Walked on a bamboo floor? Yes. Eaten from a bamboo bowl? Tick! Sliced on a bamboo cutting board? Yes! Slept on a bamboo mattress? Hmm, what??? A bamboo memory foam mattress is an eco-friendly alternative to your normal mattress. But it raises questions about comfort, safety, and durability.
Bamboo is a natural alternative to fully synthetic fabrics (like polyester), polyurethane foams and vinyl.
When it comes to bamboo in the bedroom, the sky is the limit. There are bamboo sheets, pillowcases, mattress covers, mattress pads, bamboo pillows. Need a chair in your bedroom? Need natural flooring in your bedroom? You can outfit your bedroom entirely with bamboo products!!
The main attraction of a bamboo mattress is that is it naturally sourced.
Quality sleep isn’t just about falling asleep quickly. Quality sleep isn’t about staying asleep all night either. Quality sleep is also about what you’re breathing in while you’re asleep. Inside normal mattresses, you can find a number of nasty chemicals. This includes:
- Fire retardants that are linked to brain damage, cancer, and reproductive problems;
- Chemical dyes, adhesives, and anti-microbial solutions that cause eye, nose, and throat irritation and lung, heart, liver, and kidney problems.
Do you really want to breath fire retardants, chemical dyes, adhesives and anti-microbial solutions?
You want something better for your health than a normal mattress can offer.
Let’s dive deeply into the world of bamboo for your bed and find out all about it.
If you don’t have time to read this investigation into bamboo mattresses, click the item in the table below that is of most interest to you.
What Are the Benefits of the Bamboo Plant to the Planet?
Bamboo is a highly sustainable grass. It reaches maturity quickly and is ready to harvest in about four years. It is one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet. Because its vast root network constantly sprouts new shoots, replanting is unnecessary.
It’s natural antifungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-microbial properties mean that pesticides and fertilizers are not required.
Bamboo is resilient. It grows well in even poor soils.
Since its roots retain moisture exceptionally well, it has lower water needs than most other crops.
The bamboo plant produces 35 percent more oxygen than trees.
The bamboo plant also takes in five times more carbon dioxide as well, helping to remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere.
You can view this educational video to find out 10 facts about “the wise man’s timber”.
What Is a Bamboo Mattress?
A bamboo mattress does not mean that 100% of the mattress is made from bamboo. In fact, bamboo makes up a very small proportion of the mattress.
What Types of Bamboo Mattress Can You Buy
1. Mattresses with a top layer of memory foam infused with bamboo charcoal powder
What is memory foam?
Memory foam was developed by NASA in the 1960s for use in airplane seats. Made from a material called viscoelastic, memory foam is incredibly soft and absorbs a lot of energy. When you lie on memory foam, the heat of your body softens it. The foam molds and shapes to your body to evenly distribute your weight and relieve pressure points. These pressure points can often lead to aches and pains in waking life. And because memory foam absorbs your energy and movement, tossing and turning on it won’t disturb your partner.
Where can I find the bamboo section in the mattress?
You will find a half an inch to a one-inch layer of bamboo-infused memory foam at the top of the mattress. This is the end closest to your face and body.
Sometimes the manufacturers describe this bamboo infused memory foam as “quilted into the mattress cover”.
The result is a much thicker mattress cover compared to a normal mattress.
Underneath the bamboo-infused top layer is a thicker layer of high-density memory foam.
How does the bamboo get infused into the memory foam?
Fibers from the moso bamboo plant are heated to an extremely high heat to create powdered charcoal. This powder is then mixed with the foam ingredients while it is still a liquid. Producing the fine bamboo powder adds another cost to the manufacturer that a normal mattress doesn’t have. So you will find bamboo powder is very expensive to produce. This can dramatically increase the cost of a bamboo mattress.
Bamboo charcoal powder
Image source: You Tube
2. The mattress has a bamboo fabric cover
Some bamboo mattresses are so-called because they are covered in bamboo fabric. Most bamboo covers are comprised of around 40 percent bamboo, with the remaining fabric sourced from cotton or polyester.
