Bamboo Viscose vs Cotton: Which is Best?

Fashion evolves all the time. In fact, trends can change so very quickly that fashions of last week could be completely out of fashion this week. Along with all of the trends and styles that go in and out of focus week by week are the materials they are made out of. And today, there are so many natural and synthetic materials being used by fashion designers and labels worldwide. One new name that has been cropping up on clothing tags more and more often is bamboo viscose. But the question is – what is bamboo viscose? And when you pit bamboo viscose vs cotton, which one is better? What is the right choice to avoid irritation and to allow for breathability to boot?

In today’s article, we are here to talk all about the different qualities of both bamboo viscose and cotton. We’ll be comparing bamboo viscose vs cotton to see which is better, and which you should choose in order to be more eco-friendly and kinder to your body. We will be talking about bamboo viscose, what it is, how it is made, its advantages and its disadvantages. And of course, we will be doing the same for cotton.

If you are ready to learn more about bamboo viscose and cotton, let’s get right to it, shall we?

What Exactly is Bamboo Viscose?

bamboo viscose vs cotton

The first question to answer here is: what’s bamboo viscose?

Well, bamboo viscose is known by two names, as a matter of fact. It’s called bamboo viscose in some cases, but in other cases it is known by the name bamboo rayon. Sometimes, this fabric may even be called “regenerated bamboo”. Essentially, this is a fiber made out of regenerated cellulose. It has recently made its appearance on the textile market, both for apparel use and for home furnishing use.

There are a number of different things that bamboo rayon gets used for. In terms of bamboo viscose vs cotton, cotton is certainly the older and more popular material used. However, bamboo rayon is definitely beginning to catch up. These are some of the things that you can expect to be made out of bamboo viscose:

  • Towels – whether bath towel, hand towel, kitchen towel, or face towel
  • Bathrobes
  • Clothing for use in medical and surgical settings
  • Beddings and Linens – from bedsheets and blankets all the way to pillowcases and duvets
  • Surprisingly, bamboo rayon material can even be used for food packaging materials
  • The hygiene product industry also greatly benefits from bamboo viscose, it is used in things such as surgical masks, sanitary pads and feminine hygiene products, and bandages
  • One more thing that you will find bamboo viscose used for that might be rather unexpected is mattresses

How is Bamboo Viscose Like in Terms of Cost?

When you compare bamboo viscose vs cotton, one thing that people would likely ask about is cost. How much exactly does bamboo viscose cost compared to other materials? Well, when compared to other fibers that are made of cellulose fibers, bamboo viscose does tend to be a bit more expensive than others. However, this higher cost does tend to be justified due to certain properties that the fabric has.

Qualities of Bamboo Viscose

There are some properties of bamboo viscose that is the driving reason behind its higher cost. Apart from the manufacturing costs involved in its making, there are other benefits to using bamboo viscose. We will be discussing them here now.

  • Bamboo Viscose tends to offer superior comfort. It feels great on the skin, and of course, it feels rather soft to the touch to boot. This material also breathes pretty well, making it a great choice for apparel and for beddings.
  • Another reason why this fabric is used pretty often in apparel and in beddings is because it does also have antimicrobial properties. This is the same reason it does tend to get used in feminine hygiene products. The antimicrobial properties come from bamboo, which is inherently this way.

How is Bamboo Viscose Made?

Before we begin, one thing you should know is that most bamboo rayon or bamboo viscose gets made in China, since it is there where it is most abundant.

Bamboo rayon fabrics are made through a certain process. The fibers of regenerated bamboo get produced through this wet-spun process. During this process, natural cellulose is the main material used. The natural cellulose comes from crushed stems and leaves of Moso bamboo. Moso bamboo is a species of bamboo that is rather abundant and is known to be one of the higher quality ones out there.

This cellulose is then taken and used in a process of hydrolysis-alkalization. In this process, diluted sodium hydroxide gets added to cellulose sodium xanthogenate. This dissolves it, resulting in this viscose solution which consists of 5% of sodium hydroxide and 7 to 15% of cellulose from bamboo fiber. The solution is ripened, filtered, and degassed, before the cellulose is finally forced to go through these spinneret nozzles. It ends up in a rather large container, which contains a diluted solution of sulfuric acid. This hardens the cellulose back into filaments of fiber, which then get cut to staple fibers before finally being spun into yarn.

Is Bamboo Viscose a Natural Material?

The answer to this question might surprise you, because despite what you might think hearing the words “bamboo viscose”, the fact is it’s not 100% natural. It’s not a fully synthetic material either. The fact is, bamboo rayon sits somewhere in between the two. This odd sort of purgatory in which bamboo viscose sits makes it a material that is now named under certain regulations or conventions. In some countries, governing bodies have required Bamboo Viscose to be called by a different name – for example, “viscose from bamboo”. And so, when it comes right down to it, it is important to make note that in bamboo viscose vs cotton, cotton wins in terms of 100% natural status.

