How can we make sure a fabric is free of chemicals of concern?

Textiles impact our health and the health of our planet.

Most fabric contains toxic chemicals that are residual and have been shown to cause illness in adults, and developmental problems in children.

At Two Sisters Ecotextiles, we produce our fabrics (both fiber and cloth) with careful attention to environmental sustainability factors all through the supply chain.

None of our fabrics contain harmful chemical residues that can trigger or aggravate health problems.

How can we make sure a fabric is free of chemicals of concern?

Third party certifications give us measurable standards by which we can compare products, and are a very useful tool.

Certifications fall into three categories: first, second and third party certifications:

  1. In first party certifications, a person or an organization says it meets certain standards which it has set for itself; there is not usually an independent test to verify those claims.
  2. In second party certification, an industry-based association provides the assurance that a product meets certain criteria which are usually dictated by a group of vested interests, the members of the association. This type of certification offers little assurance against conflicts of interest.
  3. Third party certifications are issued by independent testing companies based on impartial evaluation of a claim by expert unbiased sources with reference to a publicly available set of standards. Third party certification is considered the highest level of assurance you can achieve.

In the textile industry, there are two certifications which are transparent and to which we certify our fabrics: the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Oeko-Tex.

What does it mean for a fabric to be GOTS certified?

GOTS requires that not only are the fibers spun in to the yarns be third party certified organic[1], but that every step of the production process adhere to a strict set of requirements, including; no chemicals can be used which have been proven to harm humans or the environment at any stage of the textile production process; water must be treated to a very high standard before release back into the local river, lake, whatever; and certain worker safety and worker rights issues are honored, like no child or slave labor and a certain minimal level of safe working conditions (Still a prominent problem in textile production.) Although it does not explicitly address carbon footprint, a GOTS certified FABRIC is the best choice by far, carbon wise right now. Exponentially better than recycled polyester, for instance, or of conventional cotton fabric. Even a GOTS certified fabric shipped from Asia to America is lots better, carbon footprint-wise, than a conventionally produced fabric of any fiber type. (See our FAQ about carbon footprint if you're interested.) GOTS does allow up to 5% non-organic fibers in fabric, such as the use of lycra giving stretch to fabrics; and there are lower levels of GOTS allowing down to just 70% organic fibers. The fabrics must be labeled 70% or whatever. Our GOTS fabrics are all 100% organic fibers.

  Fabric made with "organic fiber" - but processed conventionally GOTS compliant fabric
Uses organic fibers only YES YES
Free of any known chemicals that can harm you or the ecosystem NO YES
Water used in processing is treated before release NO YES
Workers are paid fair wages; working conditions are hygienic NO YES

To read more about GOTS, go to:

What does it mean for a fabric to be Oeko-Tex certified?

The goal of Oeko-Tex fabric safety standard is to ensure that fabrics pose no risk to human health.

The Oeko-Tex Standard, in use since 1992, prohibits the same long list of chemicals that GOTS prohibits; but Oeko-Tex addresses nothing else about the production steps. For example, wastewater treatment is not required, nor are workers rights addressed. It is NOT an organic certification and products bearing this mark are not necessarily made from organically grown fibers – or from natural fibers at all. Plastic yarn (polyester, nylon, acrylic) is permitted. Oeko-Tex is only concerned with the safety of the final product.

The Oeko-Tex 100 certification does emphasize thorough testing for a lengthy list of chemicals which are known or suspected to harm health, including lead, antimony, arsenic, phthalates, pesticides, and chlorinated phenols. The official table of limits for tested chemicals may be found on the Oeko-Tex website (LINK). Specifically banned are:

  • All flame retardants
  • Carcinogenic and allergy-inducing dyes
  • Pesticides
  • Chlorinated phenols
  • Chloro-organic benzenes and toluenes
  • Heavy metals
  • Organotin compounds (TBT and DBT)
  • Formaldehyde

Oeko-Tex certified fabrics are required to have a skin friendly pH. If you remember your high school chemistry, pH is the indication of the level of acidity or base (salt). Skin's natural pH is a tad acidic, and when it's eroded your defenses are down, leaving you vulnerable to bacteria, moisture loss, and irritation.

Oeko-Tex certified fabrics will not create these stresses. And the fabrics will feel lovely against your skin.