Is Bamboo Rayon Safe for Babies? Why There May Be Better Alternatives

baby girl sleeping while wearing cuddle sprouts tencel clothing

In recent years, bamboo fabrics have become all the rage in sustainable fashion, particularly for baby clothing. Parents are drawn to bamboo-based fabrics, especially as bamboo rayon, for its buttery softness and eco-friendly reputation. However, the Federal Trade Commission has raised concerns about “false claims” surrounding bamboo clothing and the fabric’s environmental impact (1). This has left many parents wondering: Is bamboo rayon really safe for babies? Is it as eco-friendly as many think it is?

For parents looking to avoid dressing their baby in synthetic materials like polyester, bamboo rayon might seem like an appealing option. However, while bamboo is generally considered a sustainable material, bamboo-based fabrics like rayon and viscose come with their own set of concerns. Keep reading to learn more about what bamboo viscose is, how it's made, and how it stacks up against other sustainable fabrics like Tencel. By the end of this post, you’ll have a clearer picture of which fabrics are best to choose for baby clothes, and which ones are best to skip

What Is Bamboo Rayon Fabric?

Bamboo rayon fabric is a type of fabric made from bamboo cellulose (2). Once the bamboo is harvested, it is broken down into pulp and dissolved using a chemical solution, often including chemicals like carbon disulfide, sulfuric acid, and caustic soda. From there, the material is regenerated into cellulose fibers that are spun, woven, or knitted into bamboo rayon fabric that is commonly used in baby clothing and bedding.

While the general term “bamboo fabric” is often used, there are many subtypes of this textile. Most often, “bamboo fabric” is used in reference to bamboo rayon and bamboo viscose. 

The Benefits of Bamboo Rayon

While not as eco-friendly, soft hypoallergenic as Tencel, bamboo rayon has some benefits that make it popular among parents:

  • Soft and Stretchy: Known for its buttery soft feel, bamboo rayon is often softer than conventional cotton, though not quite as silky as Tencel.
  • Breathable and Moisture-Wicking: These desirable properties help with thermoregulation, keeping baby’s skin cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
  • Hypoallergenic: While the fabric is often marketed as hypoallergenic due to bamboo’s natural antimicrobial properties it’s debatable if these properties remain after processing with other chemicals.
  • Absorbent: Bamboo rayon is absorbent and can hold up to three times its weight in water.
  • Durable: While fairly durable, bamboo rayon doesn't quite match the durability of Tencel Lyocell and organic cotton.

While these benefits often draw parents to bamboo rayon fabric for their babies, there are a few concerns to be aware of. Keep reading to learn more.

bamboo plants with chemical compounds

What Is The Difference Between Bamboo Viscose and Bamboo Rayon?

The main difference between bamboo viscose and bamboo rayon fabrics lies in subtle differences in their manufacturing processes. Bamboo rayon, developed in the early 20th century, involves dissolving bamboo cellulose with chemicals like sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide, then solidifying the fibers with sulfuric acid. Bamboo viscose, a more modern method, follows a similar process but with refinements in the particular solvents used. In either case, both manufacturing processes have one important common factor: the use of harsh and potentially harmful chemicals, such as carbon disulfide, to break down the bamboo cellulose. 

Both fabrics originate from bamboo and fall into the category of semi-synthetic fibers. These fabrics are neither fully natural like cotton nor entirely synthetic like nylon and polyester. However, despite their bamboo origin, they undergo extensive chemical processing, raising environmental and health concerns. The chemicals involved can harm both the environment and factory workers. 

While bamboo viscose and bamboo rayon offer similar benefits such as softness and moisture-wicking properties, it’s important for parents to understand that the environmental impact and safety concerns of these fabric’s production may be greater than commonly believed.

Is Bamboo Rayon Safe For Babies' Skin? 

While bamboo rayon's soft texture might feel gentle, it may not be the safest fabric for your baby’s skin. Products made with bamboo rayon fabric are generally considered “safe, however ” for babies. However, as more and more parents learn about the harsh chemicals needed to create the fabric, there are questions about whether it’s really the best for the baby’s skin. While generally considered “safe,” bamboo rayon material undergoes a chemical-intensive manufacturing process involving strong chemicals like sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide. Although the final fabric should ideally be free of these chemicals, trace amounts may remain, posing risks of skin irritation for sensitive babies.

Additionally, bamboo rayon is often marketed as hypoallergenic, which appeals to many parents. However, this claim varies depending on the specific manufacturing process and additional treatments the fabric undergoes, such as bleaching, dyes, softeners, and wrinkle-resistors. As such, the rise in the popularity of bamboo fabrics, especially in baby clothing, has also led to a rise in deceptive marketing and false claims (3). It’s crucial to remember that bamboo produced through the rayon process does not retain the bamboo plant's natural or organic properties and benefits. Therefore, parents should take extra care and caution, researching brands thoroughly and reading labels and claims carefully. .

For peace of mind, look for clothing with certifications like Oeko-Tex Standard 100 or GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard). These certifications ensure the fabric has been tested for harmful substances and produced under environmentally friendly conditions. However, given the potential for chemical residues and the variability in hypoallergenic claims, bamboo rayon might not be the best choice for a baby's delicate skin.

baby hiding and phrase: bamboo fabric, sustainable or hype?

Sustainability Claims: Is Rayon Eco-Friendly?  

While bamboo is often touted as a sustainable resource, bamboo rayon fabric tells a different story. Bamboo itself is highly sustainable due to its fast growth, self-regeneration, and minimal need for pesticides. It's biodegradable and compostable, making it an excellent raw material. However, the environmental benefits of bamboo are significantly diminished when it is processed into rayon.

