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:                                                  ×1077.pdf

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18 Responses to “Conventional vs. Organic Cotton Sheets; Some know-how and what to look for!”

  1. north face jackets on sale Says:

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    • purerestteam Says:

      Hi Northface, Currently we use Askimet which I believe comes with the wordpress blog sign up. It works quite well. And I just once I week go through it becuase sometimes it accidently puts non-spam comments in as spam, but otherwise it does a great job. You should definately try it.

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  3. Carlie Tufts Says:

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  4. Steve Says:

    Do you know what that chemical smell is when you have a new memory foam mattress delivered? We’re a chemical supplier in the UK and we often get phone calls from people trying to identify the smell, believing they’re at respiratory risk. Any ifo would help massively. Thanks

    • purerestteam Says:

      The chemical smell could be multiple chemicals, would you be able to go into more detail on the smell or provide me with maybe a specific brand name and I can see if I can find out specifically which chemical it is? If you cannot, would you like me to look into memory foam in general and just post a blog on the information of general chemicals used in Memory foam?

  5. Hi there. Do vendors REALLY know if the sheets are finished with formaldehyde? I see that Pottery Barn sells organic sheets, but the sales staff can’t give me any more information. Same with Target. No one at Target knows how the organic sheets are finished.

    And what do you mean by “tribe”

    You said:

    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—.

    And… do you know what the mattress protectors that are “waterproof” are made from? What makes them waterproof? I’ve read that wool is completely waterproof. I just purchased an organic latex mattress for my 5 year old and I’d like to put a waterproof pad on it, but I hate to add any chemicals to his sleep environment.

    Lastly, do you know of any manufacturers of heated / electric mattress covers that are made with organic cotton? It’s impossible to find!

    Do you think that if I wash regular cotton sheets, the toxic chemicals are removed?

    Thanks in advance!

    • purerestteam Says:

      Hi Andrea,
      To answer your questions:
      1. The direct vendor of the sheet should definately know if it has had formaldehyde applied to it. Though sometimes the retailer(pottery barn and target store itself would be the retailer) would not know and they would normally need to go to their vendor for such information. If it is actually their brand, then they would need to find the department in their brand which makes the item to find out whether formaldehyde is applied to the sheets. You may also want to look into the certification that the Organic sheets have recieved, if they have recieved the GOTS certification and it is displayed on the package, then there will be no formaldehyde as formaldehyde is specifically banned if one wants to have the GOTS certification for organic sheets.

      2.By tribe, I am referring to a more traditional group of people whom have resided in a specific area and used older methods of dyeing. Companies normally will use the same herbs or plants, but unlike tribes, companies will follow the quicker less traditional method of using heavy metals to get the herbal dyes to stick to the fabric. Example of tribes would include Native American Tribes & Indigenous peoples of other continents like Oceania, South America, Africa, and Asia. Sometimes these groups of people will develop Co-Ops which allow you to purchase such items from them or you can visit directly and possibly also purchase or trade or what-not. You would still want to verify that the tribes whom you are purchasing from is still using the traditional methods, and when washing take extra care to prevent fading, which can happen with these types of dyes and methods.

      3. Almost all waterproof mattress protectors will be made from polyester or coated with polyester on top to give it its waterproof nature. Wool would actually be water resistant not proof(because if you apply enough pressure it can go through), and this water resistant nature is a result of the naturally occuring lanolin in the sheeps wool. For perfect water protection, I actually recommend getting a wool water resistant pad(i.e. still has kept alot of the lanolin and tends to be felted(we call them moisture/puddle pads on our store website) and then a organic cotton absorbent pad of some sort on top(we offer the organic cotton knit fitted pad or the organic cotton quilted pad with organic cotton fill, the quilted would be better for kids). This way, if pressure is applied, the liquid will just be absorbed into the organic cotton pad versus potentially getting on the person or going through. Please note though when coat shopping, a thicker puffier wool coat with the lanolin still in it, for the most part will if pressure is applied, absorb the liquid itself and still keep you dry(I actually have tested this myself with my older wool coats in the rain and some snow storms(when travelling).

      4. I do not know of any manufacturers of heated/electric mattress covers that are made with organic cotton, though for temperature regulation in colder environments, I always recommend wool pads and comforters along with Organic cotton flannel sheets along with wool bed socks. I suspect that possibly for heated or electric mattress covers, indivdiuals may not be offering organic cotton due to flammability issues(i.e. they would probably need to apply fire retardants to be compliant and then no one would buy it), though I am not 100% sure of this. You may have a better chance searching for a heated/electric mattress cover that is made with wool instead as wool is naturally flame retardant so this concern would not be of issue.

      5. I have heard of individuals using washing methods involving vineger and some other natural items to remove chemicals from regular cotton sheets, though I cannot verify that this actually works. From my own research I have found that it is pretty much impossible to fully or mostly remove chemicals from the sheets through washing unless they are just minimal residual types. With regular cotton sheets or items, it is best to just avoid those which have such chemicals applied to them like formaldehyde finishes, wrinkle resistance, or water proofing. If possible, also avoiding cotton dyed with Azo dyes would also be beneficial.

      You’re Welcome, let me know if you have any further questions or inquiries. My apologies if the reply is a little on the long side.

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