· By Undercover Living
TENCEL™ and bamboo bed linen: which is better?
Bamboo fabric is often advertised as being the eco-friendly fabric of choice. In our bed linen, we’re using a material that’s similar to bamboo called TENCEL™. But what is TENCEL™ and why is it different and better than bamboo?
In this post, we’ve broken down the key differences for you and explain why you shouldn’t be “bamboozled” into thinking you’re making an eco-friendly choice with bamboo fabric.
Both bamboo and TENCEL™ are so called “viscose” fabrics. This means that they are generated from dissolved wood pulp. Bamboo is made from the “culms” (stems) of bamboo, TENCEL™ on the other hand is made from a number of different trees including eucalyptus, beech, spruce, birch and others. These are all sourced from sustainably managed forests.
As a fast growing plant, bamboo is naturally associated with sustainability. However the process of turning the plant into fabric is problematic. Most fabrics labelled as “bamboo” aren’t made from the virgin bamboo fibres. Instead, they’re turned into viscose “in a toxic soup of chemicals” (B The Change) including carbon disulfide, which is harmful to both the environment and labourers (see Fake Silk by Paul Blanc, 2016). The bottom line is that bamboo isn’t as sustainable as you might think. Fashion brands such as Patagonia and Eileen Fisher have stopped using bamboo fabrics altogether.
TENCEL™, on the other hand, uses a unique closed loop production process meaning water and solvents are reused at a rate of more than 99%. It won the European Award for the Environment for this innovative technology. The trees used for its production are from controlled forests that are certified according to FSC® and PEFC™ standards. Most of the wood used for this is in fact timber that would be unsuitable for high-grade products, such as furniture (see here).
Bamboo and TENCEL™ have rated very closely in tests in terms of comfort (see here). Both are super soft to the touch, breathable and temperature regulating, helping you feel cool and dry through the night.
One of the biggest advantages of TENCEL™ is the transparency offered through the use of the branded label. When producing our bed linen, we go through a certification process with Lenzing, the owner of the TENCEL™ trademark to verify that we’re using authentic TENCEL™ fibres. This guarantee means that a host of stringent guidelines were met throughout the supply chain. There’s no central body that provides this oversight for bamboo. In other words, you can’t be sure where the bamboo was sourced from and what the labour conditions were under which it’s been harvested and then processed. On top of that, you could be buying a product that’s been blended with polyester or other fibres and there would be no way to know.
For sustainability reports from Lenzing, the owner of TENCEL™ brand see here: