Bamboozled: Misleading 'bamboo' labels to be pulled
Consumer NZ calls out Bed Bath and Beyond over misleading tags.
Bed Bath and Beyond is changing the packaging on all its “bamboo” products after we found misleading labelling.
Its Bambou Pillow Protector claims to have a 100% bamboo upper.
However, textiles derived from bamboo should be labelled as either rayon or viscose (although the word bamboo can also appear elsewhere on the pack).
Bamboo is often marketed as a natural choice for eco-conscious shoppers but, to turn it into a soft fabric, the cellulose in the plant must be chemically dissolved and bleached.
The result is rayon, also known as viscose, which has no remaining trace of the bamboo plant.
While there is a process to turn bamboo into a fabric without using chemicals, its rough texture and high cost mean you’re unlikely to find it in shops.
The Bambou pillow protector isn’t the only “bamboo” product we found with misleading labelling.
At Briscoes, we bought a Greenfirst Bamboo Pillowcase that was labelled as bamboo, instead of viscose or rayon.
Its care label also caused confusion. Instead of bamboo or viscose, the label stated the pillowcase was 100% cotton.
We asked the Kiwi distributor of Greenfirst linen, Alastair’s Home of Fine Linens, to clear up the confusion.
Director Alastair Stewart said the pillowcase was 50/50 cotton and bamboo.
He acknowledged the labelling was confusing and said he’d correct it.
In 2015, four US retailers were fined $1.3 million for advertising rayon clothing as bamboo.
Over there, bamboo processed to make a soft fabric can’t be labelled as the plant but must be advertised as rayon.
Our labelling rules aren’t as strict. If the product is viscose or rayon, it must be labelled as such, but the word bamboo can also be used on packaging.
Companies failing to do so can be fined up to $600,000.
Manufacturers must list the names of fibres, and their percentages from highest to lowest, on any clothes and textiles. For example, a T-shirt may be 80% cotton and 20% elastane.
Labels must also be easy to read and find on the clothing or fabric.
Is bamboo antibacterial?
While the bamboo plant does contain antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, these properties don’t end up in the finished textile.
We asked Bed Bath and Beyond to back up the “Naturally anti-fungal and mite proof” claim on the Bambou Pillow Protector. It didn’t provide any.
The Greenfirst Bamboo Pillowcase has no natural antibacterial properties, but is treated with anti-dust mite protection.
The active ingredient is geraniol, an alcohol that occurs in essential oils. While geraniol is known for its dust-mite repelling properties, the treatment on the pillowcase is only tested up to 20 hot washes.
However, the supplier said if the pillowcase is washed in cold water the treatment would likely last longer.
If you do have an allergy to dust mites, hot washing your bedding once a week, keeping pets out of the room, and decluttering may help keep them at bay. You should also wash your pillow every 2-6 months.