Bamboo, Rattan, Cane, and Wicker

Bamboo, Rattan, Cane, and Wicker

What are the differences between Bamboo, Rattan, Cane, and Wicker?

I was out shopping for patio furniture and ran across a cool outdoor set that would look great in my back yard. At first glance I thought it was bamboo. On closer inspection the label read “Rattan”. To complicate matters further I saw the words “wicker” and “cane”. I always assumed that bamboo, rattan, cane, and wicker were all words for the same thing. When I got home I looked it up - I was wrong.

 

Wicker

First, let’s get the word “wicker” out of the way. Wicker is the name of “the process” used to weave natural or synthetic materials into furniture. Natural materials include: reed, sea grass, rattan, cane, willow, and bamboo. Synthetic materials include resin and vinyl that look completely natural and handle the outdoor elements very well.

That’s it. It’s not a species of grass or wood it’s the name of “the process” of weaving materials into furniture, as well as the name of that particular style of furniture – "wicker furniture".

 

brown rattan wicker chair

 

Next, Bamboo and Rattan

Although they can appear very similar bamboo and rattan are quite different. Here are just a few differences:

  • Bamboo is from the grass family... Rattan is a type of palm tree from South East Asia.
  • Some species of bamboo will grow to be HUGE such as bamboo timber... Rattan although extremely strong doesn’t get very big.
  • Bamboo is hollow... Rattan has a solid core.

Bamboo

Bamboo is a hollow, giant grass. Some of the largest timber bamboo has been reported to grow over 98 feet (30m) tall with a diameter of 9-12 inches (25-30cm). Even though it’s classified as a grass, the timber is said to be harder than mahogany.

 

             

 

 

Larger applications of bamboo timber are houses, flooring, walls, and furniture to name a few.

Smaller diameter bamboo poles are used for a variety of things: plant stakes, fountains and other decorative items.

 

Rattan

Rattan is a relative of the palm tree from South East Asia. Rattan vines are durable, flexible and have a solid core. Rattan grows like a tree but will bend back down to the earth and then travel underground instead like a vine. It’s one of the strongest woods in the world and has been used to build foot bridges in many countries. It is excellent for making smaller items like wicker furniture.

 

 

When making rattan furniture, the straight poles are usually bent to a desired shape by using steam and then hung to dry. Once dry, they will retain that shape always. Shaped poles and spindly vines are often the materials used in the process of weaving wicker furniture.

 

It has a fast rate of growth and is an easily renewable resource.

 

Lastly, Cane

Cane is simply the outer bark or skin of the rattan vine. Because it is strong, it is commonly used for binding and therefore you will see many items using cane to tie the individual pieces together. Cane is also used as a beautiful finishing material as seen in the flat-wrapping of the peacock chair below.

 

 

Cane is less porous than other materials and will repel spills more readily - just wipe it down.

 

To Summarize:

Wicker is a process using natural or synthetic materials to weave chairs, tables etc. and is also the name of that style of furniture – wicker furniture.

Bamboo is a grass and is hollow. The giant timber can grow to over 98 feet tall. It is harder than mahogany.

Rattan is a vine and has a solid center. It is one of the hardest woods in the world. It can be bent and woven. It never grows as thick as bamboo or as tall.

Cane is the outer bark of the rattan plant and used for tying pieces together and for wrappings such as finishing touches.

Finally, cane, rattan, and bamboo furniture are environmentally friendly and easily renewable resources. Purchasing or making your own bamboo or rattan wicker furniture reduces your carbon footprint.

And there you have it - bamboo, rattan, cane, and wicker - mystery solved.

 

 

PHOTO CREDITS:

Patio Set: Adobe Stock

Wicker Chair : Adobe Stock

Bamboo Timber: Flicker

Rattan Plant: Pinterest

Peacock Chair: Pinterest

Cane Wrapping: Pinterest

Bamboo Bedroom Furniture: Pinterest

Before You Buy Bamboo Fabrics

Before You Buy Bamboo Fabrics

How can you tell if your bamboo bedding, towels, or clothes are still bamboo?

 

Bamboo fabrics are more popular than ever and with good reason! There are many healthy benefits associated with bamboo bed sheets, towels and clothes.

While many of these products are exactly what they claim to be, not all “so-called” bamboo fabrics have any of the healthy properties left in them. This is because the process used to create the fabric is so highly toxic that it kills those properties as well as pollutes the environment.

Remember, just because its soft and more expensive doesn’t automatically mean that it’s still bamboo.

