Buying a proper bath towel is not a simple task. What once was a choice between velour and terry, Egyptian or Turkish cotton, pima cotton and microfiber has mushroomed to include towels made of bamboo -- yes, bamboo. You may not have thought that those long reed-like stalks that grow so tall would produce long, soft fibers when woven into toweling. But scientists determined to mine sustainable yields have turned bamboo into a popular commodity, and bamboo towels compete with cotton for market position.
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Harvesting a successful crop of cotton takes extensive farming, a great deal of water, as well as pesticides and herbicides. A bamboo harvest takes 1/3 the amount of water that cotton requires, and no pests bother the bamboo as it grows. Bamboo grows quickly, and fields can be replanted every year. In other words, bamboo is green; cotton is not. Bamboo products are also biodegradable.
The Antibacterial Factor
Some of the unique factors defining bamboo are its antibacterial properties. An antimicrobial agent known as kun is found within the fibers of bamboo, making it antibacterial, antifungal and odor resistant. The kun helps reduce the bacteria that grow on clothing and human skin. The bamboo fibers are long and soft and round and smooth before processing, making it comfortable against the skin and safe for those with allergies.
Some cotton towels glide over your wet skin and don't absorb the water, while others efficiently remove the moisture. Bamboo towels are masters in water retention because the bamboo fiber is so absorbent. You can dry your body more thoroughly with a bamboo towel than with a cotton towel. Because the fiber retains the water more efficiently, it may take longer for a bamboo towel to dry.
The Softness Test
Bamboo has often been compared to cashmere in softness tests. Because the fiber is round and smooth, no rough spots are within the threads. Cotton varies in smoothness depending on its fabrication. A high-end, Egyptian cotton plush towel can go head-to-head with a bamboo towel in the softness race, but bamboo gets even softer with every washing.
Bamboo Vs. Cotton Costs
As with all new products when they come to market, the initial cost is often higher, which, at the time of publication, holds true with bamboo toweling. But the more the product infuses the market, the more the price typically reduces. High-quality cottons remain costly, however.