What’s Your Underwear Made Of?
You buy organic cotton clothes, bedding and hygiene products, but what about your undies? Find out why organic is the way to go…
Every time I think I’m close to achieving a low-tox lifestyle, a new piece of information that I’d never considered before smacks me in the face and leaves me wondering, “Why hadn’t I thought of that yet?!” Enter organic undies.
I’m well aware of the benefits of buying organic cotton products rather than those made from conventional cotton. They contain fewer harmful pesticides and chemicals, they save a ton of water and CO2, and they create healthier working conditions for farmers. I switched to organic tampons ages ago and I buy as many organic cotton products as I can for my family.
So, why in heck are we all still wearing conventional cotton on our most delicate parts? A review of the research has convinced me that this is the next area I need to tackle for the health of my family and the planet. Here’s what I found out…
The issues with conventional cotton underwear
Numerous toxic chemicals are used to make clothes (including underwear) more attractive to the consumer. Here are some of the worst offenders according to Greenpeace International:
- To produce conventional cotton, growers use pesticides linked to neurotoxicity and cancer
- To color textiles, manufacturers apply azo dyes and other dyes that are linked to cancer and affect the liver, thyroid and central nervous system
- To wash fabrics, they use chlorinated solvents that are recognized carcinogens and endocrine disruptors
- To protect clothing against moths and mold, they use chlorophenols and chlorobenzenes that are hormone disruptors and toxic to human organs
- To make it fireproof, they use flame-retardant chemicals that can disrupt hormones and cause developmental issues
- To make it water-, stain- and wrinkle-resistant, they use per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that are linked to hormone disruption and reproductive toxicity as well as the known carcinogen formaldehyde
Research by Greenpeace has found that residues of these chemicals make their way into our waterways with every wash and pollute the environment. And because the chemicals remain on the fabric, they have a negative impact on our health every time we wear them. Eek.
Why organic cotton underwear is a better choice
There are several different underwear materials that are kind to the planet and our bodies, including organic cotton, hemp, lyocell, bamboo lyocell, modal, organic silk, peace silk, organic wool, organic linen, and recycled and upcycled materials.
But despite this wide range of choices, organic cotton remains the most popular non-toxic and eco-friendly material for undies because it’s readily available, comfortable and moisture-wicking.
If you want to make sure that your organic cotton underwear is produced with the least amount of toxic chemicals, look for products that are GOTS-certified or GOTS-compliant. Some small companies can’t afford certification, but they comply with the Global Organic Textile Standard.
You may also want to seek out products that use water-based or vegetable-based dyes, which are non-toxic and eco-friendly. Some companies have their dyes certified by GOTS.
Ready to ditch your child’s old undies and start fresh? At the Tot, we’re obsessed with HART + LAND organic underwear. They’re made from 100% organic Peruvian pima cotton, which is considered the world’s best cotton thanks to its high quality rivaling that of Egyptian cotton and its long fibers that make it durable and as soft as silk.
HART + LAND also uses low-impact dyes that are made from GOTS-certified ingredients.