Know the Source of Your Textiles

August 31st, 2017

Your food, your skincare, your clothing—if you’re like most, you care about where the items you put in and on your body come from. Shouldn’t the same go for the sheets and bedding you curl up with at night? What about the towels you wrap yourself in after a hot shower? You know it!

Learning the truth about your textiles and where they are sourced from not only makes you a smart consumer, but also a better global citizen, too. So, what should you look for?

Natural vs. Man-made

Fabric generally falls into two categories—natural and synthetic.

Cotton, silk, linen and wool are natural fibers while polyester, rayon and microfiber are man-made. Like anything, there are upsides and downsides to each. Weigh the options and make the best choice for you and your family. A few things to think about:

  • Cotton is plant-based and hypoallergenic. If you have sensitive skin, this is a great choice.
  • Often considered “breathable,” cotton fabrics tend to be more comfortable in warmer weather. New technology has enabled manufacture of cotton fiber with hollow core which adapts to your body temperature to allow warmth in winter and coolness in summer. Bed sheets and towels made out of such technology make for a smart buy.
  • Polyester is derived from coal and petroleum. It is durable and long lasting, but some think it is a bit warm. Microfiber is a popular choice because of the brushed feel and affordable price.
  • Some textiles are made with natural/synthetic blends, giving you both comfort and durability.
  • Wool is renewable and free of chemicals. But, it is also derived from livestock, so do your homework. Make sure it is sourced from humanely treated animals.

To know exactly what you’re getting in your textile products, read the label and only buy from reputable vendors. Welspun, maker of many name-brand sheets and towels sold in the U.S., has simplified the process for consumers by launching the Wel-Trak program, which provides detailed tracking of spun-fiber products, from source to shelf. When a product carries a Wel-Trak seal, consumers can trust where all materials were sourced from and how they were handled during manufacturing because it guarantees you are buying exactly what’s promised.

Here are other things to consider and look for before you buy textile products:

Shop sustainable. Natural materials like linen and cotton are agricultural products, meaning they are grown on farms. While many producers have adopted sustainable growing practices, some have resisted. Before you buy, do a little sleuthing, or simply look for the Wel-Trak seal.

Think organic. When possible, look for organic cotton material. This means these sources are grown without the use of pesticides and chemicals. Organic cotton also requires less water to manufacture—another bonus for the environment. Bamboo, hemp, wool and eco-friendly silk are also good textile choices.

Fair labor practices. To make textiles, raw materials must be harvested, made into fabric, cut to size and sewn. While many of these steps are now automated, there is still a large amount of human labor involved. Look for products produced by companies committed to fair labor.

That’s a lot to think about when purchasing sheets or towels, isn’t it? Fortunately, the solution to each of these issues is not complex, and consumers do have the upper hand.

Simply refuse to buy from textile manufacturers that engage in or encourage practices you disagree with. If you care about any of the issues listed here, you owe it to yourself to do your homework before you buy.