November 20, 2017

OEKO-TEX® vs Organic Cotton

What’s the best cotton for bed sheets?

When we set out to find the best fabric to use in our IYLA bed sheets, we immediately assumed organic cotton was a must. After all, organic has always been promoted as being “better” in what we eat and drink. We also believe that anything we create should be done so ethically and at a minimal cost to the planet – and since the chemicals used in the manufacturing process of cotton bed sheets can harm the planet and ourselves, organic cotton appeared to be the logical solution to this problem. However, during our intensive research process we soon discovered that it wasn’t all black and white.

The problem with organic cotton

While many people see organic organic cotton sheets as the epitome of quality, made of 100% organic cotton fibres, this is sadly not often the case. One of the biggest issues with organic cotton is that the term “organic” is not yet regulated under Australian law, meaning sellers aren’t required to follow specific standards in order to claim their product is “organic” and that the origins of the cotton can’t necessarily be tracked. The other problem we came across is that the cotton threads in organic cotton are often shorter when compared with the staple length of Egyptian cotton. This shorter staple length means the sheets won’t be as soft and smooth, potentially making for a less comfortable night’s sleep. We explain more about cotton fibre length here

What about organic certification?

Even though Australia has a handful of certifying bodies, there is still too much room for creative advertising around organic cotton. For instance, a sheet can still carry an organic label even if it has only 70% organic cotton fibres – the other fibres could be non-organic cotton or a synthetic like polyester.

Chemical use in cotton manufacturing

Even more shocking is that chemicals can still be used during the manufacturing process to soften the coarse organic fibres – and they’re not even required to list the chemicals they used during this process. In short, uncertified “organic cotton” may not even be chemical free. Unsurprisingly, substantial use of chemicals during the manufacturing process can pose many risks to your health. The use of urea-formaldehyde (a resin used on “wrinkle-resistant”, “permanent press” and cotton-polyester blend sheets) being one of the scariest – even in trace amounts. Research indicates it is linked to cancer, skin irritations, allergic reactions; dizziness and fatigue; and respiratory problems. Yet despite the potential threat to human health, urea-formaldehyde is still used by many bed linen manufacturers -- and once a fabric is treated with it, it’s almost impossible to completely wash out.

The IYLA solution

With organic cotton not meeting our requirements for comfort OR safety, we decided to find a solution that wouldn’t involve a compromise. Firstly, we chose to use Egyptian cotton, a cotton that requires much less chemical treatment than most thanks to the ideal conditions it’s grown in.

Next, we looked for a third-party certification — the highest level of assurance a textile product can achieve. One of the most comprehensive is the OEKO-TEX® Standard 100, a certification system for textile producers run by OEKO-TEX®, a global network of laboratories. They test for harmful substances which are prohibited or regulated by law and chemicals which are known to be harmful to health. In addition, the European Union provides a legislative framework for testing chemical compounds in products (REACH protocol) which holds manufacturers responsible for the safety and health of both humans and the environment.

All of our products exceed both OEKO-TEX® certification and REACH protocol requirements. This is what sets us apart from cheaply mass-produced products with questionable health and quality. It’s not enough for us to simply offer linens that look and feel good — we have gone to great lengths to ensure everything we create is ethically and safely made.

The choice is yours

Why are we sharing all of this with you? Because we believe that you have a right to decide what you sleep on at night. Rather than try and wow you with marketing buzzwords, we’re simply giving you the full story on our cotton and the reasons behind why we chose it. If you’re interested in giving IYLA sheets a try, you can explore our range here or you can keep reading about them, starting with our article on the differences between percale and sateen