Green Clothing Care – Chemicals in Fabric and Clothing Processing and Laundry Products

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To care for green clothing in a “green” way, you first would do well to understand some basic information about how traditional (and sometimes, even green) clothing is processed and treated. This is even more important if you are seeking green clothing that is organic in every way, so you will know what to look for before you purchase laundry care products. You will find that green clothing may need to be cared for differently because of the way it is processed. Surprisingly, you may find more chemicals in your green clothing than you think you might.

Sometimes clothing is called “green,” even though it may not be organic due to chemicals or synthetics that may have been applied throughout the creation and production process, and this has an effect on later care once it is in your closet. For example, you may have an organic cotton fiber that has been combined with chemically treated other natural fibers to gain certain characteristics in the fabric. It is still all natural, but not necessarily all organic, and not chemical-free.

A bit of history about perm press clothing and why it was developed: at some point, you may have purchased what’s known as permanent press, which is more easily cared for clothing that retains creases and resists wrinkles. In fact, this was considered an advancement over clothing without it, since in modern times, people have been looking for easier ways to do things, including taking care of their clothes.

But what some may not know is that in order to achieve these characteristics, a chemical called formaldehyde was added to the processing, which changed the nature of the fibers in the clothes to keep it more wrinkle-free. Formaldehyde is a toxic solution used in explosives, industrial applications such as adhesives, paints, and insulation, and embalming. It has been found in bath products, and foods, among other products. Formaldehyde is thought to be carcinogenic.

The use of formaldehyde has lessened over the years, but it is still an ingredient in permanent press, along with a host of other chemicals such as softening and dying agents. The health effects of such chemicals are well known, and includes lung dysfunction, irritation of the breathing passages and skin, organ and system failure, decreased learning and brain function, eye and vision problems, and others. Some of these chemicals have also found their way into processing other fabrics as well.

The overload of chemicals we have in our homes in some cases have made some people chemical sensitive, necessitating them to remove as many chemicals as possible to minimize negative, cumulative effects. Adding to the chemical load are the chemical additives used to create and process clothing, including the ever-increasing use of nanoparticles which are added to protect fabric from wrinkling, stains, and even bacteria and fungus control. Use of nanotechnology is a newer technology whose long-term effects are not completely known.

Even if your clothes are completely organic with no chemicals used in processing, what are you using when you wash, spot-treat, or iron them? Do you use popular laundry detergent and fabric softeners? They often have fragrances that include substances proven to be detrimental to the earth, and to human health.

If you are concerned, do a little research on your favorite products, their ingredients, and how they may affect your family. Many of us have friends and family members who cannot use certain products due to resulting headaches, breathing problems, or skin sensitivities. Using environmentally friendly products on your clothes will help assure you that you are providing the best care you can for your green clothes and your family.

Note: in some cases, even some natural, organic fragrances may not agree with some family members. Check labels for details and choose those best for your loved ones.

For your clothes that can only be dry cleaned, do some research on “wet” cleaning and cleaning that uses CO2, which are chemical-free.

So, rest assured, whether you wash or dry clean, you can take care of all your green clothing cleaning needs through a little research, and care exercised in the products you choose.

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