But how can you tell the difference? This article will explore how you can sort through the hype and help to identify the good stuff from the bad.

 

What is it really made of?

Look at the label on any of your bed sheets or clothes. It will tell you the percentage of the type of fibers that make up the fabric.

In the case of bamboo fabric products you’ll see something like:

  • “Bamboo”
  • ”100% Bamboo”
  • “30% Bamboo 70% Cotton”
  • “Rayon Bamboo”
  • “Viscose Bamboo”
  • “Lyocell Bamboo”

But what does that mean?

This is where the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) comes in.

The FTC has had it’s hands full of companies eager to jump on the lucrative bamboo trend who have been incorrectly labeling their clothing and other bamboo textiles with simplistic labels: “Bamboo” or “100% Bamboo”.

In doing so it was determined that these companies were deceiving the public by not disclosing the method that was used to make it thus perpetuating a false notion that they are natural, anti-bacterial, and environmentally sensitive fabrics. This is a big deal if you want your bamboo sheets to actually be bamboo and have the healthy properties that you’re expecting.

For example, if a fabric is labeled 100% bamboo then legally it means that the company must use 100% bamboo fiber in their products – 100%.

However, “100% bamboo fiber is NOT soft. Fabric made from 100% bamboo fiber will feel rough to the touch much like canvas. If it feels super soft, then it’s NOT 100% bamboo and cannot legally be called bamboo at all according to the FTC but many manufacturers still do it.

Also, the FTC requires companies who manufacture bamboo textiles to start the label with the actual process used such as: “Rayon from Bamboo”, “Viscose Bamboo”, or “Lyocell of Bamboo”. Right, like that happens a lot.

 

It’s All About How It’s Made

To understand these labels we first need to understand more about the process of making these types of rayon textiles.

All soft bamboo fabrics are part of the rayon family. It sounds like plastic but rayon, modal and lyocell are not synthetic fabrics (petroleum-based like polyester or nylon). However, they’re not strictly natural either in that the process used to create the fibers doesn’t come directly from an animal like wool, or from plant fibers such as hemp, jute, cotton or flax (linen). They land somewhere in between - they are “regenerated” fibers.

It all starts with cellulose - a natural polymer that makes up the living cells in all plants. Cellulose is what makes rayon, modal, and lyocell fabrics feel silky. The cellulose is extracted from plants (mostly trees and more recently bamboo) by taking the woody part of the plant, crushing it and mixing it with either a natural enzyme, or with toxic chemicals to create slurry.

This slurry is then passed through a spinneret and extruded through a device much like a shower head to create the soft fibers that are converted (regenerated) into nearly pure cellulose. This is called the “viscose process”. The fibers are  then dried, milled, and fluffed. Next, they are dyed and spun into threads that are woven into fabrics.

 

There are three generations of rayon technology: Rayon, Modal and Lyocell depending on the process used. The difference between Rayon, Model and Lyocell:

1. RAYON is the first generation of these (regenerated) cellulosic fibers. It was originally manufactured in 1855. In the 1890’s it was called “art silk” (abbreviation for “artificial silk”) which is very silky and soft but much less expensive than real silk.

Rayon is easily dyed, more moisture absorbent than cotton, it's breathable and drapes well, plus it doesn’t hold static electricity. It is also known as “viscose rayon”.

Sadly, the traditional rayon process uses a harsh chemical method for breaking down the plant that is notorious for dumping pollutants into the air and water.

When this chemical process is employed on bamboo or some other woody plant as the source, the results are as follows:

  • NO trace of the original plant is left in the finished rayon product
  • NO natural antimicrobial properties will remain from plants like bamboo.
  • Chemicals will actually get added back in to control the bacteria on the finished product!

Many companies falsely claim that their bamboo fabric products have healthy properties in their advertising but in reality they do not. It might have started out with bamboo cellulose but all the good stuff was chemically burned out of it in the process.

 

2. MODAL is the second generation of cellulosic fibers. Modal was originally developed in 1951 in Japan.

A company named “Lenzing” started selling modal in 1964. In 1977 they began using an environmentally friendly bleaching method in the process. Lenzing Modal® is made from sustainably harvested beech trees.

Modal has a high wet strength and is ultra soft. It’s especially great for lingerie and under garments. When machine-washed and tumble dried the fibers are more stable and won’t shrink or stretch out of shape like some rayon will. The colors will also stay more vivid with less graying over time unlike 100% cotton. It is often blended with cotton, wool or other synthetic fibers.

