.
Bamboo fabric is manufactured this way because it is soft to touch, and consumers find it more desirable. A certified organic bamboo fabric would feel too rough.
The viscose rayon manufacturing process takes raw cellulose (plant fiber) and turns it into fibers that are used to make fabric.
First, the plant fibers are crushed then immersed in a liquid mixture of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) which dissolves the bamboo cellulose.
After being put through various chemical processes the ripened viscose solution is forced through a spinneret.
A spinneret is a device that resembles a shower head with many small holes.
Then the filaments are guided to a roller where they are wound onto a spindle.
The last step is to bleach and dry the fibers so that they can be woven into a fabric or textile.
The description above is a simplified version of a complex manufacturing process:
- Soaking of Cellulose
- Compression or Conditioning of Pulp
- Shredding or Cutting Process
- Ageing Process
- Churning Process or Xanthation
- Mixing or Dissolving Process
- Ripening Process
- Filtering Process
- Degassing Process
- Spinning Process
Below is a visual representation of the viscose rayon manufacturing process:
Watch the video below to see how viscose fibres are produced in a factory:
What is a bamboo pillow made of?
A bamboo pillow is normally made with shredded memory foam which is primarily made of polyurethane, a man-made material.
The polyurethane is combined with additional chemicals to make it viscose or fluid, and elastic in nature. This is why memory foam is also often called viscoelastic foam.
As a result of these properties, memory foam can conform to your body when pressure is applied and regain its shape slowly once pressure is removed.
This means that memory foam makes an excellent support for your head and neck when sleeping.
However, since memory foam is man-made and chemically treated, no part of the pillow can be described as “natural.”
Also, note that it is not generally advised that you wash your memory foam pillow in a washing machine. Rather follow this guide on how to wash and dry your bamboo pillow.
Are bamboo pillows sustainable?
Bamboo pillows contain bamboo, which is considered a sustainable material because it grows quickly like grass and can be harvested and regrown. This prevents deforestation because bamboo can replace trees to provide cellulose to manufacture modern fabrics and textiles.
Are bamboo pillows environmentally friendly?
Since bamboo rayon is made from cellulose, it is biodegradable and environmentally friendly. Unfortunately, carbon disulfide and other chemicals used to make most rayon fabrics harm the environment.
Are bamboo pillows organic?
For bamboo pillows to be considered certified organic, they would need to be manufactured in a way that does not involve harmful chemicals. In most cases, bamboo fabrics are made of rayon viscose, which wouldn’t pass any organic standard and cannot be certified organic.
Are bamboo pillows toxic?
Bamboo pillows contain memory foam that can include toxic chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), formaldehyde, benzene, and naphthalene. Some of these chemicals are known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and can release vapors or gases. These vapors are not all toxic, and they should dissipate over time thereby reducing your exposure to potentially toxic chemicals.
The vapors or gases in memory foam can cause a chemical smell known as “off-gassing” when you first open a bamboo pillow’s packaging. Find out how to get rid of the memory foam smell.
Are bamboo pillows dangerous?
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in memory foam can cause side effects such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, loss of coordination, eye and throat irritation or difficulty breathing, and asthma. Higher concentrations and exposure over long periods of time may also cause damage to the liver, kidneys or central nervous system.
The memory foam found in bamboo pillows may contain isocyanates which can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin.
PBDE flame retardants present in memory foam are another concern according to Heather Stapleton, an environmental chemist at Duke University. There is not enough data to determine whether low levels of exposure to these chemicals over long periods of time will eventually make people sick.
As such, it’s recommended that you buy memory foam products that are certified low in toxic chemicals.
One of the certification standards to look for in memory foam products is the GREENGUARD Gold Certification.
The bamboo pillow below is GreenGuard Gold Certified (and includes a Plush Kool-Flow Bamboo Bed Pillow Cover):
Rest easy knowing that these memory foam pillows are put under stringent third party lab testing and are GreenGuard Gold Certified to ensure your safety, quality and comfort.