The production of bamboo rayon involves a chemical-heavy process that can be harmful to the environment. To convert bamboo into rayon, manufacturers use chemicals like sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide to break down the bamboo cellulose. This process is not only energy-intensive but also generates considerable waste. A substantial portion of these chemicals often finds its way into the environment through runoff, contributing to pollution and posing serious health risks to workers involved in the production.

Moreover, the manufacturing process of bamboo rayon consumes large amounts of water and energy, further reducing its eco-friendliness. Despite claims that bamboo rayon is a sustainable fabric, these chemical and resource-intensive production methods raise significant environmental concerns. Notably, companies like Patagonia have ceased using bamboo rayon due to its environmental impact (4).

The bottom line? Despite often being classified as a sustainable fabric, bamboo rayon isn’t as eco-friendly as it claims. For parents and consumers looking to make environmentally conscious choices, it’s important to consider fabrics that genuinely minimize environmental harm with everything from material sourcing to textile production, and beyond.

What Is The Safest Fabric for Babies? 

Naturally soft, breathable, and hypoallergenic fabrics such as Tencel and organic cotton are the safest fabrics for babies and their sensitive skin. Tencel, specifically Lenzing-branded TENCEL™ Lyocell, is produced sustainably and offers a silky smooth texture that is cool to the touch and gentle on the skin. It is highly breathable, hypoallergenic, excellent at moisture-wicking, and durable, maintaining its softness and shape after many washes.

Organic cotton is grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, reducing the risk of skin irritation. It is also breathable, soft, and durable, making it a safe and practical choice for baby clothing.

While bamboo rayon is softer and more breathable than fully synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, and acrylic, it involves various harsh chemicals in its production, making it less safe for babies compared to Tencel and organic cotton.

Tencel Fabric: Better Than Bamboo? 

When compared to bamboo rayon, Tencel stands out as the superior choice for babies and the environment. Both fabrics are known for their softness, but Tencel offers a cooler, silkier texture that is exceptionally gentle and soothing on a baby’s delicate skin, making it an excellent option for baby clothing.

Tencel excels in breathability, effectively wicking moisture and promoting thermoregulation to keep babies comfortable in various temperatures. While bamboo rayon is also breathable, Tencel's moisture-wicking capabilities are more advanced, making it a more desirable choice for everything from daywear to pajamas.

Both Tencel and bamboo rayon are marketed as hypoallergenic. However, Tencel’s manufacturing process is more consistent, ensuring fewer residual chemicals that could irritate sensitive skin. More specifically, Cuddle Sprouts uses Lenzing-certified TENCEL™  fabric to ensure transparency and traceability in the fabric’s production process, offering parents assurance about its origin and the sustainability of its manufacturing methods. In contrast, the manufacturing process for bamboo rayon is difficult to track, making it hard to verify the environmental and ethical standards and the potential use of hazardous chemicals.

In terms of durability, Tencel outperforms bamboo rayon and is better able to withstand the curiosities and adventures of those first years of childhood. Furthermore, Tencel maintains its shape, softness, and integrity even after numerous washes, making it a more resilient and practical choice for inevitable messes and active babies.

When it comes to eco-friendliness, Tencel is produced through a highly sustainable closed-loop process that recycles water and solvents, minimizing environmental impact. Bamboo rayon, however, requires harsh chemicals and an energy- and water-intensive process, leading to significant environmental concerns.

Ultimately, Tencel is generally the better fabric compared to bamboo rayon—especially for environmentally-conscious parents looking to provide the utmost comfort for their baby without harming the environment in the process. It offers superior comfort, breathability, hypoallergenic properties, and durability, all while being the more environmentally-friendly fabric For parents prioritizing safety and sustainability, Tencel is the ideal choice for baby clothing and nursery bedding, including crib sheets and blankets.

happy baby girl wearing cuddle sprouts floral bodysuit made of hypoallergenic tencel fabric

The Cuddle Sprouts Promise: Comfort, Safety, and Sustainability

At Cuddle Sprouts, we recognize the challenges of parenting and know the many decisions that go into ensuring the best for your little one. Therefore, we are more than just a brand—we are a promise to parents. We’re here to give parents peace of mind, knowing that when they dress their baby in Cuddle Sprouts,  they are choosing the best in comfort, safety, and sustainability.

Our Tencel baby clothes are crafted with the softest, most gentle fabric, ensuring that every cuddle and movement feels like a loving embrace. We meticulously select materials that are not only gentle on delicate skin but also free from harmful chemicals, ensuring little ones are wrapped in garments that meet the highest standards of comfort and safety.

From our eco-conscious fabric choices to our ethical manufacturing practices, we strive to minimize our environmental impact at every turn. All of our products aim to provide your little one with optimal comfort and care without worrying about the impact our fabrics will have on their skin or the environment. Ultimately, by choosing Cuddle Sprouts, parents can feel good about the positive impact their purchase has on their baby and the planet. 

Join us in our mission to nurture happy, healthy little sprouts while leaving a greener footprint on our planet. Shop our soft, stylish, and sustainable collection of baby and toddler clothes today. 

Resources

  1. Federal Trade Commission, “Bamboo’ Fabrics”
  2. Sewport, “What is Bamboo Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where”
  3. Federal Trade Commission “FTC Uses Penalty Offense Authority to Seek Largest-Ever Civil Penalty for Bogus Bamboo Marketing from Kohl’s and Walmart”
  4. Patagonia’s The Footprint Chronicles® , “Bamboo and Rayon”

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