It’s taken a long journey for me to discover the amazing benefits of bamboo towels. It began when I was only 5 years old. My mother sent me off to summer camp with a paper-thin, scratchy towel that had a giant picture of a roll of Lifesavers on it.
I vividly remember climbing out of the camp swimming pool, desperately trying to get warm and dry in my lame Lifesavers towel, while all around me, bunkmates melted into plush, luxurious ones.
Early trauma shapes us. As soon as I was old enough, I embarked on a towel journey through Egyptian cotton, Turkish cotton and at last, bamboo.
Let’s dive into what exactly a bamboo towel is. Then we’ll explore each of the bamboo towel benefits, before I discuss my absolute favorite.
What is a bamboo towel?
A bamboo towel is made by a process that grinds bamboo stalks and leaves, soaks them in a solution, presses them into a parchment, and then spins the parchment into yarn called ‘bamboo viscose’ or ‘regenerated bamboo.’
A bamboo towel can be made from 100% bamboo viscose, or more typically, 30-60% bamboo viscose blended with other fabrics, such as Egyptian cotton or combed Turkish cotton, hemp or spandex.
The reason for a blended bamboo is to create a textile that provides a soft, fluffy towel that is also antimicrobial and eco-friendly. A 100% bamboo towel will be a bit more eco-friendly, but will be thin and not at all plush.
With that said, let’s explore what’s so great about bamboo towels.
Awesome Bamboo Towel Benefits
Here are my top 7 bamboo towel benefits, in no particular order:
1. Bamboo Bath Towels are Incredibly Soft
My husband uses really, really thick cotton towels. He likes them, but oh man, they are scratchy and coarse. My bamboo blend towels are medium-thick, but you cannot beat their softness. There is really no comparison between cotton and bamboo. Because of the texture, bamboo towels should be a no-brainer for anyone with sensitive skin.
2. They Are Highly Absorbent
The findings are consistent: Bamboo towels are four times as absorbent as cotton towels. If you wanted, you can test this yourself. Simply take a bamboo towel and a cotton towel of similar thickness. Drop them, one at a time, in a bathtub of water. Clock how long each takes to sink to the bottom. You’ll see the bamboo sinks four times faster.
So absorbency definitely makes our list of awesome bamboo towel benefits.
The high absorbency of bamboo viscose makes it great for wicking away moisture when you get out of the tub, or when you take your towel to the pool. This is especially important to me, as I once had a set of cotton towels that barely absorbed any water at all. Not only did I hardly get dry, but they always made me shiver because little droplets of water stayed perched on the ends of the fibers. Good riddance, cotton towels!
My mother always claims that the reason she bought those cheap Lifesaver towels was that with three kids going to summer camp, she wanted the quickest-drying towels she could find. (As you can see, it is still a subject of discussion between us.) Bamboo towels absorb much more water than cotton towels, so they may take a little bit longer to dry, but nothing too noticeable.
3. You Can’t Find a More Eco-Friendly Bath Towel
Eco-friendliness is another one of our favorite bamboo towel benefits. Bamboo is a planet-loving grass. Yes, a grass.
It strengthens the soil and cleans the air, releasing 35% more oxygen than other trees. Plus it requires very little water to grow. Just the rain will do the trick. It’s a regenerative plant in that you cut it down and it grows right back. Literally. Did you know a stalk of bamboo can grow up to four feet a day?
This is all relevant when it comes to the eco-friendliness of bamboo towels. If you purchase these as opposed to towels made from other materials, you’ll rest well knowing you’re helping the earth rather than destroying it. The reason bamboo can grow so tall without any pesticides (adding to their eco-friendliness!) is that it dispels microbes naturally, without chemical help.
Bamboo towels are certified to show that they are eco-friendly, organic and non-toxic. One certification company is called GOTS. To get this label on a product, even if it’s a bamboo blend, the product must:
- Contain at least 95% organic fiber
- Not be treated with bleach, formaldehyde or any other toxic substances
- Be colored with non-toxic dyes
- Be produced in a mill that enforces strict social and environmental standards.
Another company that offers eco-friendly, nontoxic certification for bamboo-derived textiles is called OEKO-TEX. Look for either the GOTS or OEKO-TEX certification on your bamboo towels, and you’ll know your purchase is helping the earth.
4. Bamboo Towels Are Naturally Antimicrobial
Now we’re getting to one of my favorite bamboo towel benefits: It keeps away the yucky stuff! I mean, if you think about a towel, you wipe it on your body and then fold it on a drying rack.
But the bathroom is probably still steamy from your bath or shower. And if you haven’t noticed, mold and mildew consider the bathroom the best place to take up residence in your home. Given that, why would bathroom mold fail to grow on your damp towels, too?
One of the best things about bamboo towels is that while they will absorb a lot of water, you don’t have to worry about mold and mildew growing on them. Why? Because bamboo is naturally antimicrobial. Microbes are tiny microorganisms like bacteria, fungi and viruses.
In one study, scientists looked at the antimicrobial properties of a variety of textiles. Specifically, they examined socks made of Egyptian cotton, Lycra, and Tencel. How would illness-causing pathogens like E.coli and Staphylococcus aureus survive on these fabrics?
