Cotton vs Bamboo: A Full Guide

Chris Ondatje May 14, 2021
Cotton field and bamboo stems



When it comes time to choose the material that touches your skin on a daily basis—be it through the clothing you wear or the sheets you sleep on—you probably want to invest in something that’s well-made, comfortable, and affordable. 

Cotton is a staple of the textile industry, and has roots dating back to the fifth millennium B.C. in India, where the earliest production of cotton was recorded.1 

The use of the bamboo plant to create everything from activewear to bedding is a newer phenomenon, but the popularity of the material has risen rapidly in the past few years as new technologies have allowed designers to develop bamboo fiber into a wide range of textiles.2

Both of these materials have appealing qualities, depending on your preference of texture, durability, and price point. Read on to learn more about cotton vs bamboo and what effects the production of each material has on the environment. 

Cotton flowers

Cotton: The staple fiber 

Chances are, you probably have some cotton-based garments in your dresser and cotton-made sheets in your linen closet. 

Since the invention of Eli Whitney’s mechanical cotton gin, America has led the cotton production race, falling right behind China and India. As the production of regular and conventional cotton became more streamlined, higher quality cotton was produced with longer and stronger fibers.1  

Today, you may notice a rise in organic cotton-based clothing. This organic label means there are no harmful chemicals like fertilizer or pesticides used to grow the cotton plant, making the plant stronger and the resulting fibers long-lasting. This is the type of cotton that we incorporate into some of our clothing.

Those who wear cotton frequently laud this material for the following qualities. Cotton is:

  • Soft
  • Durable
  • Easy to care for
  • Affordable 
  • Breathable 
womens bamboo clothing

Cotton and the environment 

The cotton plant grows in tropical and subtropical climates around the world in countries including Turkey, Pakistan, Brazil, and more. The plant requires ample sun, lots of rain, and little to no frost in order to thrive.1

While organic cotton is grown sans harmful chemicals, the overall production of cotton around the world can have some negative impacts on the environment. 

According to the World Wildlife Fund, cotton is the “most widespread profitable non-food crop in the world.”3 The sheer popularity of cotton as a viable textile means its production will inevitably affect the world around it. 

When grown without utilizing responsible, sustainable practices, cotton plants can:

  • Erode and degrade soil quality
  • Pollute soil and water if pesticides are being used
  • Affect biodiversity if there is runoff into water sources containing harmful chemicals and minerals

Again, there is a rise in organic cotton production and a burgeoning awareness about the harmful effects of unchecked cotton production around the world. 

When purchasing cotton clothing, sheets, or other products, look for an organic label. Your items will last longer without having to be replaced, helping you create a smaller carbon footprint. 

Bamboo forest

Bamboo: The up-and-comer 

Ultra-durable and hard bamboo has long been used as a building material around the world. Bamboo material can also be used to make other bamboo products such as environmentally friendly utensils, toothbrushes, and accessories.4 

With the advent of new technology, bamboo viscose can now be made into breathable, absorbent clothing with bamboo fabric. Bamboo bed sheets are also popular and rival the softness of much-loved Egyptian cotton sheets. There are all sorts of bamboo textile options on the market such as bamboo linen, bamboo bedding, bamboo bath towels. Many of these products are made with bamboo viscose. Learn about what bamboo viscose is right here on our blog!

Those who purchase bamboo-based textiles laud this material for the following qualities:

  • Breathable
  • Light 
  • Soft
  • Durable
  • (Usually) eco-friendly 
  • Easy on sensitive skin 

Bamboo and the environment 

The use of bamboo in the making of clothing and other products is often touted as uber eco-friendly. This is because the bamboo plant is regenerating, meaning it doesn’t need to be replanted every year to produce. 

Bamboo grows like a weed in a variety of environments and doesn't require as much water as cotton plants. Because bamboo is so versatile, being used as food for pandas, shelter for humans, and fiber for textiles, it is considered a sustainable and efficient crop. 

So, is bamboo better than cotton?

When shopping for bamboo-based products, keep an eye out for the Forest Stewardship Council certification and other certifications, like The Organic Crop Improvement Association. 

Companies like Boody Eco Wear source their raw materials from bamboo farms that adhere to strict regulations so that you can rest easy knowing the finished product has been tested for any harmful chemicals.2 From men's bamboo shirts to women's bamboo clothing, Boody's collections transform your dreams of affordable, sustainable fashion and luxury into an ultra-wearable reality. If you're wondering, “what is sustainable fashion?”, see our blog for more information!

About the Author:

Heather Bien is a copywriter and writer based in Washington, DC. She works with retail, ecommerce, and creative brands on their website copy and digital presence, and her freelance writing has appeared on MyDomaine, Apartment Therapy, The Everygirl, and more. When she's not with laptop and coffee in hand, you'll find her planning her next weekend getaway, working on her budding green thumb, or scouting for her next great vintage find.


  1. MasterClass. What Is Cotton? A Complete Guide to the History, Characteristics, and Uses of Cotton. 
  2. Boody Eco Wear. Benefits of Bamboo. 
  3. World Wildlife Fund. Cotton.
  4. Top 5 Uses for Bamboo Plants.,floors%2C%20roofs%20and%20other%20structures
  5. KOPA. Bamboo VS. Cotton: An Environmental Comparison. 
  6. Sleep Foundation. Bamboo vs. Cotton Sheets. 
  7. World WildLife Fund. Cotton Industries. 
  8. World Wildlife Fund. Bamboo—Impact on Pandas and Environment. 

