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How Safe Are The Coloured Dyes Used In Organic Fabrics?

All our fabrics are certified GOTS, (Global Organic Textile Standard). This means that all our ‘Natural’ and ‘Dyed’ fabrics are GOTS certified too. We do not sell anything else.

Most of the dyes we use for colouring are biodegradable, low impact, environmentally friendly chemical dyes, permitted and certified safe to use under GOTS. This means they are safer than those used in conventional textiles, they reduce the environmental impact of textile manufacturing, they do not contain heavy metal and are not considered harmful to humans. A small percentage of the dyes we use are vegetable and herb dyes, which are thought to be even safer. (Our natural colour fabrics are all unbleached and un-dyed, ideal for those who need to be extra careful about what they put next to their skin).

We DO NOT use Azo Dyes: Azo dyes are synthetic dyes used in a variety of consumer goods including foods, cosmetics, carpets, clothes, leather and textiles. According to Product Safety Australia, a small proportion of azo dyes contain aromatic amines and some of those aromatic amines are suspected carcinogens.

➨ READ MORE: Product Safety, Chemicals and Azo Dyes.

We DO NOT use Dye Setters: Dye setter is not permitted, and here’s why.

You may remember TARGET AUSTRALIA advertising that the colour in their garments does not run. The problem with this is, dye setter contains a very nasty chemical that’s commonly used in conventional textiles. It must be used with synthetic fibres, otherwise the dye will run. It has also been shown to be a cancer causing chemical and is one of the chemicals which Peter (our founder) was tested for under controlled conditions — and found to be highly allergic to.

This toxic chemical is called Phenol and it is present in most people’s everyday lives.

Phenol is also used as an antiseptic, a general disinfectant, is the active ingredient in medical preparations including lotions, ointments, mouthwashes, salves. Other uses of phenol include the manufacture of dyes, perfumes, paint, lacquers, rubber, ink, soaps and toys.

However, if you stay away from perfumes, artificially coloured food, commercial soaps and mouthwash (use warm water and salt instead), eat more organic food, wear more organic clothing, sleep with more organic bedding and wrap yourself up in more organic fabrics made from GOTS Certified Organic Cotton, you can rest in peace knowing, you are being more thoughtful about your health and treating your body well. 🙂

GOTS Certification Requirements

All our organic fabrics are coloured using GOTS approved dyes. For instance, the dyes used in our coloured towels and plain-dyed organic poplin are all fibre reactive dyes. Reactive dyes have good fastness properties owing to the covalent bonding that occurs during dyeing. Reactive dyes are most commonly used in dyeing of cellulose like cotton or flax. Reactive dyeing is the most important method for the coloration of cellulosic fibres such as Organic Cotton.

GOTS Certification also required that processing units do not pollute the environment and that they produce “ZERO Waste water discharge”.

We DO NOT use disperse dyes. From a chemical point of view more than 50% of disperse dyes are simple azo compounds, about 25% are anthraquinones and the rest are methine, nitro or naphthoquinone dyes. Disperse dyes are used mainly for polyester, but also for cellulose acetate and triacetate, polyamide and acrylic fibres. Disperse dyes are banned in our dyeing units.

We DO NOT use Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a toxic chemical that no one should use in places of human contact. Formaldehyde can be found in resins for composite wood products (particleboard, hardwood plywood and medium-density fiberboard), household items (paints, lacquers, coating, glues and permanent press fabrics), pesticides or fertilizers and also in consumer and cosmetic products like fabric softeners and dish washing liquids as preservatives.

This compound is also present in clothes since it is used to prevent wrinkles and mildew. While it may be useful in preserving clothing materials since it can also increase stain resistance and colorfastness, unfortunately, the presence of formaldehyde in clothes can cause problems for many people, especially babies, young children, the elderly and those who are chemically sensitive.

Formaldehyde is considered toxic in the US and Canada and is declared by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a human carcinogen. A recent study conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency has revealed that the highest levels of formaldehyde can be detected in the air which is often released from popular consumer products like building materials and furnishings as well as in cleaning products. A person who is exposed to airborne formaldehyde may experience respiratory problems like chest pains, asthma, bronchitis, coughing and wheezing.

Some people have known sensitivity to this carbon compound. People who are extremely sensitive to formaldehyde will experience nasty side effects even with low level exposure. Patients have reported dermatitis (skin rash or skin irritation) and runny nose or headache when they come in contact with products which contain formaldehyde.

NO harmful chemicals are used in any of our fabric colouring processes or manufacture and they’re all tracked and certified by GOTS.

What’s The Difference Between Certified Organic Textiles And Conventional Textiles?

The difference with Organic Cotton Textiles and conventional textiles is that GOTS Certified Organic Textiles are NOT treated with harmful chemicals such as colour fastener, colour setter, wrinkle free, non-iron and lately fragrances, all of which are chemicals, harmful to both the planet and humans.

