So you want to design ethically, but you don’t know where to begin. Maybe a good place to start is your fabric excursion through the Garment District. Rather than simply being inspired by the feel and print of a fabric, be educated on its environmental repercussions as well. But maybe your goal is to be the top UNethical brand, in which case, here are the 6 most toxic fabrics to use if you want to kill the planet. Go bananas.
1 | Polyester
Polyester may remind you of bad suits from the 70’s but it’s actually still very prevalent in many clothes sold today. It is made from synthetic polymers that are made from esters of dihydric alcohol and terephthalic acid. Yikes.
2 | Rayon
Made from recycled wood pulp, rayon is treated with chemicals like ammonia, acetone and sulphuric acid to survive regular wash and wear. <insert speechless emoji here>
3 | Acrylic
This fabric is full of polycrylonitriles that may cause cancer, according to the EPA.
4 | Nylon
Not the cool magazine, but the other one. This petroleum-based fabric is typically given a permanent finish with a laundry list of chemicals such as caustic soda, chloroform, terpineol, limonene, pentene, and sulfuric acid. Run away, run away!
5 | Acetate
Again, made from wood fibers called cellulose, this fabric undergoes extensive chemical processing to produce the finished product.
All of these fabrics come down to one big problem, they are made from a massive amount of chemicals that do not disappear after production is complete, and that potential cancer-causing chemical is hanging out on your body. This isn’t even factoring in how long they might take to decompose in a landfill, just the here and now. Want better options? Like food, the golden rule of thumb is always stick to natural ingredients. If you can’t pronounce it or understand it, unless you’re a chemist, just say no. Also, keep in mind that even natural materials, like cotton and wool, can be harmful given the fact that they often undergo treatment such as formaldehyde (to prevent shrinkage) and other harsh chemicals (for dyeing and fabric softening).
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