Gallery: Bamboozled by Bamboo Rayon? We Aren’t So Sure

bamboozled by bamboo, bamboo rayon, rayon, federal trade commission, ftc, bamboosa, pure bamboo, jonano, ecokashmere

A few weeks ago, the Federal Trade Commission charged four clothing companies with falsely advertising their clothing made of bamboo as clothing made of bamboo. Say what? That’s right. The FTC released a statement explaining that it does not feel that textiles made of bamboo can rightfully continue to be called so after processing because at that point, they cease to be bamboo. How can this be? Read on to see why.

In order to comprehend the FTC’s accusations, it’s important to understand the process that bamboo must go through in order to morph into its soft, fabric state. Although the process of farming bamboo and the fact that it grows so quickly are typically sustainable, it must undergo treatment using harsh and often toxic chemicals in order to be made into a wearable fiber. The resulting product is one that you’ve probably heard of before – Rayon, a fiber that can be made from the cellulose of any plant or tree. Surprised? I certainly was. First of all, while it makes sense that once one type of material goes through certain changes, it can be an entirely different material altogether – very much like how a piece of coal under massive amounts of pressure becomes a diamond – it seems unfair to ignore the positive environmental aspects of the original material. After all, isn’t the Rayon made from bamboo technically more sustainable than Rayon made from other types of plants that need tons of pesticides to grow and do not have the ability to regenerate as quickly?

One important factor in the case is whether there was the intent to deceive. That is to say it is unclear whether the accused companies, Jonäno, Mad Mod, Pure Bamboo and Bamboosa, understood that marketing their products, ecoKashmere, Pure Bamboo, Bamboo Comfort and BambooBaby, respectively, as 100% bamboo fiber was dishonest. Is the fact that you need to label any material processed as Rayon, “Rayon” a given in the industry? I am no textile expert, but if you know better, please enlighten me.

Now, here is where it gets a little hairy. All four companies charged also sold their items as antimicrobial, a beneficial trait that is often associated with bamboo. The FTC points out that the chemical processing used to make Rayon eliminates any of bamboo’s antimicrobial properties. The allegations went on to say that all four companies also stated that their products were made with environmentally-friendly manufacturing processes, which seems baffling considering the harsh chemicals used.

Three of the four accused companies have decided to settle with the FTC and will no longer use the false and misleading claims. Referencing the point I made above about at least being able to show that the raw material used to make the Rayon these brands use is indeed bamboo, they will be allowed to write “Rayon made from bamboo” on their labels.

+ Federal Trade Commission Consumer Alert regarding Bamboo Rayon


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  1. Rhonda George August 4, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    Thank you so much for “enlightening” me. I wondered as I was looking through sheets how and why they could cost so much more from a more sustainable product. Now I know it was smoke and mirrors! lol

  2. ruth shaver May 31, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    So what is better combed cotton or 100% Rayon from bamboo or are they the same in sheets. thanks

  3. Mutha2bee March 15, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Thanks for info. I am baby shopping for products for the first time and wanted to clarify what I am actually paying money for on products labelled “bamboo” and therefore more expensive.

  4. Highball July 28, 2011 at 9:28 am

    So lets say I’m a selfish cynic, and the FTC had nothing better to do with millions of my dollars, and I don’t care much about bamboos sustainability or the chemicals, does this rayon have anything different about it and is any of it better for some reason? OK, will like the shirt any more or less?

  5. Coral Rose September 1, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Thanks Yuka for your post.

    This has been a topic of discussion for at least four years and many other companies consulted the FTC to get clarity before labeling their products. I know for a fact as I contacted them in 2005-06 for clarity.

    The FTC has always been very specific on how to label and market ‘bamboo’ and that ‘bamboo’ is infact “Rayon” like any other regenerated cellulose product like spruce, pine, ecalyptus, beechwood. None of these other fiber producers have an issue with the truthful labeling of their fiber products as Rayon or Viscose.

    And by the way–Lenzing’s Modal ™ and TENCEL ™ are the only regenerated cellulose products that are manufactured in a closed loop system–thereby making them more sustainable than “Rayon from bamboo” TENCEL(tm) also carries the Oeko-Tex 100 and FSC certifications. I have personally visited the factory in Lenzing, Austria to see for myself firsthand this closed loop process.

    So not everyone manufacturing or selling “Rayon made from bamboo” was mislabeling or marketing as anything but “Rayon from bamboo.”

    Over the last two years, the FTC conducted an investigation and many textile industry experts and academics testified. The investigation resulted in charges being filed. Those charges are public as well as the testimonies.
    The charges can be found on the right hand side of this statement from the FTC:

    Here is my article on Sustainable Life Media with some background information.

    FTC Mulches False Bamboo Textile Claims

    Thank you, Coral Rose

  6. leigh van dusen September 1, 2009 at 9:38 am

    We feel there is a big difference between the fiber used to make a fabric – and the final fabric, because the processing (weaving) of the yarns can be environmentally damaging and the many process chemicals used are residual in the fabric. Many of the chemicals used in textile manufacturing are harmful to humans and other living things. So this argument really has two parts, the first: “Is the fiber which is made from bamboo a good green choice” and the other aspect is: “how is the fiber made from bamboo processed?” I just posted an article on bamboo processing on our blog,, that outlines the important points in this conversation. Like many things in the sustainable arena, it doesn’t lend itself to sound bites, and in order to get the real picture one must really examine the trade offs.

  7. raphaelmoras August 31, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    In Brazil we (bamboo professionals and fans) have been fighting this false geen marketing for years now. One fight won, congratulations!

  8. stevenmatt August 30, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    The FTC should be commended for catching this. Who tipped the FTC off to this? By the way, 3R Living has a some interesting bamboo products:

  9. treebarkqueen August 30, 2009 at 11:54 am

    We are a chemically based society, does it surprise you that much? I live in Deep Ellum, TX and work along side with a small bamboo T-shirt company – they clearly stated that along with bamboo they use cotton and made it very clear that all aspects of textile require many forms of chemicals. I believe the word we are looking for here is, the lesser of two evils?

    Seed Sucker – check them out, they won’t lie to you!

  10. kmel August 30, 2009 at 9:53 am

    I highly recommend the book Sustainable Fashion & Textiles by Kate Fletcher. She discusses bamboo and rayon in depth, as well as the specific chemicals and processes involved in producing all kinds of fabrics. She covers the entire process from field to the shop, and considers whether harmful chemicals used at each step are reclaimed or introduced into wastewater. She helps designers and anyone interested in textiles make more sustainable choices, and it’s done without technical jargon.

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