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October 01, 2017

One of the most common questions we get asked, is for the real story behind "organic" bamboo fabric and bedding.

We see a lot of people selling it, or influencers talking about it. Often, without taking a proper look behind the scenes. Chemicals used, the real sustainability and is it actually anti-microbial, or even using less water? 

The truth is, we loved the idea of it, before we started this business.

But as we dug a bit deeper, we realised that most bamboo claims didn't stack up. Even more, the look, feel, and in our research greater chance of pilling and lack of longevity of the product also weren't quite right for us. 

In the words of the US Federal Trade Commission: 

"Bamboo-based Textiles, Actually Made of Rayon, Are Not Antimicrobial, Made in an Environmentally Friendly Manner, or Biodegradable" in their press release FTC Charges Companies with 'Bamboo-zling' Consumers with False Product Claims. 

It turns out, it can take a lot of chemicals, like sulphuric acid or formaldehyde, to turn a hard woody fibre in to a super soft fabric - then it needs to be dyed and potentially finished with more chemicals to stop pilling. 

The ABC did some investigation. They concluded: 

 "People sort of go a bit quiet when you start asking questions about the production process of bamboo. They usually don't know too much, they don't want to tell you too much, and that's where I instantly say no to something, is when they can't provide clear answers to it....

In viscose production method, we are mainly concerned about carbon disulphide. It is highly toxic and really bad for workers' health.."

 

When we asked, some companies had no idea what was going on behind the scenes, what chemicals were being used. It's part of why we ensure our fabrics are organic certified to keep the nasties far away from your family and your skin: 

 

 

What about sustainability? Global warming? Water use? Pesticides and chemicals? 

We compared bamboo to recycled and Fairtrade GOTS organic cotton (the cottons we use). The impact was significantly more for bamboo than we could achieve for cotton. 

 

A comparison of impact - water use, chemicals, global warming and natural resource depletion /  fossil fuels

bamboo cotton sustainability water use global warming comparison

    Source: Sustainable Apparel Coalition

     

    So let's get to the truth: 

    • bamboo CAN be farmed organically. Often it is. But with increasing demand, pesticides and arable land are increasingly being used too. 

    • bamboo doesn't take much water to grow. It's said to be about as thirsty as organic cotton, in terms of required irrigation (our organic cotton is primarily rain fed and through sustainable farming, we maintain healthier soils)

    • bamboo rayon/viscose/lyocell fabric ISN'T made organically. At this stage, there is no organic certification that covers the full process of bamboo fabric production. (Although we love what Lenzing are up to). 

    •  this little summary taken directly from the leading global organic standard, 'GOTS' explains it:

    "...the natural bamboo is used but it is melted and regenerated in a viscose / rayon process and can therefore not be considered as natural or even organic fibre, even if the bamboo plant was originally certified organic on the field."

    • bamboo fabrics require chemicals to turn "wood" into silky fabric - it can use even chemicals like formaldehyde and N-Methylmorpholine N-oxide, commonly called 'amine oxide'. Lenzing Viscose or TENCEL fabrics, made in factories in Austria/Europe are the best option, in line with GOTS organic Fairtrade cotton. 

    • bamboo fabric DOESN'T HAVE GOTS certified processes and dyes. We're keeping a close eye on one company Lenzing who are coming up with more sustainable and less toxic dyeing processes.

    Are there better bamboo alternatives? 

    Well, we prefer to use organic Belgian linen, farmed to reduce waste and with zero irrigation, recycled cotton and Fairtrade Organic Cotton. We love the feel, longevity and elegance of time tested, natural fibres. 

    But, we do like diversity. So what are some other options, if you can't find what you want in cotton, flax linen or hemp? 

    The first is a mechanically (not chemically) produced true bamboo linen. This is a natural fibre, much like a rough hemp. We've unfortunately never seen this material in use for bed linen as it is a bit rough still.