Researchers found that the bamboo performed best without the skin irritation caused by non-natural antimicrobial fabrics. They wrote:
“Bamboo fiber has individual and unique characteristics of anti-bacterial merits. Even after 50 washing times, bamboo fiber still has outstanding property of antimacrobial.”
That said, you don’t have to worry about washing out the germ-fighting benefits of your bamboo towels. They are here to stay.
As an added perk, the microbe-fighting powers of these towels makes them hypoallergenic, too!
5. These Towels Don’t Stink!
If you have younger kids who throw their towels on the floor after bathing, you don’t have to worry about mildewing. And a stinky bathroom. It’s the bacterial load that causes odor to build up in sweaty sneakers or used towels.
Microorganisms can thrive on cotton towels that are balled up on the floor, or even hanging in a moist bathroom for too many days in a row. Not to totally gross you out, but it’s this bacterial colony that causes the stinky smell.
Because bamboo towels are naturally antimicrobial they not only fight odor, but also retain their shape and texture over time.
6. Bamboo Towels Won’t Shed Much
Towels made from textiles with shorter fibers attract little balls of lint to them. When you throw them in the wash, the lint comes off with some of the fibers. Towels with longer fibers, like bamboo, are less likely to shed. I learned this the hard way.
A Cautionary Tale
It was shortly after lice had infested my son’s kindergarten class. I got out of the shower one evening, wrapped my head in a new towel, and then proceeded to comb my hair, only to shriek at the sight of hundreds of mini-lice larvae. When I checked my son’s hair, I found the same infestation. I was so freaked out, having washed every single thing in the house only a week ago, that I insisted we move into a cheap hotel for the night while carpet and air duct cleaners attended to the house.
While at the hotel, I called Velma, the professional de-licer who had visited each family in the kindergarten. She came over and combed through my hair first. She examined the little brown dots she pulled out of my hair under a magnifying glass. Then she burst out laughing. “Did you recently buy new towels?” she asked. “You have towel in your hair. Not lice!”
A million dollars later—after I paid Velma, the hotel, the air duct cleaners and the carpet cleaners—I vowed never to get shedding towels again. I’ve since learned that cheaper textiles shed. (Another term for shedding is “pilling.”)
The Truth About Shedding
Sometimes towels shed for up to 10 wash cycles. Who knew?!
And with bamboo towels, though might get some shedding at the beginning depending on the blend, it probably won’t be very much. If your bamboo towel is blended with combed cotton, you shouldn’t have any. This is because when cotton is combed, the manufacturer removes the shorter fibers before spinning the cotton into thread.
As towels deteriorate, they may also start to shed again. This is how you know it’s time for fresh ones.
Many hotels are trading out cotton towels for bamboo because of the lack of shedding that can clog up their drying machine filters. Not only do bamboo towels tend to last longer than cotton ones, often they keep their shape and color better. This is because bacteria destroy other materials over time.
7. They Are Low-Maintenance
Back when I had cotton towels, I would throw them in with the rest of my laundry. But once I graduated to a bamboo blend, I took more care. Yes, you’ll need to take a little care with any type of towel if you want to keep it soft and fluffy and lasting for years. Bamboo towels require the same amount of maintenance as any other towel you want to keep nice, which isn’t much. But you do need to follow the rules:
- Wash towels separately from other laundry.
- Use half the amount of detergent you use for clothes.
- A mild detergent is best.
- Avoid fabric softeners or dryer sheets.
- Dry on low heat to avoid stiffness.
If you get a stain on a bamboo towel, try a chlorine-free stain remover on the spot.
And if you really want to take your towel care to the next level—whether for bamboo towels or any other types—air dry them almost all the way and throw them in the machine for the last 10 minutes. Rumor has it, you’ll get serious softness and fluff! But I’m way too impatient for that kind of hullabaloo.
Finally, and most importantly, follow the directions on your particular towel. Every towel is different, and depending on the blend with bamboo, the best care will vary.
With all these great bamboo towel benefits, it’s hard to go wrong. But I do have a personal favorite, which I’ll share now.
The Cariloha Bamboo Towels: My Absolute Fave!
The Cariloha bamboo towel makes me feel like I’m in a 5-star hotel every time I get out of the tub and wrap myself up in it. I love it! Here are the benefits I enjoy most about this bamboo towel in particular:
1. This plush towel is made from half viscose from bamboo and half combed Turkish cotton. The combed cotton reduces shedding yet gives it a thicker feel than a 100% bamboo towel. It’s not too thick or too thin. Just right.
2. It’s super, duper, duper soft! In fact, it’s so soft I doubt you can find another bamboo towel that’s this gentle.
3. It wicks moisture like you wouldn’t believe, so I stay cozy and comfortable.
4. It comes in a very large bath sheet (101cm x 178 cm/ 40” x 70”) which feels so supremely luxurious! It also comes in a regular sized bath towel (76cm x 142cm / 30” x 56”) and a three-piece set with a bath towel, hand towel and washcloth.
5. Cariloha Towels are certified eco-friendly.
The Cariloha bamboo towels are especially amazing for people with sensitive skin.
Enjoy Bath Time Like Never Before
Oprah once said, “Love is in the details.” When it comes to your bath towel, you can take the already extraordinary experience of bathing to new heights. Show yourself the tender loving care you deserve: Wrap your clean, relaxed self in a bamboo bath towel and enjoy the awesome benefits.