Organic Bedding and Textiles: Frivolous Luxury or Worth the Splurge?
Humans as a species are busier than we ever have been. Events to attend, jobs to do, families to care for, basic necessities to meet — all these day-to-day activities live in a tender balance that is easily upset. With our days so consumed and the inevitable long hours we put in, it’s no wonder that so many Americans suffer from sleeplessness!
Yet even without the overwhelming busyness and constant sleep deprivation, there may be other things disturbing your sleep — things you may not even realize are causing interruption.
Your environment plays a huge role in your overall health, sleep patterns included. Thus, even seemingly insignificant elements like the type of sheets and bedding you use can actually affect how well you sleep.
But it doesn’t stop there. Your bedding may not only be hindering your sleep — it may actually be causing negative effects on your health that you can’t even see!
Conventional sheets and bedding are generally made with harmful toxins that can promote everything from skin irritation to certain cancers. What do you do when even the materials you sleep in are working against you?
The answer: organic bedding.
Organic bedding is made from naturally-grown, untreated cotton which carries none of the negative side effects of conventional bedding. And, it has a number of benefits, from helping you sleep better to keeping the environment healthy!
Let’s take a look at why organic bedding is so important to your health and the health of our world. We’ll start by taking a step back to learn more about the actual material organic bedding is made from.
What Is Organic Cotton?
Organic bedding and textiles are crafted from 100% organic cotton. This means that it is grown without chemical intervention, using methods that have a very low environmental impact.
It’s been estimated that cotton fields use up to 25% of the world’s insecticide products each year. That’s a staggering amount — and it tells us that cotton uses more insecticide than any other crop around!
Not only does insecticide have an effect on the cotton itself, but it’s also detrimental to the environment. All those chemicals end up in the water runoff, tainting our water supply, and have even been linked to cancer. And, speaking of water, organic cotton is grown with sustainable methods that take about 71% less water and 62% less energy than growing conventional cotton, so as to preserve the earth’s valuable resources. So both in keeping water clean and preserving our water supply, organic cotton growth has far more environmental benefits than conventional.
And while being eco-friendly is important, an even more critical point is that organic methods mean that the farmers and individuals working the land don’t get exposed to those nasty chemicals. So you’re doing a service to families around the world (and, in the long run, to yourself!) when you support these efforts to go green.
Organic cotton is currently grown in subtropical climates — typically in countries such as India, Mali, Peru, and even parts of the U.S. But as it stands right now, organic cotton accounts for only 0.7% of the world’s cotton production! Conventional cotton still corners the market because it’s easier to grow using pesticides and other chemicals, but there are several problems with the resulting materials.
The Dangers of Conventional Cotton and Synthetic Textiles
While pesticides are long gone by the time you put your non-organic sheets onto your bed, there are some chemicals that remain, and they are just as dangerous to your health as the pesticides are.
Standards have risen steadily over the years regarding fire safety, leading many textile manufacturers to treat their products with with flame retardant chemicals. The motive is good — flame retardants can help reduce risks of fire, but unfortunately they also contain chemicals that can build up in your system over time and have been known to cause adverse physical effects in animals.
Some sheets and textiles are also treated with permanent press, which is a chemical that stays in the fabric and releases formaldehyde. And I don’t think any of us want that in our beds — let alone our bodies!
Now, you may be thinking — since non-organic cotton has such dangerous effects, why not try a synthetic material? But not so fast — synthetic materials contain hazards all their own.
Synthetic materials are often a blend of polyester. This textile is used to make everything from sheets to towels to clothes and more. However, its construction itself is what makes it problematic. Polyester is derived from petroleum, and contains a chemical called antimony that is a known carcinogen. Yikes! Who wants to sleep in a bed where the very sheets could be causing slow yet steady bodily harm?
As you can see, whether the material is non-organic 100% cotton or a synthetic blend, either will expose you to a host of toxins that may have harmful effects down the road.
This is why it’s so important to consider exactly what goes into the products we keep in our homes — even down to things we tend to take for granted.
Top 5 Reasons to Use Organic Bedding
We’ve already given a good overview of the differences between non-organic and organic bedding. But let’s summarize and bring in a few more reasons why you should consider making the swap to organic.
- Organic cotton is environmentally-friendly. From water conservation to clean runoff, buying organic bedding, organic cotton towels, and other such products promotes a healthier environment. Sustainable farming methods replenish the soil, so not only does the environment contain fewer toxins, but it actually becomes richer than before.
