FTC Fines Retailers $1.3M For Bamboo Labeling

December 11, 2015 | By | 9 Replies More

If you’re a clothing maker and labeling any of your clothing products as made with Bamboo, take heed.

The FTC is starting to fine retailers for selling products labeled as Bamboo.

In fact, they’ve just fined four retailers $1.3M for selling goods with Bamboo labeling, including Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond, JC Penney, and Backcountry.com.

From the FTC

The truth is, most ‘bamboo’ textile products, if not all, really are rayon, which typically is made using environmentally toxic chemicals in a process that emits hazardous pollutants into the air,” writes the FTC in its notice entitled ‘How to Avoid Bamboozling Your Customers.’

“While different plants, including bamboo, can be used as a source material to create rayon, there’s no trace of the original plant in the finished rayon product.

If you make, advertise or sell bamboo-based textiles, the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, wants you to know that unless a product is made directly with bamboo fiber — often called ‘mechanically processed bamboo’ — it can’t be called bamboo,” the notice continues.

“Indeed, to advertise or label a product as ‘bamboo,’ you need competent and reliable evidence, such as scientific tests and analyses, to show that it’s made of actual bamboo fiber. Relying on other people’s claims isn’t substantiation.

The same standard applies to other claims, like a claim that rayon fibers retain natural antimicrobial properties from the bamboo plant.

Source: link


Example of brand labeling shirts as made from Bamboo

‘Bamboo’ Undershirts, Underwear, & Socks

In searching through my site, I found several company’s offering/selling undergarments marketed as Bamboo:

I didn’t list all of them, because some some of them say “Rayon from Bamboo”, which I suppose is slightly more clear.

But, it looks like the FTC is taking a pretty hard-fast line on this topic, meaning Brands should not be marketing or labeling their products as Bamboo.

Instead, it should be called Rayon only.

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Tug is the world's undershirt expert. He is also one of the most knowledgeable individuals on sweat management solutions, men's shapewear, grooming, and new fabric technologies. Got a question? Visit Tug's contact page and hit him up.

Comments (9)

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  1. Charles


    thanks for the warning!

  2. Chad says:

    Ugghhh I hate marketing spin like this … thanks for the warning!

  3. Chris H


    Hey Tug, those socks I commented on happen to be 85 percent viscose from bamboo so I guess that they are not true bamboo after all, as I looked them up.

    I looked up the differences between viscose and rayon and the descriptions of the two were fairly long, but I think it is pretty close to the same thing just differs in the process somehow.

    I wish these companies would just remove the bamboo name completely from their title unless they are actually the real item.

    Viscose rayon has been around for a long time and it just does not make sense to try and market something as bamboo when it really is not. Just a money thing for marketing I guess.

    • Tug says:

      hey chris,

      yeah, i totally agree with you.

      if i understand the differences between viscose and rayon, it is primarily the original source use to create it. the process to create it is basically the same.

      viscose is made from wood pulp or cotton linter (whatever that is). based on one article i read, this is the less durable of the two types of “rayon”.

      rayon is made from made using cellulose from different plants.

      here is a good article describing it in more detail (link)

      when brands or retailers attempt to embellish or sensationalize something, it’s usually just a matter of time before someone or some entity takes a stand and makes sure consumers are no longer deceived.

      the whole bamboo “eco friendly” movement really frustrates me, because that alone has created an dynamic across the consumer market implying that all these items are better for the environment than other products, when in fact they are not.

      one argument they use is that bamboo plants/trees grow back faster and with less water than other things like cotton. while this technically may be true, there are equal innovations going on in other source/fiber industries to ensure they are not being wasteful.

      for some of the smaller brands that use “bamboo”, i don’t think they’re trying to deceive anyone. i just think they didn’t do their homework. assuming someone of authority (fabric companies) told them it was eco friendly, they just ran with it. i wouldn’t categorize this as deception, just not being fully informed.

      of course i fully expect that the bigger brands/retailers know better — so there is some form of deception there.

      not too dissimilar from the tommie copper debacle.

      • Chris H


        Hey Tug, Chris here: Do you think that in time since these fines have started up, maybe that examples are being made on the big retailers first and they hope that the smaller companies take heed in checking their products out and to also avoid the same fates as the big retailers? I surely hope that they take heed.

        • Tug says:

          heya chris,

          i’m not really sure. the fines, in my opinion, were rather small for that size of retailers.

          also, i’m not exactly sure how this kind of news will effectively trickle down to all the people who may be offering or in the process of offering something from rayon (from bamboo) material.

          there are so many sources for this type of product across the globe, i’m not sure how the producers-at-large, or smaller brands would know to question something they refer to as bamboo.

          i’d be curious if a local fabric store like joanne fabric would refer to this type of fabric as rayon or bamboo.

  4. chris H


    Hey Tug, Chris H here: I too also wear socks only that are supposed to be made from 85 percent bamboo and they too are a little rougher in texture, but makes me wonder if they really are.

    I do know that they breathe extremely well and do not have an odor, even if worn all day, but that is my direct observation with them.

    I too do not think I would wear an undershirt in that same material, but since I am used to wool socks already, my feet like these very much.

  5. chris H


    This ought to wake up the rest of the supposedly bamboo product sellers to make double sure they are getting the actual product instead of using the bamboo title as a selling point.

    By the way, those are some very big names that got fined and companies may need to have their products tested by an outside source for confirmation. This is very interesting news Tug, thanks for the information.

    • Tug says:

      heya chris,

      yeah, there are a couple things here:

      1. it’s unlikely that any fabric will be able to be labeled as bamboo, because the process used to get the raw materials into a fine enough form to make fine thread causes it to lose all bamboo characteristics. so, these items will be called rayon.

      2. there are some products that will be able to call themselves bamboo, because they will be made from fibers that were not created using a chemical process to break down the original source product (bamboo bark). one such example is sokini (link), a half-socks product i was introduced to earlier this year.

      a blurb from their website:

      the true natural fiber directly obtained from natural bamboo by using only physical and mechanical process without any chemical additives. Because it is not chemically processed, this premium fiber preserves all the quality of the original bamboo plant…

      i’ve tried sokini socks, and the structure of the fabric is a little coarser than traditional socks. this is a direct result of the the way that bamboo is processed to make the yarns used in this half-sock. it reminds me more like wool. it is not uncomfortable, but i don’t think i’d wear an undershirt made out of this yarn because it would be too thick and very likely too scratchy.

      i’ll be curious to see if some of the brands listed in this article will change how they describe their undershirt or product.

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