Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

A Bamboo-zling Material

February 8, 2012

What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone says the word bamboo?

More than likely, images of panda bears flash through the mind; either in the wilds of China, sitting in the middle of a field, munching on its primary food source, or sitting in a zoo, also munching on its primary food source.

The mind, therefore, does not immediately leap to bamboo in any arrangement other than its natural form, a plant; more specifically, a grass.

Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family.

It is known for being a fast growing and prolific grass and is of notable economic and cultural significance in parts of Asia.

Most commonly, bamboo is used in these parts of the world for building materials, a food source and as a versatile raw product.

It has become trendy to give and receive bamboo plants, which not only look good sprucing up a cubicle or window ledge, but have been known to help alleviate certain chemicals that may occur in homes or office spaces due to cleaning processes.

Because of all the common places one can find this prolific plant, it is surprising that bamboo as a textile is only now on the radar of facility managers and building service contractors (BSCs).

A Push To Be Sustainable

In today''s eco-conscious world, we are always on the lookout for the next big thing, the next product that is going to leave the least impact on the environment around us.

Sustainability used to be an idea or a catchphrase people dropped when they wanted to seem like they had the newest or biggest next thing.

Over time, the definition of sustainability has changed, and while the desire to be seen as sustainable is still the foremost thing in the minds of those responsible for the upkeep of facilities, it is not a novel idea anymore; it is expected.

With the need to be sustainable came the need to develop products that would have less impact on the environment while still performing at the level needed at any given time.

And Then There Was Microfiber

First came microfiber, a synthetic material commonly made from a blend of polyester of polyamide.

Microfiber has become popular among facility managers and BSCs for its durability, absorption, wicking abilities, water repellency and filtering capabilities.

Microfiber has proven time and time again that it has its place in professional cleaning.

Using microfiber can reduce the amount of bacteria on a surface from roughly 33 percent to around 99 percent.

In facilities such as health care, this is important.

But, it is also important and impressive in other facilities.

One of the biggest pros of using microfiber is arguably how easily the fabric can be laundered, rendering it useful for multiple moppings or dustings, whatever it is being used for.

The Next Best Thing

One should not be content to rest on the accomplishments of one single discovery alone.

The same should be said about one single material.

Microfiber will always have its place in the cleaning industry, but in an industry that must always be looking forward, the question becomes, "What is next?"

While still not as popular as microfiber, bamboo looks to be positioning itself as the next sustainable fabric du jour.

Because of the porous structure of its fibers, bamboo is extremely absorbent.

The absorbent nature of the fiber is something moms have known, making bamboo a popular material for certain kinds of diapers.

Bamboo is extremely effective at wicking away moisture which, if used in a cleaning capacity, means surfaces will be left drier and more chemical can be removed from all surfaces.

Bamboo also has exceptional odor absorption qualities, able to absorb harmful chemical byproducts such as formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, ammonia and other harmful substances.

Knowing what we know about the affects these chemicals can have on a person''s health, it would be advantageous to clean with materials that help to eliminate these health risks.

An Uphill Battle

While bamboo has its obvious pros, it is not yet a material that has caught on in the cleaning industry.

A few companies are beginning to move toward having bamboo-based products on in their inventory, but they are few and far between.

Some of the battle has to do with certain regulations that have been put in place, both by the U.S. and Canada, regulating what can be sold and marketed as all-natural bamboo.

Typically, most bamboo products consist of some form of rayon.

This process requires the bamboo fibers to be broken down and chemically altered, often with lye carbon disulfide or other strong acids.

But, keep an eye on the horizon; it might not be too long before bamboo equals or even surpasses the popularity of microfiber.