- Organic cotton is biodegradable. Did you know that many synthetic materials don’t biodegrade? They’ll stay in the environment long after you’ve discarded them, contributing to an already-pervasive trash problem. Organic cotton, on the other hand, is fully biodegradable, so when your organic bedding finally starts to wear out, it can safely return back into the environment without stacking up trash.
- Organic cotton provides superior comfort. Since organic cotton doesn’t get treated and chemically processed like non-organic does, it doesn’t lose its natural softness. Rather, it’s incredibly plush while still being breathable, so you sleep even more comfortably.
- Organic cotton is better for sensitive skin. When you have sensitive skin, it doesn’t take much exposure to foreign substances before your skin starts breaking out. Organic cotton is naturally hypoallergenic, so you never have to worry about waking up with a rash.
- Organic cotton can provide you with overall better sleep. When your environment is clean, comfortable, and toxin-free, you create a sense of relaxation. Sometimes to get a better night’s sleep, you need to take into account your surroundings — and make changes to promote health and well-being. Healthy bed, healthy sleep. It’s that simple.
- Organic cotton is better for women of childbearing age. The time you sleep is critical for your body to restore itself, heal and repair. Do yourself a favor and choose organic textiles to sleep on to reduce toxic exposure and create a better environment for your growing baby down the road. We know from the Body Burden Study by the Environmental Working Group that toxins easily pass from mother to child – so much so, that the subtitle of this study is “The Pollution in Newborns.” This is just one reason why women of childbearing age should protect themselves as much as possible from unnecessary toxic exposure. It can and will impact your growing baby and even your fertility down the road.
Organic Bedding for Kids and Babies
For all the toxins in non-organic bedding that can negatively affect adults, there’s an even greater risk for our children.
Unfortunately, kids’ mattresses, comforters, and mattress pads contain many of the same chemicals we discussed previously — from flame retardants to petroleum-based antimony and other toxic materials. And even worse, those chemicals don’t just stay where they are. They create gases that are emitted slowly, over time. This is a horrific scenario for a baby or young child.
Since children’s systems are less developed and more vulnerable, going completely green with organic nursery products is the best way to keep your children safe from mattress off-gassing. Otherwise, these gases may cause toxic build-up in your child’s system and create unprecedented respiratory and other health issues.
Toss out any non-organic bedding and mattresses, and instead switch to organic bedding, sheets and mattresses. Even choosing an organic mattress pad or protector is important since your child is in close proximity to it the entire night. And while babies obviously can’t have blankets in their cribs for risk of suffocation, older kids may like an organic comforter to keep them warm and cozy.
Again, these tips will keep your kids healthy, but it will also create a more comfortable environment and reduce the risk of allergic reactions to the chemicals.
What to Look for in Organic Bedding
Now, it’s easy enough to just do a Google search for “organic bedding,” and come up with dozens of results that all claim to be organic. But how do you know which are the best products that are truly organic and will be the best quality?
The Global Organic Textile Standard is in place to ensure that you know exactly what you’re buying, and that it fits the standard for materials that are truly organic. The Standard has certain criteria that a textile or product must meet in order to be considered organic and labeled as such.
When you’re searching for organic bedding or organic bath towels, look for the GOTS seal so you know you’re buying certified organic. If it just says “organic” but doesn’t have the seal, chances are it’s not truly organic. Additionally, if you see labels like “Wrinkle Free” or “Permanent Press,” this means that the products have been treated with chemicals and are certainly not organic. Remember too that pesticides and herbicides are generally removed from cotton during the finishing process, but this is not the case for things like cotton batting, which doesn’t go through the same process. So when choosing bedding, it’s safest to go with a certified organic comforter and organic mattress pad, which won’t contain any residual pesticides in the batting.
As a side note, organic towels and bedding don’t just come in cotton — you can also find organic textiles in hemp, linen, or bamboo. Any of these are wonderful choices for your home textiles, as they offer non-toxic softness and, in the case of sheets, moisture-wicking properties.
Where to Purchase Organic Bedding and Textiles
So you’re ready to make the jump into organic bedding and other household textiles, but you may feel a little over your head. The purchase process can be overwhelming, but never fear: we’ve compiled some of the top places you can buy certified organic to keep yourself and your family toxin-free. We’ll start with the most well-known options, then get into some of the more niche organic suppliers.
