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Wearing toxin-free clothing is just as important as eating a natural diet and using chemical-free skincare products. After all, our skin is in contact with clothes almost every hour of the day! Chemical free clothing is not only healthier for the skin (especially children's), but less harmful to the environment and easier to recycle.
Now you may be wondering which clothes might contain toxins and how you can avoid these items from ending up in your closet. We've asked ourselves the very same question – and did the research for you! In this article, we show you how to recognize non toxic clothes and give you a guide to the most important sustainability certifications in the fashion industry.
What should I look out for when buying clothes?
A simple rule of thumb to get you started: trust your nose and take a decent sniff of a piece before buying it. Are you hit by a harsh chemicals´ scent? Well, then it's better to leave the item on the rack! A neutral smell? Good sign! Next, check if the washing instructions state "non-ironing" or "wrinkle-resistant." Even though it sounds like a helpful instruction, these pieces might contain synthetic fibers or toxins which aren't so kind to your skin.
The washing instructions can also tell you the composition of the fibers. This tells you what your clothes are actually made of. There are several different types of fibers:
The best choice to protect yourself from chemicals, as well as protecting the environment, is to choose well made garments with natural fibres and fabrics derived from plants which are to be known as sustainable materials. Synthetic fibers like Polyester, Acryl or Elastane may give clothes some elasticity or make them less wrinkly. But just to give one example, Polyester is made from petroleum, which releases harmful emissions during manufacturing and easily irritates sensitive skin. It's definitely better to iron clothes a little more often, than to choose a T-shirt made from synthetic fibres!
As soon as several types of fibres are mixed together, it becomes practically impossible to recycle the item of clothing in question. But even before that, there is damage done to the environment. As synthetic fibres are water-soluble and can enter our groundwater in the form of microplastic. But there is good news! You can prevent microplastic particles from dissolving whilst washing, by using a natural wash bag.
To sum it all up, the more natural the better!
What pollutants and chemicals should I avoid in clothing?
Navigating the world of textiles can sometimes feel like an intense chemistry lesson, with a long list of potentially harmful substances to keep track of. It's important to be aware of the chemicals that can be found in our clothing, as they can cause skin irritations, allergies, and even more severe health issues such as organ damage and cancer. This goes for both the individuals manufacturing the clothing and those wearing it. Here's a breakdown of the most harmful substances to look out for and some tips on how to avoid them:
Are there chemicals in your clothes?
Yes, there can be various chemicals in your clothes, some of which are harmful. These include azo dyes, phthalates, heavy metals, PFCs, brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, chlorobenzenes, and organotin compounds.
Azo dyes and phthalates - they are used for bright colours and cuddly prints, but can cause skin irritations and even be carcinogenic.
Heavy metals (nickel, lead, cadmium, mercury) - they find their way into our clothes via prints or cheaply manufactured zippers. But they are toxins that harm our bodies and the environment.
Per- and poly-fluorinated chemicals (PFC) - They are often found in water- and dirt-repellent outdoor clothing and can accumulate in human tissue and have a damaging effect on hormones. Thankfully there are brands with PFC-free outerwear like Tatonka, as well as natural textile impregnations that make your clothes water repellent.
Brominated & chlorinated flame retardants - These substances are supposed to reduce the flammability of textiles, but they affect our hormonal balances, can be carcinogenic and damage the environment.
Chlorobenzenes - used as solvents and can damage the central nervous system.
Organotin compounds - used as anti-mold agents, but like the brominated flame retardant, can cause hormonal imbalances.
How do you know if your clothes have formaldehyde ?
While it can be challenging to know for certain, one way to minimize the risk is by opting for clothing that has been certified by reputable sustainability organizations, such as Oeko-Tex Standard 100, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), or bluesign®. These certifications ensure that the production process adheres to strict guidelines and does not involve the use of dangerous chemicals.
Prioritizing sustainable clothing made from organic materials, such as organic cotton, and supporting sustainable clothing brands can make a big difference. Here's how to make more informed choices when shopping for clothes:
Choose sustainable clothing materials as organic cotton
Opt for sustainable clothing materials like organic cotton, Tencel, hemp, or linen. These materials are produced with fewer chemicals, making them a safer choice for your health and the environment.
Support sustainable clothing brands and buy eco friendly clothing
Supporting sustainable clothing brands that prioritize ethical and eco-friendly practices can help reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals like formaldehyde. These brands often use certified organic materials, follow strict production guidelines, and prioritize transparency throughout their supply chain.