How does the bamboo get made into a fabric?
The bamboo must first be converted into a fiber. This can either be done using a chemical or mechanical process.
The chemical process
Using a chemical process has a heavier impact on the environment. Therefore, whilst raw bamboo itself is extremely eco-friendly, the fabric produced from its fibers may not be.
The most common fabric you will find is viscose rayon made from bamboo.
Have you bought sheets or clothes made from lyocell? Lyocell is an alternative to bamboo rayon.
The mechanical process
This is the most “green” approach to creating the bamboo cover for a mattress. Machines and natural enzymes break down the bamboo plant into a yarn. This is similar to the way clothes are made from the flax or hemp plant.
What Manufacturers Won’t Tell You About Those Manufacturing Processes
Chemical Processing: Bamboo Rayon
The most widely-used chemical process used to produce bamboo fabric involves the same extremely harsh chemicals used to produce rayon. The end product is therefore known as “bamboo rayon.” Bamboo rayon is the most common bamboo fabric you can find, especially in bamboo sheets.
Bamboo is “cooked” and dissolved in chemical solvents like carbon disulfide and sodium hydroxide.
Sodium hydroxide is more commonly known as caustic soda, a key ingredient in Drano!
Both of these chemicals have been linked to serious health problems. These include nerve damage and neural disorders
Just an FYI, caustic soda is approved by the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) and the UK Soil Association. This is because the finished fabric doesn’t contain any chemical residue.
Bamboo is also heavily bleached in several phases of manufacturing.
In summary, bamboo rayon uses harsh chemicals and heavy metals. The result is damage to the environment and potential health risks to humans. In my view, bamboo rayon is not environmentally friendly or sustainable. The National Resources Defence Council (NRDC), a New York-based not-for-profit environmental group comprising of lawyers and scientists, agrees.
Melanie Blanding from the NRDC protesting outside the White House
Image Source: Flickr
According to a study from Utah State University, processing rayon from bamboo results in emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs, acid gasses, and particulate matter. Many of the facilities where manufacturing takes place are identified as hazardous waste generators by the EPA, contributing to air and water pollution.
Chemical Processing: Bamboo Lyocell
A newer process used to chemically manufacture bamboo fiber is the same that’s used to produce lyocell from wood cellulose. The resulting fabric is known as “bamboo lyocell.” While this process is more expensive, it’s better for the environment and less toxic to humans.
Organiclothing.blogs.com described lyocell as somewhere between a natural and synthetic fiber like nylon and polyester (made from petrochemicals).
During this process, the bamboo is dissolved using N-methyl morpholine N-oxide, which is a weak alkaline. This is considered non-toxic to humans. This is a closed-loop chemical process, which means that almost 100 percent of the chemicals used in manufacturing are captured and used again. Only trace amounts find their way into the atmosphere or water sources.
Mechanical Processing: Bamboo Linen
During the mechanical manufacturing process, the woody parts of the bamboo plant are crushed and mashed. The remaining fibers become bamboo yarn or linen.
The mechanical process for creating bamboo fabric is more costly and labor-intensive than the chemical processes used. So bamboo linen is more expensive and more difficult to find than chemically processed varieties.
What’s the greenest alternative?
From my research, I would also recommend that if you have any chemical sensitivities or allergies, be wary of lyocell. Although bamboo lyocell has less toxic chemicals than bamboo rayon, it still contains chemicals. Lyocell is not an organic material.
Not having to iron a mattress cover or sheets is tempting. But remember, a chemical is added to the fabric for them to be wrinkle free.
Can You Believe The Terms Used To Describe a Bamboo Mattress?
Bamboo mattresses are advertised as
But these descriptions are not always deserved. Bamboo is natural and organic. However, this does not mean that the products derived from bamboo are also natural and organic.