Coyuchi Organic Bedding and Decor
This brand has some of the best organic cotton sheets and bedding. It also has a wide selection of household products like towels, shower curtains, rugs, quilts, and more. This company prides itself on not only being organic, but also in being labor-conscious. Coyuchi works closely with the International Labor Organization, ensuring that its workers are being paid fairly and that no unethical business practices creep in.
Target Organic Cotton Sheets
Surprising, right? But Target does, in fact, carry many certified organic bedding products, typically under the Threshold brand. You can find high-quality, super-soft GOTS certified organic sheets that are great for when you’re first starting on your organic adventure and want to grab a few sheet sets for an economical price.
West Elm Organic Bedding
While not exclusively an organic brand, West Elm does carry sheets, duvet covers, and even blankets that are GOTS certified. They ensure their organic products are either dye-free or use only environmentally-friendly dyes, so even the coloring can’t upset sensitive skin.
Portico Organic Bedding
You can easily find Portico bedding at Amazon or Bed, Bath, and Beyond — they’re accessible, affordable, and completely organic. Portico’s products are all GOTS certified, and are also free of heavy metals and toxins.
The Care and Keeping of Organic Materials
Once you’ve invested in organic bedding and organic towels, you obviously want to keep them clean and in good shape. After all, buying organic ain’t cheap!
Keep your organic cottons (or hemps, linens, etc) clean and fresh by keeping these rules in mind:
- Never use bleach. Bleach will not only fade the colors on your sheets and towels, but it will also weaken the threads so that your sheets and towels wear out much faster. Additionally, you’re adding chemicals into your textiles, which completely defeats the purpose of buying organic!
- Carefully select your detergent. Use an all-natural, fragrance- and phosphate-free detergent to clean your organic cotton. Regular detergents are full of harsh chemicals and additives that are both unnecessary and unhealthy, and can cause build-up on the sheets over time. We love Charlie’s Soap as a totally safe and non-toxic detergent.
- Avoid fabric softeners. Fabric softeners work by coating the fabric with chemicals to create artificial softness. Just say no! This will give you the chemical exposure you’re trying to avoid in the first place, and make the fabric less able to perform its moisture-wicking duties. To give sheets that wrinkle free affect and softness, try using wool dryer balls instead.
- Wash and dry gently. Use a delicate cycle on the washing machine, and follow the tag instructions on what temperature to wash your organic cotton products in. Many manufacturers recommend that you hang organic cotton to dry, or put it on a very low heat. Defer to the instructions that come with your specific product, but when you simply aren’t sure, always play it safe with gentle wash cycles and no to low heat drying.
- Wash separately. Since all-natural dyes may bleed on the first wash, be sure that you wash your cottons in like colors to avoid this issue. Also, wash your organic cottons apart from other materials that may batter the fabric and cause it to weaken.
- Iron with caution. In general, you may iron organic cotton, but use a lower heat setting and no steam to avoid any shrinkage.
- Store out of sunlight. Again, you’re dealing with delicate dyes — store your sheets and towels in a linen closet that’s closed off to sunlight so that the fabric doesn’t fade over time.
Organic cotton lasts a long time when it’s properly cared for. Wash carefully according to the instructions for each product, and you’ll enjoy your organic bedding and sheets for years to come.
The Organic Way
With so many toxins floating around in our world — in our water — in our food — why would we sleep in toxin-infused bedding? The risk simply isn’t worth it. Organic bedding and textiles have become more readily available now than ever before, thanks to the online shopping world as well as more product awareness from the internet. And thankfully, that means it’s easy to find certifiable organic-grade cotton for a not-too-terribly expensive price tag.
Sometimes it’s not feasible to replace all your towels, sheets and bedding all at once — that’s ok. Start with one piece and slowly phase out your old, non-organic sheets and towels one by one. In time, your home will be fully organic and you’ll have successfully rid your home of many toxins.
Creating a toxin-free environment means a healthful, robust, restful environment that continuously provides a respite from the rest of the world.
It can be difficult to achieve, but in doing so, you not only enhance your health, but you also enhance your overall sense of wellbeing. You improve your state of mind and can more easily find true rest amidst the chaos of daily life.
Make an effort, for your and your family’s sake, to craft a home that offers health, peace, security, and comfort through organic products that promote health and wellbeing. Who knew going organic could mean such a deep and lasting change?
Have you made the switch to organic bedding? What has your experience been like? Do you have any favorite organic products? Please share in the comments below!