    Lenzing processes in Austria are made much more sustainable, in streamlined, integrated facilities. Lenzing has a fabric called ECOVERO, which uses wood pulp from sustainable plantations (FSC certified), uses 50% less water than traditional viscose fabrics (like eucalyptus or bamboo viscose) and provides transparency in its supply chain. 

    Lyocell is more common and cheaper as it is made in China, but it is a little less transparent and has more impact. Lyocell uses a solvent (N-Methylmorpholine N-oxide, commonly called 'amine oxide') of which the majority is held in a closed loop system, being repeatedly used. When it is disposed of, waste is required to be treated before being released. Research shows that formaldehyde can be found in NMMO and cellulose solutions. (1)

    The lyocell process, however, is just one part of the full process and it is important to ensure that dyes, anti-pilling and finishing chemicals, as well as by-products from the lyocell production are also non-toxic.

    What about dyeing and finishing the fabric?

    Many dyes might be labelled 'vegetable based' but in commercial practice, most true vegetable dyes will wash out quickly, so the reality is a base or heavy metal 'mordant' (or fixing chemical) is required. Bamboo is a hard fabric to dye. 

     So for us, it is the unspoken parts of the process, in relation to dying, pre-treatment and finishing that for us, weren't what we were looking for. 

    It is important to us that we track and know we only use certified organic dyes in making our bed linen, so you aren't sleeping in a chemical cocktail!

    What's the end verdict? How does it stack up?

    We like diversity and we don't mind bamboo crops (they grow quickly and absorb carbon). We don't like waste and we wouldn't encourage you throw out anything you already own at home as in most cases, there is no reason to be concerned about the health of your family. But for now, we are keeping it for use in hard goods, not sheets. 

    We much prefer using 100% organic flax linen for its sustainability and feel and fairtrade organic cotton certified throughout all processing by the leading GOTS organic standard and free from toxic chemicals.

    Most of all, after sleeping in true organic cotton or flax linen, it gave us the longevity, stunning look and feel and elegance we were after!

     (1) A. Potthast et al, "Confirmation of the Presence of Formaldehyde and N-(Methylene)morpholinium Cations as Reactive Species in the Cellulose/NMMO/Water System by Trapping Reactions", Department of Wood and Paper Science, North Carolina State University. 


    (2) The site doesn't look flash, but these ladies know their stuff: https://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/2009/08/19/348/

    (3) Sustainable Apparel Coalition HIGG Material Sustainability Index


    LOVE THEM!

    Colour and Size Charts

    COLOUR SELECTION

    BELGIAN ORGANIC LINEN

    Alpine White: Pure, crisp white. The perfect centre of attention and accompaniment to any room. Whitened strictly using the same whitening required under certified GOTS organic, with without toxic bleach. 

    Beach: A stunning light almond or camel tone. Timeless and perfectly suited to earthy, wood-based room schemes. One of our perennial best sellers.

    Blush pink: One of our most complimented colours! A stunning whisper light pink blush, with undertones or beige. Designed as a unisex and adult blush colour. Looks stunning against white or Beach colours. Please refer to our beautiful in room shots to see how the colours work together. 

    Cloud Grey: A pure, light grey, strong enough to make a statement and light enough to match many rooms. Goes beautifully with white, navy or blush. 

    Charcoal grey: A deep, beautiful charcoal. A beautiful contrast to a classic white scheme or moodier, rooms.

    Mist Grey: A stunning light blue with hues of light grey. The favourite for summer and winter style. Perfect in beach side settings or elegant English style homes. 

    Midnight Navy: A deep navy that sings. This colour is stunning beyond description and the perfect finish to an elegant room. 

    We have colour samples for some of our colours so please just call or email and ask if you have any questions at all to help you get just the right colour for your room. 

    ORGANIC COTTON SELECTION

    Cloud White: Pure, crisp white. The perfect centre of attention and accompaniment to any room. Whitened strictly under certified GOTS organic certification, with without toxins or bleach. 

    Natural: Our favourite colour. A light sand or very modern ivory. Perfect colour for people who love light colours, but don't suit pure white. 

