I am an advocate for totally, utterly, chemical-free baby clothing. Consumerism-free, environmentally responsible, and with sustainability in mind.
Undyed and unbleached, as well as GOTS certified clothing, is the purest possible form. It is not only for babies with chemical sensitivities, eczema-prone skin or allergies – all babies’ skin and respiratory systems are sensitive ones, to one extent or another. What we apply on their skin, what we give them to eat and what clothing touches their skin – all have a direct and indirect effect on their future well-being.
Organic clothing is a thoughtful choice, but we need to be cautious as well. I was actually surprised to know that some of the “so-called” organic clothing is bleached and dyed in a conventional way – in the worst possible way. Conventional bleaching processes use excessive amounts of chemicals as well as water and energy resources and end up as a non-biodegradable waste. Fabric afterwards is dyed with synthetic, chemical-based dyes that are unsafe for the environment and hazardous to human health. Organic? Eco-friendly? Not so much.
Low-impact dyes and non-chlorine bleaching processes are the alternatives that many organic clothing companies are turning to. And truly, they are substantially better than conventional ones. Low-impact dyes have higher absorption rates, which means less chemical and gray water runoff into the environment, doesn’t require mordants, are azo-free and don’t contain heavy metals. But in reality, they are still synthetic, chemical-based dyes that require high concentrations of salt, alkali, and water. Better than conventional ones, but not best for the environment or for us either.
It’s the same with non-chlorine bleach. It is safer for the environment and us, but it still requires an enormous amount of energy and water resources. Additionally, the bleaching process usually requires other added synthetic ingredients. Rinsing afterwards is also a huge unnecessary waste of resources.
Bleaching itself is required for a better dye absorption and it makes the fabric whiter—the natural fabric colour is off-white. So, bleaching is really unnecessary if no dyes are used and there is no desire for a perfect looking fabric.
Oeko-Tek and Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) certified dyeing processes require the final fabric to be as good as low-impact dyes and are specifically tested for skin-safety. It is a tiny step further, but in the end they are the same synthetic dyes that harm the environment. Indeed, many people with multiple chemical sensitivities have reactions to low-impact dyes to a similar extent as conventional ones. Skin-safety testing reduces the possible harmful effects to human health but does not eliminate them completely—especially if skin is prone to sensitivity.
Even natural dyes like clay-dyes or dyes obtained from plants and herbs can be harmful depending on the dyes and mordants used. Extremely large quantities are needed to dye the fabric, typically in a weight equal to or double that of the fibre itself. This makes natural dyes obtained from the plants and lichens quite high-impact. Modern farming where most of the natural dyes are obtained requires a large amount of petroleum fuels too.
Natural dyes require a mordant, or dye fixative, to set the color. It is always a good idea to get to know what kind of mordants are used as there are just a few safe options out there.
In the end, all this bleaching and dyeing is unnecessary for newly born babies – and indeed for the environment. I want to give them the purest start in this world, hug their skin with nature “as is,” and save natural resources at the same time. Our angels are beautiful as they are, without any added funkiness or vibrant colours.
The choice for a thoughtful wardrobe, where we buy, what we buy, and how much we actually need, is itself a profound statement to be worn proudly.
I am not against colours and understand that when children grow we need more practicality. The age comes when they have their favourite color pallet or won’t wear the garment without some sort of picture or character (you name it!) And…the fact that they grow and become more immune! GOTS certified clothing is the safest option out there.
But until then let’s clothe our babies in simple pureness, in what is best for them, and what makes our mom lives easier. (in matters of choices…!) 🙂
And even later on there is always a place for a untreated clothing corner infused by untouched nature charms: to tell them the stories that would be lost otherwise ♥