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Last week I wrote about toxins in clothing. The thought of finding non-toxic clothing when there is so little transparency can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are many companies selling chemical-free clothing. Here’s how to find them.
There are dozens of companies profiled on Debra’s List that sell women’s clothing, men’s clothing and baby & kid’s clothing. A good way to start the process of detoxing your closet is to focus on pajamas, undergarments and basics like tee shirts and jeans. Here are some good sources to get you started.
Invest in a couple of pairs of GOTS certified organic pajamas. This way, you will spend roughly one third of your day in chemical-free clothing. It’s a good start.
All of Coyuchi’s pajamas (and all of their other clothing) are GOTS certified organic cotton. Their products are expensive but they are the highest quality and will last for years. These are the most comfortable pajamas I have ever owned.
Try to wear GOTS certified undergarments so at least the clothing that touches your skin is free of chemicals.
You can’t go wrong with this brand. “Super soft organic cotton. No toxic dyes. No toxic pesticides. No sweatshops. No child labor.” All of their products are GOTS certified. Great for underwear and socks.
Maggie’s Organics is a great source for socks. All of their products are GOTS certified organic cotton or wool. Some of the socks have a small percentage of synthetic fabric for elasticity which is allowed under GOTS rules. They have athletic socks which can be hard to find. Maggie’s also has a full line of clothing and accessories.
This company specifically provides clothing for people with skin contact allergies to latex and other common allergens. While not certified by GOTS or Oeko-tex, they use organic cotton and are very transparent about the chemicals used in the process. They focus primarily on undergarments and socks, but also have basic pants and tops for loungewear. “All of our products are made from natural and chemical free 100% combed cotton material. Our elasticized garments are made from a newly developed material that is both latex-free and spandex-free. Our Cottonique fabric is…PH balanced to conform with the body’s natural acidic level and is totally free of dyes, bleach and textile chemicals commonly used in other apparel.”
Clothing basics like tee shirts and leggings that can fit often into your rotation will help you build a non-toxic wardrobe.
Pact sells more than underwear. They have a full collection of clothing for women, men, babies and children.
Coyuchi has recently expanded their clothing line and now sells tees, sweaters, cotton pants and shorts.
Sustainable Clothing Websites
The websites donegood.co, which is based in the U.S., and goodonyou.eco, which is based in Australia, feature brands that do good for people and the planet. Be careful, though. Not all brands or items are entirely free of harmful chemicals. Fortunately, most of the featured companies are transparent about their materials and manufacturing processes so it is easier to find non-toxic options. Many of the brands are GOTS certified.
Clothing can be one of the most challenging areas to navigate for people trying to live a non-toxic lifestyle. Over 8000 chemicals are used in the production of clothing but the U.S. does not have a regulatory agency dedicated to overseeing textile production. There is little transparency in the industry, but fortunately, some companies are beginning to restrict the use of the most hazardous chemicals.
What are the Most Concerning Chemicals Used in Clothing?
Formaldehyde: Used to keep clothes wrinkle or shrink-free, and as a preservative for colorfastness and to prevent mildew, particularly when shipped overseas. Avoid clothing labeled wrinkle-free, iron-free, permanent press, or stain resistant. Washing will remove some, but not all of the chemicals.
Azo Dyes: These are the most common types of dye used for clothing. They release aromatic amines, a chemical linked to cancer.
PFCs: Polyfluorinated chemicals are used for waterproofing and stain-resistance.
Heavy Metals: Lead, cadmium and mercury are used in dyes and for leather tanning.
Flame Retardants: Brominated and chlorinated flame retardants are still sometimes used in children’s clothing.
Other chemicals of concern include phthalates, ammonia, chlorine bleach, and high-VOC solvents.
What Types of Materials are Best?
GOTS-Certified Organic Cotton or Wool:
Choosing clothing based on fabric alone is not enough to avoid chemicals. Even organic cotton can be processed and treated with hazardous chemicals. GOTS, The Global Organic Textile Standard, restricts the chemicals used throughout the manufacturing process. The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification also restricts chemicals used in the manufacturing process and covers both organic and non-organic fabrics.
Use with Caution:
Tencel is made from eucalyptus trees which are sustainable and ethically grown. The chemicals used to process the fiber are petroleum-based but generally less toxic than those used to process cotton.
Flax requires little to no pesticides and can be mechanically processed into linen fabric with few chemicals. A cheaper alternative that is becoming more common, however, is chemically processed linen.
While much of the pesticides from growing cotton are washed off during processing, even small exposures to pesticides have been linked to adverse health effects. The processing of cotton is chemical-intensive, including steps to bleach, scour, dye and finish the fabric.
Rayon is made by a chemical-intensive process that converts wood pulp into fiber.
Polyester is derived from petroleum but the process to dye it uses fewer chemicals than cotton because it retains the dye better.
Faux or vegan leather is often made with PVC. The main ingredient in PVC, vinyl chloride is a carcinogen. PVC also contains phthalates.