So when a mattress shop sales rep says to you “Bamboo…it’s totally natural,” stop them right there! Ask them:
- What type of bamboo fabric is used in that mattress?
- What other materials are used to make that mattress e.g. chemical fire retardants and toxic adhesives?
Remember the mattress won’t be made of 100% bamboo!
According to the NRDC:
“The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently cracked down on bamboo labeling, forcing companies to list “rayon made from bamboo” when items are not natural bamboo. The FTC has also starting going after false green claims, noting that rayon made from bamboo has not been shown to retain any natural antimicrobial properties of the bamboo plant.”
Image Source: Wikipedia
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find out what type of bamboo fabric is used in a mattress.
It’s also a challenge to determine whether the manufacturing process used is truly eco-friendly.
Looking out for a few certifications when buying a bamboo mattress can help you make an informed choice.
Useful Certifications for the Savvy Shopper to Know When Buying a Bamboo Mattress
- Forest Stewardship Council Chain of Custody certification indicates that from the forest to the fibers, the stages of production meet the criteria needed to ensure responsible stewardship of the earth’s forests.
- Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification ensures that a product contains no substances banned by law or which are known to be harmful to your health, including formaldehyde, pesticides, and other dangerous chemicals. Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification covers the raw material, all stages of production, and the end product.
- Organic Crop Improvement Association certification indicates that a bamboo forest is organic.
Can You Believe the Claims Made About a Bamboo Mattress?
Proponents and retailers typically offer a list of selling points for bamboo mattresses. But do these claims hold water? Let’s take a look.
While some studies show that bamboo fabric retains some of the anti-bacterial properties of the bamboo plant, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says there is no evidence to support this claim.
However, critics suggest that FTC has been influenced by the cotton lobby in debunking these claims.
A study published in the Journal of Family Ecology and Consumer Sciences supports bamboo rayon having anti-bacterial properties after the raw bamboo has been processed into a fiber. In the study, researchers added Staphylococcus epidermis bacteria to samples of three different fabrics. Twenty-four hours later, researchers counted the colonies on each sample. The bamboo rayon sample was found to have 30 colonies. This compared to 53 on the viscose rayon sample and 127 on the cotton sample. Go the bamboo rayon sample!
According to the NRDC, the antimicrobial properties of the bamboo plant do not transfer to bamboo rayon. The NRDC suggests opting for bamboo lyocell or bamboo linen instead.
The jury is still out on this claim in my opinion.
If sleeping on an anti-microbial surface is very important to you and you like the sound of a bamboo memory foam mattress or a mattress covered with bamboo fabric, I would recommend buying a bed protector to help.
Memory foam infused with bamboo is more breathable than plain memory foam. A bamboo memory foam mattress dissipates up to 80 percent more heat to offer a cooler night’s sleep.
A bamboo memory foam mattress also wicks away moisture, purifies the air that flows through the mattress, and helps to decrease off-gassing from the bamboo mattress.
And because bamboo charcoal is a powerful deodorizer, it helps to keep odors at bay.
The bamboo plant itself is hypoallergenic by nature. However, rayon made from bamboo doesn’t retain many of the properties of the bamboo plant due to intense chemical processing.
It’s a different story if that mattress cover is made from bamboo fibers using the mechanical process. Bamboo linen has essentially the same chemical makeup as the raw material, according to the EPA. Therefore it retains certain properties of the plant, including being hypoallergenic.
Unless you are particularly sensitive to the chemicals used in the manufacturing process, bamboo fabric is hypoallergenic. So if you purchase a mattress with a bamboo fabric cover, be confident that it won’t irritate your skin or exacerbate respiratory allergies.
The insulating properties of the bamboo charcoal in a memory foam mattress and a mattress cover made of bamboo fabric will help you stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
Bamboo has excellent moisture-wicking properties that enable it to hold three times its weight in water. These properties are retained to some extent in bamboo charcoal-infused memory foam mattress and in bamboo fabric mattress covers, helping to draw moisture away from your skin.
