Bamboo furniture is a popular choice for wood furniture, but there are some harsh chemicals used in making it, so whether or not bamboo furniture is safe is always a question. Bamboo looks great, and it’s an affordable option compared to other woods, but safety first- so is bamboo furniture safe?
Bamboo furniture is safe as long as it’s been manufactured properly. It is usually put together with an adhesive called urea-formaldehyde and cured using chemical preservatives to protect the Bamboo from breaking down. Manufacturers ensure these methods provide good protection against potential contaminants.
If you are concerned about potentially toxic emissions, be sure to research which company manufactured your desired furniture pieces. It is also beneficial to know how this furniture is made. Read on to learn more about the particulars of bamboo furniture.
Why Question the Safety of Bamboo Furniture?
So you now know that bamboo furniture is safe. But why is the safety of bamboo furniture a question? Before new safety regulations and procedures came into play in manufacturing companies, there was a mild issue with Formaldehyde based gas emissions from old, cracked, or severely damaged bamboo furniture. This was a problem with much older furniture, especially those coated with glue, paint, or lacquer.
Modern manufacturing companies now have newer technology and methods of binding bamboo furniture with glue safely and ensuring gas emissions won’t happen. However, be careful buying older sets of bamboo furniture just in case.
Ensuring Your Bamboo Furniture is Safe: What to Know Before You Buy
Like any building material, there are pros and cons to using bamboo furniture. Keep in mind your climate and living circumstances. Knowing what you’re buying is important for keeping your family safe. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of bamboo furniture, so you can decide if it’s a good, safe choice for your family.
Here are a few reasons why bamboo furniture is a better choice than other
- Bamboo grows fast. Bamboo shoots grow in as little as 59 days and usable in building in 3-4 years. Regular trees take 60 years to recover. This means it’s more eco-friendly.
- Bamboo grows clean. Bamboo needs few pesticides, fertilizers, and hardly any irrigation. This means there will be fewer chemicals contaminating the wood.
- Cleaning and maintenance are easy. As long as you make sure to wipe off bamboo furniture regularly with a cloth and linseed oil, it will stay nice.
- Bamboo furniture is lightweight. Though its surface is hard, moving furniture is easy because it isn’t heavy.
- After manufacturing, it is one of the strongest furniture materials. Through curing, Bamboo hardens and shapes into one of the toughest materials.
- It’s ideal for the changing seasons. It has high moisture absorption and great insulation. Against heat, it stays cool and absorbs sweat, while in the cold, it helps keep you warm.
On the other hand, there are a few “cons” to bamboo furniture. So just to make sure we’re getting both sides of the bamboo furniture story, here are those potential negatives:
- Growing Bamboo uses a lot of water. Since Bamboo usually lives in humid climates, it’s ideal for growing there. However, Bamboo grown in less humid climates can use up water resources fast.
- Warps or cracks when wet or in high humidity. Keep in mind bamboo furniture can lose its shape if you sit on it when wet. If you use it as patio furniture, be sure to either cover it when it rains. Likewise, in especially dry climates, it is prone to crack.
- Has poor resistance to fungi and bacteria. Bamboo naturally attracts mold because of its water absorption capabilities. Be sure to clean the furniture regularly, especially in humid climates.
- Attracts bugs. Because of its water absorption techniques, it can also attract different insects.
- Furniture joints are weaker. Because of its initial shape, bamboo furniture is structurally less efficient.
How is Bamboo Furniture Made?
Since Bamboo can’t easily be held together with nails or staples, it’s held together with highly adhesive glue made with urea-formaldehyde. Urea-formaldehyde is often used in textiles, agriculture, foam insulation, and product manufacturing. Before more safety regulations were put in place, there was a problem once bamboo furniture cracked or broke with outgassing from the Formaldehyde.
The countries that primarily use Bamboo for furniture are those like China and Thailand, where many varieties grow in abundance. These and other developing countries frequently don’t have professional or properly managed facilities, which can mean curing and using adhesives in the furniture can be unsafe.
