You may have often seen clothes labeled as OEKO-TEX and wondered what exactly that means. It may be confusing to understand what OEKO-TEX cotton fabric is and even more confusing to understand the difference between OEKO TEX cotton and organic cotton. And more importantly, what does OEKO TEX 100 standard mean, and how is it different from organic cotton or GOTS-certified cotton? Read on to understand it better, for this article will clarify it all.
What does OEKO-TEX mean?OEKO-TEX stands for the International Association for Research and Testing in the Field of Textile and Leather Ecology; it started in 1992. It’s a product testing system that certifies clothing by providing labels that ensure the safety of textiles and textile products. Many different levels of certification are available in this regard, and textile manufacturers are liable to apply for the certification. So if you choose Oeko tex fabric, you are more likely to make an eco-friendly choice. OEKO-TEX Standard 100 is the most common certification to be labeled. It is also something that consumers are most likely to come across in their daily lives. The label guarantees that all aspects of the textile, including even little details, be it buttons, embellishments, zippers, and other finishings, are free of 100 harmful chemicals often used in textiles. Approved labs run the tests after being directly pulled from the retail shelves; they are sometimes even retested during audits to keep up with the quality assurance. Reka Tex label testing starts with concerns about how the raw material’s production is handled. It does not look at how the cotton was produced but instead tests the final product after production. Also, not all Oeko Tex 100 standard certified products are cotton, organic cotton, or sustainable cotton. However, cotton would certainly be the most commonly certified material with Oeko Tex.
What are the harmful chemicals that are used in manufacturing clothes?There’s a lot of usage of toxic chemicals in the making of clothes; it requires formaldehyde, phthalates, pesticides, and certain azo dyes for the proper finishing stages of textile production. This allows companies to streamline production; it helps them create desirable properties for fabrics, like wrinkle resistance. These toxins in the textile cause harm to the end-user and the environment as a whole, and OEKO-TEX ensures that products that reach the end user are free of these toxins. Phthalates are a common content in the logos on clothing and are also somewhat used in the production of accessories. Phthalates were even referred to as “the everywhere chemical” by the NIH. Regular exposure to this chemical is associated with dreadful effects on reproductive health in both men and women, and it is also likely to cause developmental problems in children. Azo dyes are very commonly used synthetic dyes since they are cheaper for production and resist the breakdown that comes with washing and being exposed to light. It was found that some dyes are responsible for causing cancer while some can cause user allergies. That is when OEKO-TEX comes into the picture and takes care of such issues. The production of these dyes then leaves behind toxic wastewater, which pollutes the environment in developing countries with high textile production rates. It cannot comply just with the certifications that solely test end products, as they won’t be testing the production process and have no control over the byproducts of the manufacturing process. Formaldehyde is a chemical that is used to create wrinkle and stain-resistant finishes on products. Ever noticed a typical chemical smell coming from a non-iron dress or shirt? That’s formaldehyde. In clothing, formaldehyde can cause certain skin problems like rashes, eczema, and immune responses, as stated by the United States Government Accountability Office. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, so it is a chemical that is an even bigger risk to garment workers when inhaled over long periods of time.
Some Facts about OEKO-TEX Fabric certification
- Certification is not mandatory and lasts 12 months
- It covers all the processing steps
- Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX is a global benchmark
- There are four product classes
- They have 100+ parameters