None of our dyes contain hazardous chemicals. No dye setter is used in the process of dyeing our cotton, and the process we use is low VOC (Volatile organic compound), no AZO (Azo compound) and there are NO heavy metals, nerve toxins or formaldehyde used either, which are all common in conventional cotton dyeing.

We don’t believe these treatments are needed with certified organic textiles due to the fact that 100% cotton and even 95% cotton 5% elastane, (which is also permitted under GOTS; 5% elastane is the limit), absorb the dyes well without further treatment needed from setting chemicals.

What Is Used To Make The Colour In The Organature Organic Cotton Fabrics?

Organic Certification allows for certain biodegradable/low impact dyes to be used to colour fabric. As we only work with GOTS certified products, dyes and fabrics (and to even higher standards than currently required), this means that the process of production is done in a way that it is kinder for the environment and better for you. These biodegradable/low impact dyes are a safer option for people who already suffer from allergies, recurring illness, health issues and chemical sensitivities, than conventional fabrics and dyes currently available in Australia.

Chemical dyes and chlorine bleaches used in non-organic textiles, stiffen the fabric, and the additional use of chemicals such as ‘Formaldehyde’ necessitate the use of yet more chemicals to re-soften them. These chemicals are like ultra violet light and can reduce the quality of the cotton fibre and shorten their life span.

Certified Organic Cotton Textiles are not treated with harmful chemicals such as colour fasteners or dyes, and any dyes that are used, such as in our most popular plain dyed Organic Poplin Sheet Range, are all low impact, non-toxic and environmentally friendly.

What Makes The GOTS Permitted Dyes Environmentally Friendly?

The photos below are of the dyehouse (left) and the cleaning and purification system (right) at the printing and dyeing plant Peter visited in Karur South India. All waste water from their production is treated, producing clean water to be reused in the dyehouse. Any waste solid matter that is left (which is minimal), is collected, put in bags and sent back to the chemical company who re-use most of it to make new dye. Any final residue is safely destroyed by the dye suppliers.

This in-house system for the compulsory collection and cleaning of the waste, was instigated by the India government and is mandatory for all printing and dye-houses. Whatever is left over from making this new dye, is biodegradable.

environmentally-friendly-dye-plant-and-waste-system GOTS Certified

What About Using Purely Natural, Alternative Dyes?

If we could, we would use MORE ‘Vegetable’ and ‘Herb’ dyes, but these are currently not able to be produced economically on a large scale, however in some cases we do use them.

For instance, the Bark Brown and Madder Red Organic Corduroy are herb dyed. Under organic certification these dyes cannot be “set” like conventional bedding, as the process uses harmful chemicals. As a consequence these particular colours will initially bleed, so we suggest you wash several times with added salt in cold water before using. The colours as you see them will change when washed; the bark brown (olive) will turn brown and the madder red will fade to more of a true red. This is not a fault; it is just the nature of such dyes.

What does ‘Natural’ mean with Certified Organic Textiles?

Natural means that the fabric has not been bleached and is not dyed; it is straight from the loom, (weaving machine). Our ‘Natural’ poplin BEDLINEN and BEDDING fabric has been washed to take out the starch and this softens the fabric, no further processing takes place. The fabric remains ‘natural’.

Calico is straight from the looms and has had no wash, no bleach. This is also ‘Natural’.  Sometimes, depending on the yarn construction some calico can be stiffer than others. Our narrow calico has had a very light wash but still remains ‘Natural’.  Our wide width calico is a heavier construction and has NOT been washed at all thus a bit stiffer; also ‘Natural’.

Washing Certified Organic Textiles is done with a GOTS approved soaping solution, not with a chemical detergent like conventional fabrics!

What does ‘White’ mean with Certified Organic Textiles?

Organic certification allows oxy, hydrogen peroxide bleach to provide white fabrics. Although “OB” or Optical Brightener chemicals are also allowed to be used under the Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS); they are NOT used on Organature fabrics. Optically brightened fabrics and sheets are sold by some Australian suppliers of Organic Cotton Bed Linen and Bedding products, but we will not use them.

Organature White is created by bleaching the natural fabric with an Oxy, (Hydrogen Peroxide) wash and final rinse. This bleaches the cotton plant matter left in the yarn and thus in the final fabric. Some certified organic fabrics are given a further treatment with GOTS approved “Optical Brightener” chemical to make the fabric even whiter than oxy bleaching can do. This “OB” fabric is frequently used with organic bedlinen sold by others in Australia.

We DO NOT use Optical Brighteners. Organature does not use or supply this type of fabric as we strongly believe that adding these chemicals, is not necessary at all.

To find out more about what’s permitted and what isn’t, feel free to visit www.global-standard.org.

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