However, most modern bamboo furniture is handled by well-established companies which use new technology to ensure the furniture is durable and safe. To protect Bamboo from falling apart or decomposing too fast, they use various techniques involving chemical preservatives. Once the furniture is fully processed, it should be highly dense, scratch-resistant, and have better water resistance.
Making durable bamboo furniture is a highly involved process that involves a lot of curing, prepping, and sanitizing. Since bamboo furniture has risen in popularity throughout the years, manufacturers have put in much extra effort to ensure their furniture lasts in and outdoors for at least seven years.
Bamboo is Cut and Prepared for Sanitizing
Generally, workers harvest bamboos with wide culms and thick walls. To prepare Bamboo for full processing, manufacturers remove extra branches and tips and crosscut the wood into short lengths. The culm, or main part of the Bamboo, is split into rectangle or square sections after all the green epidermal layer is split off.
Bamboo is Boiled
To help prepare the wood, so it is resilient to insects and fungi, the sectioned bamboo strips are soaked in water vats and boiled or steamed at about 1000 C for at least 24 hours.
When manufacturers do this, sometimes they add sodium carbonate or hydrogen peroxide to the water to kill off certain insects and microorganisms. Another way to cue freshly quartered Bamboo is to place it in a mixture of borax or boric acid.
Boiling also helps the wood’s ability to retain moisture, which helps later in drying the wood. Curing the culms this way increases the wood’s lifespan by hardening and sanitizing it.
Some Types of Bamboo are Colored
Because some customers want bamboo wood to have a light to deep brown coloring, some manufacturers use a pressure tank to color the wood. Some chemical components like lignin, found in the Bamboo, when heated with steam, will deepen the Bamboo’s color. The higher the temperature and longer the wood is prepped, the deeper its is color.
Even after curing the wood, some manufacturers bleach or stain the wood to give it the desired color. However, this isn’t done until the wood is stripped of any possible microorganisms, insect eggs, or fungi.
Dry the Bamboo After Boiling/Steaming
Once the Bamboo is colored completely and sanitized, the Bamboo is dried either just outside or inside a slightly heated kiln. This is done before any other preparations because Bamboo is more vulnerable to breaking down during the manufacturing process. Once dry, it is cut into desired thicknesses and widths and sanded down.
Bamboo Culms are Coated with Glue
After drying, manufacturers spread a urea-formaldehyde glue adhesive on the Bamboo to cure and harden it. Once they spread the glue, the Bamboo is cured to ensure the urea-formaldehyde goes through chemical changes to make the wood more waterproof and susceptible to bugs and mildew. To ensure the pieces don’t dry out and become unusable, they immediately, after applying the glue, put the pieces under pressure using a hot press in laminated sections.
Assembling and Refining the Furniture
Properly pressed and processed bamboo sections are then formed into steel molds. These molds help in assembling the wood pieces into the desired furniture.
Because Bamboo can’t be held together with nails or screws, this is the ideal method to forming desired furniture pieces. Once the pieces are put together, the wood is sanded, and a thin glue and water glaze are applied. These pieces, once dry, harden thanks to the glue and chemically changed nature of the Bamboo.
The Final Touches
To ensure the furniture has the intended coloring and is sturdy, there are certain methods manufacturers use to complete each piece of furniture. Here are some possible steps to be aware of.
- Bleaching– Some bamboo furniture comes in lighter honey coloring. Bleach removes excess coloring and strips away the natural bamboo patterns.
- Prestaining– This re-enhances great color variation in some bamboo strips.
- Wash Coating– It prevents stained bamboo pieces from bleeding. It’s usually made from chalk paint mixed with water.
- Fillers– These add color and make the Bamboo non-porous. Usually, this is made with lacquer or shellac mixed with water.
- Glazing-This gives the furniture a finished, shiny look; they apply a transparent glaze.
- Varnish– Sometimes, this is added as a top coat after all coloring and filling sets.
Between bleaching, sanding, glazing, and sealing, the furniture completely hardens and becomes a lightweight, highlighted, and durable wood- furniture alternative.
Bamboo furniture may undergo a lot of treatment during manufacturing, but modern techniques ensure it is safe to use.