    Dove grey: A light warm and truly elegant grey. 

    CLOTHING SIZES

    Robes

    Short Fits size 6-10 women. Length approximately to knee or above with 3/4 sleeves
    Long

    Fits sizes 10-14 women. 
    Or anyone wanting extra length below the knee, and sleeves with extra length 

     

    Shorts

    Small Fits approximately sizes 6-10 women
    Medium Fits approximately sizes 10-12 women

     

    BEDDING SIZES 

    Fitted Sheet Sizes

    Elkie & Ark (Australia &
    New Zealand)

    U.K.

    Europe

    North America

    Single
    91 x 193 x 40cm
    36" x 76" x 16"

    Single
    90 x 190 x 35cm

    Single
    90 x 190 x 35cm

    Twin

    99 x 190 x 40cm
    39" x 75" x 16"

    King Single
    107 x 203 x 40cm
    42" x 80" x 16"

    -

    -

    Twin XL
    99 x 203 x 40cm
    42" x 80" x 16"

    Double
    137 x 193 x 40cm
    54" x 76" x 16"

    Double
    140 x 190 x 35cm

    Double
    140 x 190 x 35cm

    Full

    137 x 191 x 40cm
    54" x 75" x 16"

    Queen 

    152 x 203 x

    40cm (linen sheets)

    50cm (cotton sheets)
    60" x 80" x 20"

    King
    150 x 200 x 35cm

    King
    160 x 200 x 35cm

    Queen

    152 x 203 x 40/50cm
    60" x 80" x 16/20"

    King 40 cm
    183 x 203 x 40cm
    72" x80" x 16"

    King 50 cm
    183 x 203 x 50cm
    72" x 80" x 129"

    Super King
    183 x 200 x 35cm

    -

    King
    193 x 203 x 40/50cm

    76" x 80" x 16/20"

    Super King 40cm
    203 x 203 x 40cm

    80" x 88" x 16"

    Super King 45cm (no seams)
    203 x 203 x 45cm
    80" x 88" x 20"

    -

    Super King
    200 x 200 x 35cm

    California King

    183 x 213 x 40 cm
    72" x 84" x 16"

    Cot
    77 x 140 x 19cm
    30" x 55" x 7.5"

    Cot
    70 x 140 x 19cm

    Cot
    60 x 120 x 19cm

    Cot
    71 x 132 x 19cm
    28" x 52" x 7.5"

     

    HOW TO MEASURE OUR FITTED SHEETS FOR KING & SUPER KING SETS

    (1) Measure the height (or 'drop') of your mattress including any mattress toppers

    (2) If it is less than 40cm, you need our lovely 40cm fitted sheets

    (3) If it is higher than 40cm, you need our extra-generous 50cm fitted sheets, available in our essential white cotton range. 

    Quilt Cover Size

    Elkie & Ark (Australia &
    New Zealand)

    U.K.

    Europe

    North America

    Double
    180 x 210cm
    70" x 83"

    Double
    200 x 200cm

    Double
    200 x 200cm

    Full 
    198 x 210cm
    78" x 83"

    Queen (cotton)
    210 x 210cm
    83" x 83"

    King
    225 x 220cm

    Queen
    210 x 160cm

    Queen
    223 x 233cm
    88" x 92" 

    King
    245 x 210cm
    96" x 83"

    Super King
    260 x 220

    King
    200x180cm 
    Super King
    240 x 270cm
    94" x 83"
    King
    270 x 233cm
    106" x 92"

    Pillow Cover Sizes

    Australia, New Zealand, UK, Europe and North America
    Standard & Oxford Pillow Cases

    50 x 75 cm (Oxford with 5 cm trim)

    21" x 31"

    King Pillow Cases (special order only. All sets come with Standard pillowcase as standard or Oxford for linen quilt covers. King sets do not come with a King pillowcase as standard.) 55 x 90cm
    Mini Pillow Cases 30 x 40 cm
    European Pillow Cases 65 x 65 cm