Organic Clothing: Worth it or Not? - Modern Alternative Mama
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Organic Clothing: Worth it or Not?

admin January 4, 2011

Image by Simply Organic

Organic clothing.

Everything these days is organic.  And yes, clothing too.  Most of us have probably heard of organic baby clothes and diapers, but other types of organic clothes we don’t typically see.  What makes them organic?  Why would we want to buy them?  And are they really worth it?

First of all, organic clothing is usually made from one of two materials: organic cotton, or organic hemp.  The cotton is grown in the U.S. (sometimes), and it’s important that it’s organic because cotton is ordinarily one of the most heavily sprayed crops.  Hemp clothing (or at least hemp fabric) is imported, because it’s not really legal to grow here.

Side note: Industrial hemp, the plant used to make fabric, paper, and other textiles is not the same plant as the type of hemp that is smoked as marijuana.  It is a long, ropey plant, not a short, leafy one.  It can’t be smoked.  It can also be grown very easily with no pesticides.  But since it’s such a highly renewable, green resource, it would threaten both the cotton and timber industries, and so is illegal to grow.  In the 1940s and 50s there was a huge smear campaign against hemp (the smokable kind, which also is not as dangerous or addictive as the authorities would have us believe), and industrial hemp got lumped in.  It was an entirely political move, and does nothing but harm the environment and us.  Hemp paper and fabric would be extremely cheap and eco-friendly if it could be produced here.  Just so you know.

By choosing organic clothing, you’re avoiding farming practices that contribute to polluting the environment.  There’s also the fact that the chemicals are still in the cotton when you buy it, and can be absorbed into your skin.  Plus, certain products — like kids’ pajamas — have flame-retardant chemicals intentionally added (which are proven carcinogens), while organic clothes don’t.  Clearly, organic clothing is safer.

However, you’ll also pay a serious premium price tag.  A single cloth diaper is $25 or more (compared to $15 – $18 for non-organic versions), and a onesie might be $15 (non-organic are about $1/each in a 5-pack).  Especially if you’re buying a whole wardrobe (or several, as babies grow fast), it just isn’t feasible for most to buy organic clothes at these prices.

There’s also the issue, though, that pesticides (and flame retardant) can wash out of clothing.  This source says fabric is so processed that there’s no pesticide residue left in the first place.   However, the clothing is processed with even more chemicals and petroleum-based dyes.  Not to mention the effects on the workers who grow and process the cotton and make the actual clothes.  A lot of the chemicals likely do wash out in time; 1 – 2 washings is probably sufficient for most chemicals.

What about flame retardant chemicals, though?  The general thought seems to be that flame retardant properties come from the fact that the pajamas are polyester, which is a naturally flame retardant fabric (it’s really just plastic).  Some think that the extra chemicals can’t really be washed out.  It seems safer to avoid pajamas that contain these chemicals, and instead buy soft clothing that is not intended for sleepwear.

For clothing the rest of the time, organic clothing is probably the best solution, but not a very feasible one for most people.  If you can find reasonably priced organic clothing, especially if you can find some used; or if people will buy it for you as gifts, by all means, buy organic!  Ideally we’d like to make hemp legal so we could all afford organic clothing, though….

What if you just can’t swing it?  That would be most of us.  In that case, I’d recommend simply buying second-hand clothing.  It will have been washed many times, largely removing any remaining pesticide residue, and any chemicals used in processing.  It also saves the environment by reusing clothing instead of having to have new.  It’s also highly affordable.  Used clothing is probably the best situation for most people.

Do you buy organic clothing?  Why or why not?

 

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10 Comments

  1. Good info! I did not know about the flame retardent in children's pj's (first time parents with a 4 month old). We did buy our son a few organic onesies however with the price tags you were spot on – it's just not in the cards for his entire wardrobe to be organic.

    Thanks for the tip on wearing non-sleep intended clothing as pj's.

    Reply

  2. I don't have kids yet but want them, and when I do have them, I do intend to buy as much second hand clothing as I possibly can. Between how fast kids grow up and the cost of baby clothes, it seems like the only really viable option.

    Reply

  3. I've been thinking about this for a while now. I did find a source for eco-friendly fabrics and I've started making my own (and soon my toddler's) t-shirts. You can make a nice shirt for around a yard of fabric and they are really easy. I also highly recommend used clothing, especially for children. Most things are barely used and I've found a lot of satisfaction in re-learning the stain removal techniques of my grandmother's generation. I love my homemade organic t-shirts. They are way more comfortable and they actually cost less than buying them from a store but you do have to factor in the labor.

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  4. I was told that adding 2 cups of white vinegar to the (HOT) wash load of non-organically produced cotton clothing/bedding eliminates most of the residual chemicals and makes it pretty close to organic cotton in terms of things being left to get on your skin. This is what I do since I currently can't afford to buy organic clothing/bedding. Have you heard this?

    Reply

  5. I buy organic whenever possible. One way I've gotten a lot of organic clothing is by subscribing to the discount sale emails {zulilly, ecobabybuys, the mini social, LilLuxe, etc.} and if there's a good deal on organics, I'll stock up then. Usually when I purchase I'm paying under $10 for things. Just in normal day-to-day shopping, however, it is hard to spend or justify a full-retail price purchase on organics. Good info about the chemicals found in regular cotton. A little scary…

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  6. For reasons you stated, we cannot afford the price tag of organic clothes. However we did buy some organic cloth diapers for daughter because we felt with her being a newborn that her skin is much more sensitive and its worth putting organic cloth against her baby soft skin!

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  7. I generally don't buy organic clothing, but I would like to. I just don't have many options where I live and I really don't like mail order for clothes. I do have some cotton tights that are organic cotton and one pair that is not (still 100% cotton) I must say that the organic tights are so much softer and more comfortable than the nonorganic cotton ones .. they are both 100% cotton. I can't really explain why they feel so different from each other except the fact that one is organic? Its very puzzling to me.

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  8. Thank you for this post! Very informative! I will deffinitely buy sleepwear that is not intended for sleep!

    I buy most of my clothes used 🙂 I saved sooo much money!

    I enjoy reading your blog!

    Reply

  9. Parents want the best for their babies and specially in the first 6 to 12 months the baby skin is so sensitive so it’s best to use very soft clothes and if possible organic. I am the founder of Cinnamon Baby Clothes, we have a collection of baby essentials that is made of organic cotton in natural cotton and a more colourful collection of vests, sleepsuits, hats and blankets that is certified organic. We are now running a 10% promotion on the essential collection and the colours collection is very affordable too. Come check my website http://www.cinnamonbabyclothes.com and let me know what you think! We are based on the UK but deliver international.
    Ana x

    Reply

  10. Although I buy all of my children’s clothing used, I buy burts bees baby pajamas for my kids because they’re are flame retardant free. I also make sure they have GOTS certificatd cotton sheets, pillows and free guard certified mattress to at least avoid chemicals at night and reduce the load. If I need to buy anything new it’s organic. I’ve heard when clothing breaks down it can release chemicals on fabrics that you inhale but I just can’t afford to buy all new GOts certified clothing.

    Reply

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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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