 

3. LYOCELL is the third generation of the cellulosic fiber process and is the most environmentally friendly. The lyocell process was developed by Lenzing in 1990 and sold under the brand name Lenzing Tencel® or simply Tencel®.

The cellulose structure of lyocell is much closer to that found in nature because it is done with a closed loop process creating a “solvent spun fiber”.

The solvent used in lyocell is amine oxide, is non-toxic while also breaking down the wood pulp. It about 99% recovered and recycled in a closed loop system during the manufacturing process. The leftover waste products that are released into the air and water are minimal and considered harmless.

Lyocell products are considered biodegradable and will usually take only about 8 days to degrade in waste treatment plants. They can also be recycled or incinerated without harming the environment unlike chemically created rayon or other synthetic fabrics.

Lyocell clothing has many healthy properties:

  • The fabric will absorb moisture and then release it into the air (unlike synthetics) keeping the body temperature steady. This means that wearing or sleeping on this fabric will keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
  • Since it is 50% more moisture absorbent than cotton and even more so than wool, it prevents the growth of bacteria that cause odors without the addition of chemicals. Clothes will be bacteria-free longer thus reducing washings.
  • It is hypoallergenic and is excellent for those with allergies, psoriasis, and other sensitivities.
  • It is anti-static so it doesn’t cling.

What to look for on the label

GOOD:
Ideally, you want to see the words “Lyocell Bamboo” or Tencel® somewhere on the label.  Also if you happen to see “Oeko-Tex” on the label it means that the crop from which the bamboo originally came from has been certified by the “Organic Crop Improvement Association” – which is really good.

NOT GOOD:
If the label reads: “100% Bamboo” (and it’s super soft), “Rayon of Bamboo”, or simply “Bamboo” then it’s 99% certain that there’s no bamboo left in it. Although the cellulose might have technically started out as bamboo, by the time the viscose process was completed all the bamboo has been cooked out of it.

 

The Bottom Line

Bamboo is trending at a crazy pace on the green market right now. Check the label. Prices on bamboo sheets, towels, and clothing can vary wildly so make sure you know that what you’re buying is still bamboo and actually eco-friendly.

If you want the good stuff, the environmentally friendly, real deal bamboo with the healthful properties still in place stuff, make sure it says “Lyocell” on the label and was manufactured in the U.S. or Europe.

What’s So Great About Bamboo?

What’s So Great About Bamboo?

Bamboo is an amazing plant, a grass actually.

 

In tropical areas where bamboo grows in abundance, it has been used for thousands of years for making many things due not only to its durability but also its ready availability. In fact, its incredible popularity in recent years is now providing many jobs for those in poorer areas who harvest it.

Some of the fastest growing plants in the world are certain species of Bamboo. Even in poor growing conditions bamboo will reseed itself easily and will grow very, very quickly – certain species can grow up to 35 inches a day and at a rate of .02 inches (1millimeter) every 2 minutes! The growth and use of bamboo doesn’t require any type of deforestation. Incredibly it has a fairly short harvest cycle of only 2-3 years. Bamboo is a very sustainable resource.

The anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-static properties of Bamboo are unique and natural within the plant and work as a shield against pathogens.

 

Fabric, what a great invention this is! 

 

bamboo-fabric-lt-blue-584x455Bamboo fabrics natural anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antistatic properties when properly processed. While other types of fabrics use chemical anti-microbial agents that can cause skin irritations as well as allergic reactions, bamboo fabric products do not need or use these chemicals - it’s already in the plant!

Many bamboo fabrics have a very “silky” feel to them. Fabric made of bamboo not only has a cooler feel but it will also breathe preventing stickiness in warmer conditions. Bamboo has the ability to wick and absorb water 3-4 times better than cotton. Plus, it reduces body odor! Bedsheets made of bamboo will keep the skin cooler on hot humid summer nights and warmer in the cool nights of winter.

 

 
As Building Materials...

 

bamboo-interiorBamboo will stay 2-3 degrees cooler in hot weather and stay warmer in the cold. Bamboo flooring has been keeping the chill off the feet of those who’ve walked on it for thousands of years.

It has also become increasingly popular among modern day builders who are using it in homes for floors, steam rooms and spas.

A multitude of other building applications include the beauty of furniture, ceilings, walls and interior design touches. Its even been used as finishing touches in car interiors and truck beds.

 

Bamboo is kind to the environment.

 

Bamboo is sustainable, and when properly processed it's 100% biodegradable. There many positive reasons to include bamboo in our homes including its durability and sustainability. It is definitely our good fortune to include products made from this incredible plant in our own lives.

 

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