Not so eco as mad men tell you

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This article is translated from a Finnish Kuningaskuluttaja tv programme in Finland that specializes in consumer information and rights. The original article is by Terhi Simola, Kuningaskuluttaja / Yle Tutkiva asia. I´ve said it a million times before, but in order to become an ecological fashionista you have to read about where your clothes come from and how they are made and not just believe what advertising people and brands lead you to believe. And if you are studying to be a fashion designer you HAVE TO know this stuff because it will eventually effect your label if you´re planning to be eco. If you want to edjucate yourself in textile production and chemical use, read this blog Eco Textiles.


When manufacturing clothes, there are many chemicals used. Are there toxins also present in the process? For the consumer it is really hard to say what the colors and finishings to to them when they wear the garment and especially what is their effect to the environment. Journalist Terhi Simola asked some important fashion questions from research doctor (I hope I translated her title correct) Marja Rissanen from Tampere Tech University.

1. True or false: Textiles that come in direct contact with your skin (also bed sheets) must be washed before use?
- True. Cotton and viscose products, for example underwear and bed sheets should be washed before use. They might contain formaldehyde, which is a part of many softening chemicals, that might irritate skin. This applies also to baby clothes. Formaldehyde has a sharp smell to it and it washes out in water. The biggest problem is the coloring and finishing chemicals that should be mostly removed in the manufacturing process but sometimes traces are left in the garment.

2. True or false: Dark/black and brightly colored garments have more poisonous chemicals used in the making process than in lighter colored garments?
- False. It is impossible to determine how dangerous a garment is by just looking at it. It is true that dark and bright colors require more dyes, but when it comes to toxicity, the quality of the dye is important, not the amount. Some dyes are so poisonous that EU banned them from production and import, but they are still in use in some countries that don´t have such strict legislation. But these dyes are most harmful to the factory employees that process them and not so much to the end consumer.

3. True or false: organic/eco cotton is always a safe choise?
False. The ecological trademarks of cotton only applies to the growth of this fibre. It does not say anything about the rest of the manufacturing phases, like dyes or finishes. If the garment is made in a country that does not have such a strict legislation that EU does, it is possible toxic chemicals are used in the process.

4. True or false: bamboo (fibre) which is often marketed as "eco" has many toxic chemicals used in the fibre processing?
- Unfortunately true.. The fibre marketed as "bamboo" is not a natural fibre that is directly exracted from the plant, but a manmade bamboolike cellulose fibre. Basically it is like viscose which has many toxic chemicals used in the process (and loads of fresh water!!). Often it is produced in countries that don´t have a very strong environmental law and this is why it is very likely that much of the chemicals are released to the environment. Bamboo fibre is often falsely marketed as anti microbic and UV-protective which it is not as it is made like viscose. It´s ability to adsorb moisture and being antistatic is the same as viscose. Nothing more..

5. True or false: "made in EU" is a guarantee of a safe product?
- This is true. At least then you know that the garment has been produced within EU legislation or the laws of the EU country where it was made. But if the garment reads "designed in EU" (another marketing trick) it does not guarantee anything! The importer companies have a great responsibility in fiding these things out and the whole manufacturing chain should be as short and clear as possible.

Here are some more facts about bamboo fibre: Via Organic Clothing blog.

Bamboo the plant is wonderfully sustainable; bamboo the fabric isn’t so easy to categorize. There are two ways to process bamboo to make the plant into a fabric: mechanically or chemically. The mechanical way is by crushing the woody parts of the bamboo plant and then use natural enzymes to break the bamboo walls into a mushy mass so that the natural fibers can be mechanically combed out and spun into yarn. This is essentially the same eco-friendly manufacturing process used to produce linen fabric from flax or hemp. Bamboo fabric made from this process is sometimes called bamboo linen. Very little bamboo linen is manufactured for clothing because it is more labor intensive and costly. Chemically manufactured bamboo fiber is a regenerated cellulose fiber similar to rayon or modal. Chemically manufactured bamboo is sometimes called bamboo rayon (another fancy word for viscose..) because of the many similarities in the way it is chemically manufactured and similarities in its feel and hand.

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