What fabrics have formaldehyde in them?
Formaldehyde can be found in a variety of fabrics, including synthetic and natural materials. It is often used as a finishing agent to prevent wrinkles, shrinkage, and mold growth. Some fabrics more likely to contain formaldehyde include polyester, rayon, and wrinkle-free cotton blends.
Is formaldehyde in all fabric?
No, formaldehyde is not present in all fabrics. It is more commonly found in synthetic materials and wrinkle-free cotton blends. Opting for certified organic or sustainable materials can help you avoid formaldehyde and other harmful chemicals in your clothing.
Now that we've gotten past the negative, let's move on to the optimistic part! Luckily, there are a number of sustainability certificates that make it easy for you to find sustainable, eco-friendly clothing, and toxin-free organic materials. With them, you can be sure that your clothes are good to the environment and your health, and that no toxins were used in production.
What sustainability certifications are there?
There are almost as many sustainability certificates as there is microplastic in our oceans. But not all of them are equally meaningful, since some individual certificates created by large fashion brands are hardly controlled at all. Here are the most important sustainability certifications to look out for when buying chemical free clothing.
The International Association of the Natural Textile Industry (IVN) has developed the IVN Best, a particularly strict eco-label. It excludes synthetic fibers (giving the conditions for a circular economy) and checks the entire manufacturing process from the sourcing to the final product.
GOTS stands for "Global Organic Textile Standard". This certificate is one of the most transparent and trustworthy and monitors the entire production process. In addition to at least 70 percent natural fibers from controlled organic origin, a maximum of 30 percent recycled fibers may be included. Does the GOTS certificate for GOTS certified clothing look familiar? No wonder - all our heavenly soft sustainable basics are GOTS certified!
All fibers of the final product are tested for harmful substances according to the Oeko-Tex Standard. Made in Green also looks at factors like environmental performance, workers safety, social responsibility and more. It certifies natural mixed and recycled fibers only.
This seal stands for certified cotton that is produced and traded under fair working conditions and ensures decent working conditions and minimum wages.
What's next? Embrace sustainable and chemical-free clothing choices
Ready to dive into the world of sustainable and chemical-free clothing? There are plenty of options available, from second-hand treasures to brand new eco-friendly garments. By choosing fair trade, GOTS certified clothing, and sustainable alternatives, you're making a positive impact on your health, the environment, and the lives of those who produce your clothes. Here's how to get started:
Explore second-hand shopping
Second-hand clothes shops, both physical and online, are a fantastic way to find sustainable clothing at affordable prices. Check out websites like Vinted, Depop or Poshmark. where you can not only buy certified pre-loved clothes but also sell your old items.
Discover new sustainable clothing options
If you prefer new clothing instead, there are many great online shops like Urbankissed, Loveco or Staiy. You can also explore GOTS certified organic clothing brands directly on the certification websites, which often feature links to all their certified brands or even host their own online stores. Nowadays, many local stores exclusively offer certified and chemical-free clothing, so keep an eye out for one in your neighborhood!
Prioritize ethical clothing and low-impact dyes
While cheap fast fashion items may be tempting, choosing sustainable, organic clothing brands and products is a smarter choice for your health, the environment, and the well-being of everyone involved in the production process. To shop for chemical-free, organic clothes, here's what to watch out for:
Read the tag: what fibers and ingredients are in the clothes?
Avoid plastic prints, sequins and cheaply processed materials
Opt for natural fibers and eco-friendly fabrics instead of synthetic ones.
Look for sustainability certifications
Learn more about the origins of your clothes
At Orbasics, we're passionate about creating clothes that are good for you and the environment. If you're curious about where your clothes come from, you can find all the details about our production process in this article.
By making conscious choices in your clothing purchases, you're supporting a more sustainable, ethical, and healthier fashion industry. So, go ahead and embrace the world of sustainable and chemical-free clothing - you won't look back!
And if you want to find out even more about this topic, here are some additional links.
Sustainability Certifications checked by Greenpeace
Green online Marketplaces to shop:
*At our blog, we have made it our mission to recommend the best sustainable products to our readers. This means that every recommendation you find here has been thoroughly researched or even tested by us. Our blog content is put together specifically for our readers - but your support also plays an important role in keeping things going. Some of our blog articles contain affiliate links, so we get a small commission when you buy something through them, which in turn helps us to develop the blog further and create even more useful and valuable content for you!