Bamboo is exceptionally soft, similar to cashmere. This is due to the shape of the bamboo fiber, which is naturally long, round, and smooth. It retains its softness regardless of how many times you wash it. If you want to purchase bamboo sheets, be confident that they are soft rather than scratchy.
Who Would Benefit From Sleeping on a Bamboo Mattress?
OK, so we’ve reviewed all the main claims made for the bamboo mattress. You would benefit from sleeping on a bamboo memory foam mattress if:
- You live in a hot climate and prefer a memory foam mattress that keeps you cool;
- If you are a “hot sleeper” and find the conventional memory foam mattresses too hot to sleep on;
- You suffer from allergies and are looking for a hypoallergenic mattress.
Where to Find a Bamboo Mattress
The bamboo-infused memory foam mattress or the bamboo fabric-covered mattress are harder to find in retail stores.
Here are some online buying alternatives.
For a memory foam mattress with a bamboo fabric cover
With over 1,200 ratings, the Brentwood Home Bamboo Gel 13 Memory Foam Mattress is a popular choice on Amazon.com.
With a medium feel, the Bamboo Gel 13 is suitable for side sleepers who need a bed that is more gentle on their joints.
This mattress comes with a removable wool-lined bamboo fabric cover.
If you are back-sleeper who prefers a firmer mattress, the 11-inch version, the Bamboo Gel 11, also comes with a bamboo zipper cover that comes off for easy washing.
You can find my comprehensive review of the Bamboo Gel 13 and 11 here.
Both the Gel 13 and 11 inch Brentwood Bamboo Memory Foam Mattresses have strong customer ratings on Amazon: the 13 inch 4.4 out of 5 stars; the 11 inch 4.5 out of 5 stars. Both mattresses have received nearly 2000 Amazon buyer reviews each.
Read those reviews from genuine buyers of the Brentwood mattress on Amazon here:
Memory foam mattress with a quilted bamboo-infused top layer
The Lucid Plush Memory Foam Mattress comes in a variety of thicknesses but only the 14 and 16 inch comes with a 1-inch layer of bamboo charcoal memory foam sewn into the soft breathable Tencel blend outer cover.
Made in China, the Lucid 14 inch queen sized mattress has received over 200 reviews on Amazon.com with a 4.2 out of 5 rating based on customer reviews. The more popular 16-inch queen-sized mattress with nearly 300 customer reviews and a 4.4 rating, provides ultra-plush comfort with a 10-inch support layer of high density foam.
The foam inside both these Lucid mattresses are certified in the US against CertiPUR standards and come with a 25 year warranty.
The Bottom Line for Bamboo
Bamboo mattresses can help ensure a healthy, good night’s sleep, thanks to moisture-wicking and excellent airflow properties.
While the bamboo rayon covers are not eco-friendly to manufacture, they are an ultrasoft and super-cool option for a comfortable night’s sleep.
In between a natural and synthetic fiber lies the mattress covers made from bamboo lyocell.
Even better (and greener) are bamboo linen covers. These are the most difficult to find. Bamboo charcoal-infused memory foam mattresses off-gas less than conventional memory foam mattresses, they help you sleep cool
Bamboo charcoal-infused memory foam mattresses off-gas less than conventional memory foam mattresses. They help you sleep cool and wick away moisture from your body.
Bamboo mattresses are usually a little more expensive than conventional mattresses. They are an excellent choice if you’re looking for a mattress that is
- Hypoallergenic. Bamboo fabric is hypoallergenic;
- Breathable and cool, compared to your usual memory foam mattress;
- Comfortable. The Brentwood Home Bamboo Gel 11 Memory Foam Mattress is good for the back sleeper who prefers a firmer mattress. The Gel 13 is perfect for the side sleeper. The Lucid Plush Memory Foam Mattress comes in a 14 or 16-inch thickness.
- Made with in an environmentally-friendly and sustainable way.