Choosing Organic Textiles and Caring for Fabrics in Eco-Friendly Ways

by Megan Kioulafofski
woman wearing organic textiles

Changing how we care for others, the Earth, and ourselves, starts with the things we do every day, and with the products we shop and consume. Making these changes means taking a closer look at the clothes on our backs, the sheets on our beds, the grocery bags we use at the supermarket, and even the hygiene products in our bathroom closet. 

The dangers associated with common chemicals used in conventional textile manufacturing pose a threat to many cultures and ecosystems. Supporting the use of organic fabrics and eco-friendly product manufacturing is one big step toward investing in a better future for all.

And since consumers who choose natural fibres discover many benefits to wearing them, and quickly learn how easy it is to care for them sustainably, in this post we’ll discuss the advantages of using eco-friendly fabrics in our daily lives. We’ll also show you how to care for them, and explain which are the dangers of fast manufacturing, and why we need to bring these practices to an end.

Dangers of Toxic Textile Manufacturing

Unlike organic practices which are natural and safe, conventional textile manufacturing often uses chemical compounds to turn raw materials into clothing or bedding. In fact, 20% of industrial water pollution comes from this process. The chemicals and dyes enter waterways around factories, putting ecosystems and local towns at risk of associated illnesses. 

Practices like fast fashion come with many modern-day societal issues as well. Some people experience health problems or allergic reactions to specific synthetic materials, dyes, and preservative finishes used in fabric processing. Although these chemicals can improve fabric durability and appearance, they often prove a threat to you and the environment. 

The most common compounds include:

  • Formaldehyde – This volatile organic compound, when used in large quantities, can cause respiratory problems and skin irritation.
  • Azo dyes – Responsible for vivid coloration, these dyes come off fabrics easily and release chemicals when they break down.
  • Heavy metals – If absorbed by the body, heavy metals can accumulate in the liver and kidneys and may lead to serious health complications. Lead and mercury are restricted metals in textile manufacturing.
  • Organotin compounds – Mostly tin, these compounds are antimicrobial but can also accumulate in the body. The EU has banned certain levels in textiles.
  • Chlorobenzenes – Used in dyeing polyester, these chemicals are toxic when inhaled or touched by bare skin and can prove detrimental to different organs and the nervous system. The EU has also restricted certain levels of these chemicals.

Many factory workers don’t have the required protection while working with these chemicals. Other than that, when toxins drain into the creeks, rivers, and lakes of surrounding cities, the water becomes heavily polluted. Most of this wastewater goes untreated. 

Substances such as formaldehyde and heavy metals enter the water we use for daily activities, causing us to consume them unknowingly. Marine life on or near the coast cannot survive the chemical toxicity either. The pollutants released into the air are not healthy for us to breathe, nor are they good for our atmosphere. 

The dangers associated with common compounds used in textile manufacturing are far-reaching and affect public health and the environment. But when you opt for organic textiles, you’re choosing fabrics that don’t require these chemical processes.

What Are Organic Textiles?

organic cotton for fabrics

GOTS-certified products follow the Global Organic Textile Standard. This standard is a straightforward way to define sustainable and ethical production in the textile industry so consumers can choose truly organic products, sourced from green supply chains. When you select a GOTS-certified item, you’re supporting sustainable textile products throughout the entire supply chain, from seed to stitch.

Organic fibers are natural and grown according to national standards without using toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or genetic engineering. The following are some of the more popular natural fibers you find in organically produced and manufactured clothing, fabrics, and upholstery:

  • Cotton
  • Wool
  • Hemp
  • Flax (linen)

Benefits of Choosing GOTS Organic Textiles

When you select clothes, towels, bedsheets, mattresses, and other GOTS-certified or organic textiles, you invest in a world-changing kind of eco-friendly farming and manufacturing. 

Going green with your fabrics is not only better for the environment, but it’s also better for your fellow human beings. Choosing organic fabrics has many all-encompassing benefits:

  • No farmers, factory workers, or ecosystems are at risk since natural fibers do not require toxic chemical processing.
  • Customers don’t have potentially harmful substances in the end product
  • Unlike regular cotton production, growing organic cotton uses less energy, thus releasing fewer greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.
  • Organic cotton farmers use crop rotation and track their crops, using far less water and no persistent pesticides, which drastically reduces water pollution and the amount of farmland created.
  • Workers hired under GOTS-certified workplaces receive fair pay and work in safe conditions with respect to their human rights.
  • GOTS-certified manufacturers place a high value on the quality of their worker’s lives and their goods. These groups also employ a quality assurance system that gives consumers better products.

How to Care for Fabrics Sustainably

Clothes, upholstery, and other fabrics can sometimes come with complicated care instructions. Caring for them often requires water overuse, which puts cleaning them at odds with trying to save water in your daily life

Since natural and organic fibers like cotton and hemp help us simplify our lives and reduce our carbon footprint, why not keep the cleaning process easy, too?

Whether you have GOTS-certified products or are looking for ways to care for all of your fabrics sustainably, green cleaning methods and products have many advantages. Not only do they include natural, non-toxic ingredients, but they are also less harsh on the skin, have a better scent, and prolong the use of items like upholstered or leather furniture.

Sustainable fabrics don’t require special care. Laundering organically produced clothes or sheets is simple and takes very few steps. Use cold water and a natural detergent. Lay your laundry flat to dry or hang items on a clothesline. You can even iron them if you want. Meanwhile, there are other steps you can take to be more eco-friendly with the clothing items you own. Below are some helpful tips.

Ways to care for your fabric chart

Taking Care

Taking good care of what matters to us is something we all do, whether we’re tending to our favorite pieces of clothing or just enjoying the beautiful world that surrounds us. Eco-friendly consumers are educated consumers who practice sustainability in their daily routines. By choosing organic, GOTS-certified textiles, you support an industry that cares, just like you.

And don’t forget, every choice we make matters. Fast fashion is cheap and everywhere around us. But if you decide to spend your money on organic fabrics you will not only help protect the environment, but also your health.

We hope that by reading this blog you are already more informed regarding the textiles you should choose, and the practices you need to encourage. For more interesting posts similar to this one follow our sustainable living blog. 

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