What is Cotton and Why Choose It?

bamboo viscose vs cotton

Quite honestly, to quantify cotton in just one just one paragraph is impossible. Cotton is a fabric that has been around for millennia, and it is literally something that has existed in every single household practically since, well, civilization came to be. If you choose between bamboo viscose vs cotton, certainly cotton has quite a bunch of benefits. Let’s talk about cotton in greater detail, shall we?

Cotton is sometimes known by other names – you’ll hear it called Pima Cotton, Supima Cotton, or even Egyptian Cotton. It is a fabric made of organic fibers which come from cotton plant seeds. Cotton can come in varying thread counts, which basically determine how soft or how scratchy the fabric will be to the touch.

As a fabric, cotton is very breathable, which is exactly why it is often recommended to people who have sensitive skin or are prone to infections. On top of being breathable, cotton as a fabric tends to be great at wicking moisture as well. This makes it a fantastic choice of fabric in places that are humid or hot. It’s not ideal for use in places that are cold, since its heat retention capacity isn’t all that good.

Although cotton tends to get used in just about everything from apparel, to accessories, to even home furnishings, it is most commonly seen in:

  • Apparel
  • Beddings
  • Bags
  • Curtains
  • Accessories

How is Cotton Like in Terms of Cost?

Quite honestly, cotton is one of the more affordable types of fabric – although this does depend on a few things. Thread count can be a large determinant of the price of the fabric, but so can the origin of the fabric. One thing we can say, however, is that cotton is a fabric that is accessible at any end of the scale. It can be truly premium at times, but it can also be quite affordable for those on the other end of the spectrum.

How Does Cotton Fabric Get Made?

Cotton, of course, originates from the cotton plant. The process of making the fabric involves a ton of different steps, but it is a process that has been mastered by humans over centuries. Looking at bamboo viscose vs cotton, it might seem as though bamboo viscose has a shorter manufacturing process, but in our opinion in the end it is largely the same. Here is the process for making cotton:

Step 1: Defoliation

The first step is called defoliation. This step is essentially the process of the leaves getting removed from the plants.

Step 2: Machine Harvesting

Next step is of course the harvesting, which is done by a machine. This machine harvests cotton from the plant and removes any large contaminants that may be found among the fibers. Afterwards, the cotton is then formed into bales.

Step 3: Separating

A tool, known as a cotton gin, is used to separate cotton seeds from the bolls. This also removes any trash or dirt from the bales.

Step 4: Transferring and Carding

After getting separated, the cotton gets shipped off or transferred to a production facility for textiles. At these facilities, the cotton then undergoes a “carding” process. Carding is essentially the process of forming the fibers of cotton into the strands from which fabric then gets made.

Step 5: Spinning

Once the cotton gets carded, it then gets spun into yarn. From here, you can pretty much take it and turn it into different projects.

Step 6: Dyeing

Cotton yarn then gets dyed to a mix of colors, so that it can be woven into whatever type of fabric in whatever pattern or configuration that might be desired.

Step 7: Weaving

Finally, the dyed yarn gets woven into any number of different fabric types that become a final result.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Cotton

When it comes to bamboo viscose vs cotton, there are a number of advantages and disadvantages to each overall. If you ask us, we’d choose cotton, but of course this would simply fall into a matter of personal preference.

In terms of advantages, cotton has quite a few. First of all, it is a rather soft fabric and it feels rather nice and fresh against skin. Its softness is determined by the thread count of the fabric, so naturally higher thread counts lead to softer fabrics. The higher the thread count, however, the more expensive the fabric becomes. On top of being soft and feeling nice against the skin, cotton does also tend to absorb moisture and wick it away. This makes it a fantastic fabric for use in hot and humid conditions. It’s also easier to dye, and in general, it’s simply a much more affordable fabric.

There are a few disadvantages to cotton, as well. First of all, the production of cotton, although streamlined over centuries or even millennia, can run into some problems here and there. This is because of how varied the fibers’ lengths can be. And although cotton is a fabric that is quite easy to dye, it is also a fabric that can fade quite easily.

One thing in the fight between bamboo viscose vs cotton that bamboo wins is the antimicrobial property of bamboo viscose. Cotton is actually a fabric that does tend to get attacked here and again by microorganisms, so although it wicks away moisture, it’s not always the best choice for wound dressings and the like.

Cotton also wrinkles quite quickly, on top of being low durability when compared to synthetic fiber.

Bamboo Viscose vs Cotton – Which Fabric Wins?

Now that we’ve talked about both bamboo viscose and cotton, it’s time to settle the discussion. Bamboo viscose vs cotton – which of the two fabrics actually wins?

Well, in the end, it truly is just a matter of personal preference. Do you like the availability and the comfort as well as the moisture wicking capabilities of cotton? Or do you prefer the antimicrobial properties of the bamboo viscose fabric? Cost is also a factor, of course – cotton has a varied cost range whilst bamboo viscose is somewhat higher cost in general.

We hope that this article detailing bamboo viscose vs cotton has been helpful to you!