The Pure-Rest and Ecobaby Organics Blog

All about Natural and Organics for you and your home!

Conventional vs. Organic Cotton Sheets; Some know-how and what to look for! September 7, 2012

Hello All and Good Afternoon on this beautiful September Day!
                I have been inspired to teach you all about that wondrous thing we make every morning and fall asleep into every night, the one-the only, your sheets. Sheets are extremely important when it comes to your sleep and they are not the same, at all.
                Sheets can vary in many ways, from the raw material, where that material comes from, how that material is sewn, how it is finished, how it is dyed, and even what quality that material is to its counterparts. This is not even all the differences; here I will explain further, variances in raw material among various types of sheets and give recommendations on how to find perfect, truly pure, sheets.
                Firstly, let us discuss conventional sheets and their variances. Conventional sheets, i.e. the sheets you get at most major retailers and stores, have three main raw materials. These raw materials are polyester, conventional cotton, and silk. Sometimes they are a blend of these materials, like cotton and silk or polyester and cotton, but they are normally almost always made of these main raw materials. Most sheets are made of 100% Polyester  unless you pay a little more money, and then they are the blend of cotton and polyester, pay somewhat more and you get  100% cotton, pay a lot more and you get cotton/silk, pay a whole lot more and you get 100% silk. I will not be discussing silk as the average American does not tend to purchase silk bedding. Please comment below if you would like me to post on silk and I will do so.
                Polyester, sometimes shorthand named Poly or Poly-Fabric is a synthetic raw material made from petroleum that is used to make fabrics and PET plastic. Polyester is made as a result of a condensation reaction between Anti-Freeze (Ethylene Glycol) and Terephthalic Acid (produced from petroleum/crude oil). Before I can get into any further detail on how Polyester is made I must explain how Terephthalic Acid is made and what it is. Terephthalic Acid, in simple terms, is a chemical that looks like a white powder made by distilling Petroleum then heating to an extremely high temperature that distilled petroleum in various complex ways multiple times then cooling it. Then separating the gas parts from the liquid parts, then stabilizing that liquid and heating until it steams/boils and redoing this until it becomes p-Xylene.  P-Xylene is a hazardous and carcinogenic colorless liquid (sometimes solid) and is considered harmful to people’s health. This p-xylene then goes through the process of oxidation and becomes Terephthalic Acid. 
                To put this in simple terms, to make polyester one would heat up Anti-Freeze and highly processed crude oil until it condensates together and becomes Polyester.
                Conventional cotton is a natural raw material that is picked off of cotton plants which grow mainly during the summer. Conventional cotton tends to be grown with many various pesticides and cotton is known to be using some of the largest amounts of pesticides among conventional plants. A few of the pesticides used include Deltamethrin, Parathion, and Thiram. Deltamethrin is considered moderately hazardous and is a known Endocrine Disruptor. Parathion is considered extremely hazardous and has the long term exposure effect of lowering red blood cell activity and count. Thiram is considered moderately toxic but is highly toxic if inhaled, it can also be found in conventional soap and sun screen. Conventional Cotton also is often genetically modified; genetically modified cotton is referred to as transgenic cotton. This transgenic cotton is mainly cotton with certain pesticides’ and herbicides’ genes added to it so that it can be either bug resistant or resistant to bug or weed killing sprays. In 2008, 94.6% of U.S. conventional cotton crop that was planted was the transgenic cotton.
                Organic sheets tend to be made with organic cotton. Organic cotton is cotton which is grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, or any other chemical. Organic cotton also cannot be genetically modified. Dealing with pests, weeds, or fungi is usually done through natural or more traditional methods like growing plants around the cotton which deters the pest and pulling out any weeds manually. Organic cotton in the U.S. needs to be GOTS certified organic in order to be called certified organic.
                When it comes to sheets, I personally recommend getting certified organic cotton that is grown in India, Egypt, or the United States. Egyptian and India organic cotton tends to be softer because the summers there are longer and therefore the cotton fiber grows longer. U.S. organic cotton is still soft (not as soft), but also tends to be sturdier and purchasing U.S. organic cotton shows companies the higher demand for such products which has the possibility of resulting in more supply of organic cotton products and less supply of polyester/conventional cotton products. Certified organic cotton is almost always going to be much softer and higher quality than conventional cotton and polyester products mainly due to the amount of additional care which comes with producing something organically. Lastly, with any sheets—not just organic cotton but preferably so—one would want to make sure that the sheets are dyed with either low impact dyes or traditional—from a direct tribe not a big company—herbal dying process and that the sheets are not finished with any chemical finishes like formaldehyde—which contrary to popular belief, are extremely hard or, in the case of formaldehyde, impossible to completely wash out—.
                I hope this has helped explain some factors with organic and conventional sheets and their raw materials well so that you may have some more knowledge on something as important as ones’ bed linens! If there are any questions please post a comment below and I will happily answer them!
               

Sources for the information provided:                                                           
http://www.whatispolyester.com/
http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2006/06/71268
http://www.cameochemicals.noaa.gov/chemical/16085
http://pac.iupac.org/publications/pac/pdf/1994/pdf/6605×1077.pdf
http://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/otm_iv/otm_iv_2.html#3
http://www.ejfoundation.org/pdf/the_deadly_chemicals_in_cotton.pdf http://www.toxipedia.org/display/toxipedia/Deltamethrin
http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/hlthef/parathio.html
http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/profiles/extoxnet/pyrethrins-ziram/thiram-ext.html 
http://www.ota.com/organic/mt/organic_cotton.html
http://www.cameochemicals.noaa.gov/chemical/9181
http://www.freepatentsonline.com/5011805.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terephthalic_acid
http://www.cotton.org/edu/faq/index.cfm
http://fscimage.fishersci.com/msds/95257.htm
http://www.speclab.com/compound/c106423.htm
http://cameochemicals.noaa.gov/chemical/16085
http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/formaldehyde-factsheet.pdf
http://health-report.co.uk/formaldehyde-fact-sheet.htm
http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/factsheets/formaldehyde.htm

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