3 Reasons to Avoid Synthetic Clothing & Choose Natural Fabrics Instead
Inside This Post: Reasons to avoid synthetic fabrics & make the switch to natural fibers. Synthetic fabrics are made from plastic & oil byproducts, natural materials are not.
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Reasons to Avoid Synthetic Clothing
We’re living in a material world… a world of synthetic and natural materials, that is.
When I first dove head first to learn about all the chemicals found in everyday products, I quickly became overwhelmed at all the changes I knew I needed to make in our home.
After wiping our kitchen clean of plastics, I next focused on materials we have in our home and specifically clothing and bedding material.
As my own clothing and my husband’s wore out or fell out of style, I started looking at labels like I never had before.
That’s because I wanted to replace clothing with natural fibers like cotton, wool, linen, etc. instead of synthetic fibers. We have a long way to go before our closets are entirely free from synthetic materials, but we’re making gradual progress.
It’s really important to me to make the switch because I have three little kids at home and because the exposure to toxins is far greater due to the surface area ratio to toxicity in their little bodies and developing organs, removing plastics from the clothes they wear and fabrics they come into contact with, is really important to me.
Here’s what I’ve found about the use of synthetic fabrics in our clothing, bedding, towels and furniture.
1) Synthetic Fabrics: The Unseen Dangers
Natural fibers are made from 100% natural products derived from the earth. Materials made of natural fibers are cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo fibers, wool, cashmere and silk.
Natural materials like these I’ve found are softer, more comfortable and more breathable (especially if you’re prone to overheating and sweating) than their synthetic equivalents.
Synthetic fibers are man-made from plastics, coal and oil byproducts and are non-biodegradable, meaning they’ll exist in landfills for centuries.
These fibers are not going to burn into ashes like natural fibers would, but they melt upon heating, sticking to the person wearing it and causing severe burns. If you’re cooking in the kitchen or near open flame, it’s advised you wear natural fibers.
In your home, stay away from large furniture pieces made with synthetic fabrics in case of a fire, which would only be exacerbated by these types of fabrics.
Polyester is derived from petroleum, and that’s going directly on your skin for hours upon hours at a time. Each time you wash polyester clothes, they shed micro plastic fibers that are so small, wastewater treatment plants don’t filter them and they eventually end in our waterways and oceans… and then yep, right back in your tap water.
Synthetic fibers include:
2) Synthetic Fabrics & The Toxic Chemicals That Go Into Creating Them
- 1. Polyester – Highest level of toxins in this fabric. It’s made from long-chain synthetic polymers that are made from esters of dihydric alcohol and terpthalic acid.
- Acrylic – fabrics are polycrylonitriles and are carcinogenic, meaning they may cause cancer, according to the EPA.
- Rayon – recycled wood pulp that must be treated with chemicals like caustic soda, ammonia, acetone and sulphuric acid to survive regular washing and wearing.
- Acetate and Triacetate – created from wood fibers called cellulose and undergo extensive chemical processing to produce the finished product.
- Nylon – made from petroleum and is often given a permanent, harmful chemical finish.
- If the label reads static resistant, static-free, stain resistant, permanent press, wrinkle-free, stain proof or moth repellent. Many of the stain resistant and wrinkle-free fabrics are treated with perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), like Teflon.
Additionally, your shirts and slacks may be treated to be wrinkle-free or stain resistant on top of that.
Many fabrics (including natural fibers) undergo significant processing that often involves:
- Petrochemical dyes – vibrant colors and prints are appealing, but many are achieved with toxic chemicals.
- Formaldehyde to prevent shrinkage
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- Dioxin-producing bleach
- Chemical fabric softeners
These additives are toxic to the human body, and many contain heavy metals that get into the skin.
Chemically treated natural and synthetic fabrics are a source of dangerous toxins that affect your health, your kid’s health even more, and the environment.
3) Synthetic Fabrics Hold Bacteria & Make You Smellier (Unlike Natural Fabrics)
Natural fibers (like cotton) are more breathable than synthetic fabrics, helping to keep the body from overheating when exercising or chasing after your kids.
Body odor is the accumulation of sweat mixing with bacteria in the armpits. Everyone has it, but the problem with what you dress yourself in, is that synthetic fabrics hold the bacteria and even help it proliferate, more than natural materials which give your body air to breathe.
You can try to cover up body odor with deodorant (read this to find what toxins are in antiperspirants and safe alternatives), detergents and fragrance, but if you just made the switch to a natural fabric for wicking sweat and keeping bacteria from building up, you’ll smell fresher and can avoid some of these other chemicals to combat smell, in the first place.
Non-Toxic and Safe Fabrics to Choose Instead
Read labels and look for natural fibers like:
- Bamboo Fiber
If you can, look for and wear organic fabrics and organic clothing. While they still might be processed, it’s not nearly the extent of synthetic fabrics and are always a better choice than man-made materials.
There is growing interest in organic cotton, with H&M and Inditex, the parent company of Zara, featuring among the world’s top five users of organic cotton by volume in 2016. But overall use of organic cotton represents less than 1% of the world’s total annual cotton crop.
When you launder your clothes, avoid dry cleaning for the use of harsh chemicals, and wash clothes in a plant-based and toxic free version like this one or this one which have zero chemicals and irritants.
To gain a full understanding of what harsh toxins are lurking in your home and what happens when you breathe, eat, touch or smell them, Download Your Free Starter Guide to Environmental Toxins Hiding in Your Home