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By: Heather Bien We’re all trying to be better stewards of Mother Earth. From recycling to upcycling and eating conscientiously to dressing mindfully, our choices affect the planet. So choosing organic cotton clothing seems like an easy decision, right? Not so fast! As with all sustainable choices, it’s important to take a moment to learn a bit more about why organic cotton might win over conventional cotton—and what makes these two materials different in the first place. Read on if you’re interested in learning about organic cotton and whether it’s the best choice for you and the environment. Conventional cotton Before we get into debating modern cotton farming techniques, let’s get familiar with the plant we’re talking about: cotton. It’s soft, durable, and probably on your body right now. But what else do you really know about cotton? Here are the basics: Cotton comes from the cotton plant – The cotton plant is a warm-season woody perennial shrub from the genus Gossypium and the family Malvaceae. Cotton fabric is made from the plant’s fibrous seed-hair (which is also called a cotton boll). Cotton is one of the top agricultural crops – Traditional cotton is the most widespread and profitable non-food crop in the world. Although the plant is capable of growing in any warm-weather climate, India and China are now the top producers of cotton globally. Cotton is thirsty – A normal cotton plant requires 10 gallons of water to reach peak potential. That doesn’t sound so bad, but multiplying it outward, that means it takes about 5,000 gallons of water to produce just 2.2 pounds of cotton fabric. Pests think it’s delicious – Not only is cotton thirsty, but it’s prone to pest infestations from bollworms, weevils, aphids, stink bugs, thrips, and spider mites. In order to combat these common pests, conventional cotton is routinely sprayed with a veritable salad-dressing of pesticides, many of which can remain in the soil and water supply for years afterward. Cotton harvesting requires defoliation – In order to quickly and efficiently harvest cotton, many commercial growers use chemical defoliants to strip the leaves from the cotton plant prior to harvesting the bolls. Like pesticides, these chemicals remain in the environment and on the cotton itself. Is organic cotton better? All of those cotton factoids point pretty compellingly to buying and wearing organic cotton fabric. But first, it’s important to understand what sets this organic alternative apart. Why exactly is “organic” cotton anyway? You might associate the word organic with your healthy fruits and veggies, but it’s not always clear what this term means when it comes to cotton. For many years, there was not a standard definition, but today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) require that any cotton product labeled “organic” meet the following criteria: Made with fibers from USDA-certified organic crops Third-party certified (ie., through the Global Organic Textile Standard) under the National Organic Program standards Has a specific percentage of organic material (depending on the crop) But this definition is a little circular, so we need also to define USDA-certified organic crops. According to the USDA, organic crop standards are defined as follows: Land must have had no prohibited substances applied to it for at least three years before the harvest of an organic crop. Soil fertility and crop nutrients will be managed through tillage and cultivation practices, crop rotations, and cover crops. These can be supplemented with animal and crop waste materials and allowed synthetic materials. Crop pests, weeds, and diseases will be controlled primarily through management practices, including physical, mechanical, and biological controls. When these practices are not sufficient, a biological, botanical, or synthetic substance approved for use on the National List may be used. Operations must use organic seeds and other planting stock when available. The use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, and sewage sludge is prohibited. What is organic cotton? In short, it’s cotton that is farmed according to these practices and certified organic by the USDA. Why should you choose organic cotton? With fewer pesticides, fewer synthetic chemicals, and more thoughtful cultivation practices, organic cotton can certainly offer a more environmentally friendly choice when compared to regular cotton. Is organic cotton sustainable?  Here are a few other reasons why organic cotton can be a better alternative for you and the earth: It’s better for our water resources – According to an analysis by the Textile Exchange, producing an organic cotton T-shirt requires 1,982 fewer gallons of water compared to a regular cotton T-shirt. Because organic cotton uses less chemicals, its production also releases fewer toxins into our aquatic ecosystems. It’s good for the soil (and our carbon footprint) – According to the Soil Association, the more natural cultivation practices and fewer pesticides used by organic cotton farmers can support healthier soil. That soil, in turn, can absorb more carbon from our atmosphere and help keep the planet healthy. It encourages biodiversity – Multiple studies have shown that organic farming practices can encourage more diversity among the animal species of our planet. Sustainability is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. But when it comes to plant-derived textiles, the ones which help us create a healthier world are always a better alternative.  Explore the benefits of bamboo with Boody Whether you choose to purchase conventional or organic cotton clothing, the fact that you are shopping mindfully for yourself is a win for the environment. At Boody, we believe in bringing you quality, comfy, sustainable clothing basics that keep you feeling good about yourself and your personal impact on Mother Earth. From our sleepwear to our loungewear, women’s bamboo shirts to our underwear, sustainable and ethical are our touchstones. Our clothing is made of bamboo viscose, requiring less water than cotton while putting precious oxygen back into the environment. That just feels good, doesn’t it? Explore the bamboo benefits today, with Boody. Sources:  Britannica. Cotton. Cotton. The Story of Cotton - Where Cotton Grows. World Wildlife Federation. Cotton. Textile Exchange. Quick Guide to Organic Cotton. Soil Association. What is organic cotton?  USDA. Conservation and Biological Diversity in Organic Production. About the Author: Heather Bien is a copywriter and writer based in Washington, DC. She works with retail, ecommerce, and creative brands on their website copy and digital presence, and her freelance writing has appeared on MyDomaine, Apartment Therapy, The Everygirl, and more. When she's not with laptop and coffee in hand, you'll find her planning her next weekend getaway, working on her budding green thumb, or scouting for her next great vintage find.