It always seems funny to me, bringing back a new outfit from the shops, wrapped and folded beautifully in tissue paper in a special bag, looking the best it ever will, only for me to throw it in the wash before I or Isabella wears it. I’ve always been told to wash clothes before wearing them and have done so with not too much thought as to why I do it. Now it’s got me thinking- what’s in them that is so bad?
Chemicals are used in textiles and on clothes as part of their processing, to prevent mould, to colour them and keep them looking un-creased etc. In Europe, 300,000 harmful chemicals used in textiles, clothing and footwear are regulated, compared to just 50,000 in Australia. Even those that are regulated in Australia, have no legal limits, just guidelines that rely on a company’s self- regulation. Some of the chemicals are so toxic they cannot be imported into Australia but they are still used in factories overseas and then imported in the clothes we buy.
Ironically, in China they have much more stringent regulations than we do in Australia. This means that clothing products made in China for the Australian market sometimes couldn’t actually be sold in China!
So what are these chemicals and why are they bad? There are literally hundreds of thousands of different chemicals used in fabrics and clothing. Some cause dermatitis and eczema such as Chromium IV and DMF. Others are classified as suspected carcinogens by the World Health Organisation such as chlorinated phenols, azo dyes, phthalates and formaldehyde. That’s something I’d like to avoid if possible for the whole family and not just Isabella!
Unfortunately we don’t know what products contain chemicals and what don’t, unless we buy organic cotton with natural vegetable dyes! So what can we do? Washing doesn’t get rid of all chemicals, but Choice magazine recommends washing all clothes twice and to choose natural fibres for children such as wool, cotton and linen. They also recommend staying away from stain and water resistant products.
I’ll definitely be washing our new clothes not once, but twice in future and looking at organic cotton clothes when I’m next buying for Isabella!