There are hundreds of chemicals used in the tanning of leather. Most leather is tanned using the toxic metal, chromium.
Unfortunately, there is not a simple, affordable way to build an entire wardrobe of non-toxic clothing. Here are some helpful tips to minimize your chemical exposure.
- Wash before wearing.
While you can’t wash out all of the chemicals, washing new clothing will help to remove residual finishing treatments.
- Invest in GOTS certified pajamas.
This is a great way to ensure that you will be free of toxins for the 8 or so hours of your day that you are asleep. Make sure your sheets and bedding are also GOTS certified.
- Wear GOTS certified undergarments.
It’s important that the garments closest to your skin are free of harmful chemicals. Fortunately, there are an increasing number of options available.
- Buy from retailers with transparent chemical management policies.
Check out Green America’s scorecard of major U.S. apparel retailers. (Target, The North Face, Nike, and the Gap get a thumbs up for chemical management.)
- Buy vintage clothing.
Clothing that has been washed for a period of years is more likely to have fewer chemicals. This may not be an option for people who are sensitive to fragrance.
- Buy Less.
This one’s simple. Less clothes = less chemicals.
Green America 2019, Toxic Textiles, January 2020, https://www.greenamerica.org/sites/default/files/2019-07/GA_TextilesReport_Final_0.pdf.
Stockholm University 2015, Toxins remain in your clothes, ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, January 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151023084508.htm>.
GAO 2010, Formaldehyde in Textiles, January2020, <https://www.gao.gov/assets/310/308673.pdf
Question from Sue
I read through the recommendations for space heaters on this site. I did further research, and though the suggestions are low-offgassing, they are not low-emf. I have severe electrical sensitivities (as well as severe chemical sensitivities). I had a Lakewood oil-filled radiator heater with 2 prongs which died, and then I found a Lakewood oil-filled radiator with 3 prongs on the cord, and it was much more emf-safe for me (than the 2-prong one). I bought them both USED, so they were off-gassed. The 3-prong one just died. I have been unable to find a 3-prong replacement by any brand. I am willing to try any type of space heater, as long as it is both low-emf and low-offgassing.
Readers, any suggestions?
Question from Kiersten
I’ve been searching for a weighted blanket to find and am having no luck finding one that doesn’t include some kind of polyester. The best I’ve found is this for example, with glass beads and certified toxic-free fabrics, but they still say the use a thin layer of polyester batting to hold the beads in place: https://balooliving.com
Have you done any research into weighted blankets and found one that is made entirely with toxic free materials?
Here is one that was recommended by a reader. It is not organic, but it is 100% cotton with glass beads.
Question from Viki
What is your opinion on organic mattresses with coil inner springs in them? Does it work like an antenna, collecting waves? (I have heard that before but never researched it.)
I am not an expert on EMFs (although I will be trained in it this coming summer). But, based on what I have read a steel mattress coil by itself does not emit EMFs. And it also does not attract or concentrate EMFs. This can be measured with a gaussmeter.
Question from Vangie
A friend of mine made me a coffee table out of an electrical pole, its beautiful but it smell very bad and as if its toxic from where I read about electric poles… can Zinsser Bull’s eye shellac block the smell?
Shellac may block the smell but it will also contribute chemical off-gassing. I would try a non-toxic sealer like AFM Safecoat, which is designed to seal in toxins.
Question from Edy
I found this pressure cooker online supposedly toxic free. Any thoughts?
The product looks to be non-toxic and they do independent testing for lead and cadmium. I don’t have personal experience with it.
I have an Insta Pot but do not use it very often and never use it to cook acidic foods like tomato sauce. Some people, particularly those with a nickel sensitivity, chose to avoid stainless steel. Here is more on my thoughts on stainless steel.
Question from Tami
Hi I am wondering if you know anything with the Kaldewei enameled steel, porcelain bathtubs. We are going to have our bathroom redone and I am looking for a non toxic tub to replace a fiberglass surround. Any advice would be appreciated.
I don’t have personal experience with the brand but it looks like a good option.
Question from Audrey
I may need to get a new refrigerator. I called Needs in Syracuse and they said that the moso bags will not help with the outgassing/plastic smells in new refrigerator. She had no suggestions except keeping the door open and putting an air cleaner in front of it. Can you please post this question to see what mcs people have done to outgas the inside of a new refrigerator? Thank you so much.
I have not yet researched the materials used in refrigerators but one reader with MCS reported that Summit refrigerators do not have an odor. Have you considered buying a used refrigerator or a floor sample that has already off-gased?
Question from Sandy
I am looking for safe dinnerware sets that would be heavy metal free as possible that is affordable? Is there any brands I could check into that you would know of? I did check with corelle and they said it meets prop. 65 but I know no amount of heavy metals are safe. So just want to see what else may be out there that I dont know about.
Read more in this article: Is Ceramic Dishware Safe?