Wearing a fluffy cotton robe makes everything more luxurious, even if you’re just watching TV or cleaning your house. But not all cotton is created equal. We’re not just talking about the softness and quality you can feel with your fingers, either. We’re talking about actual health. An organic robe is a sustainable robe. It’s better for both your health and the planet’s.
Organic textiles have long been heralded for their possible health benefits and sustainable nature. They’re simply not grown the same way as conventional fibers. Instead, they thrive on rainwater, limit harmful runoff and aren’t loaded with the sort of chemicals the World Health Organization warns about. But do organic textiles work as well in a robe? When you’re relaxing in a bathrobe, you should really be able to relax. Here’s what you need to know about organic robes for women and men alike.
What is an Organic Robe?
Organic robes are sustainable robes, made from natural fibers grown, harvested, and processed into fabrics without the use of genetic modification, synthetic pesticides, artificial fertilizers and other potentially harmful chemicals. Why is that important? In conventional farming, over 5.6 billion pounds of pesticides are dumped on the planet every single year, and many developing countries struggle to control exposure.
In other words, a lot of agricultural chemicals are floating around our planet. They’re making their way into our drinking water and onto our skin — the last places you’d want harmful chemicals to show up. And since you’ll be spending plenty of time in your robe, you want it to be free from harsh chemicals that could harm your skin or lungs.
The chemicals used in traditional farming and textile production also poses a problem for both wildlife and your personal health. In fact, the EPA lists polluted runoff as the top threat to clean water in the United States. So, how can you ensure your organic robe is safe for both you and for the planet?
How Do You Know an Organic Robe is Organic?
The FTC and USDA oversee organic products, making sure they meet the strict federal standards of organic certification. You’ll see the USDA organic stamp on robes and other clothing products, but that certification only governs farming — not the actual production of the textiles, and the products that they’re made of.
Textile production process can use a long list of chemicals (think: formaldehyde, dyes with high levels of heavy metals and chlorine bleach, which creates toxic byproducts). For an organic bathrobe to truly boast all the benefits of organic cotton, the textile’s production process should also be certified. The gold standards are the Textile Exchange’s Organic Content Standard (OCS) and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
There are additional certifications for both chemical content and sustainability. The Oeko-Tex “Standard 100” certification is the strictest certification to ensure that the entirety of a product is free from harmful chemicals — down to the very button. Similarly, sustainable robes can carry an Oeko-Tex “Made in Green” certification, which ensures products are made in eco-friendly facilities with ethical labor practices.
What to learn more about Oeko-Tex certification? Check out Parachute’s guide, What is Oeko-Tex?
Organic Cotton is the Best Option for a Bathrobe
You might not notice much of a difference between conventional and organic cotton on the surface. Organic cotton bathrobes are just as soft, fluffy and absorbent. So, why is organic cotton the best material for a bathrobe? Because it doesn’t use harmful chemicals during the growing process.
Much like your bathrobe absorbs water, your skin can absorb certain compounds, too. That includes chemicals in the plastics and toxic substances used to make your bathrobe — from the glyphosate found in Roundup weedkiller and toxic cotton defoliants to heavy metals, PVC, ammonia, formaldehyde and more.
Non-organic fabrics pose an even larger risk to children and infants. New research from the American Chemical Society has found that infants absorb large amounts of microplastics, and a significant portion of that comes from the breakdown of synthetic fabrics. What’s the issue with microplastics? They’ve been linked to an increased risk of cancer, and several other health issues. For this reason, organic cotton bathrobes are the healthiest option for your whole family.
What Makes Organic Robes Sustainable?
Organic bathrobes are also sustainable bathrobes. First, cotton is an inherently sustainable fiber that helps combat the greenhouse gases linked to climate change. Research has shown that cotton plants are champions at absorbing CO2 and have some of the lowest emission rates compared to other popular fibers. It’s farming that’s the issue. Here’s where sustainable bathrobes get it right.
Organic Cotton Bathrobes Use Less Water
All cotton production requires water — but that can have severe negative consequences for the environment. At one time, the Aral Sea was the fourth largest sea in the world, but it dried up in the wake of unsustainable cotton cultivation. Organic textiles don’t cause the same problems. Research has shown organic cotton crops use 91% less water, relying instead heavily on rainwater.
They Reduce Pollution
Cotton is one of the most chemical-heavy crops in the world. Even though it only accounts for 2.5% of the world’s agricultural land, it uses 16% to 25% of the world’s pesticides — and that’s before we include toxic cotton defoliants and artificial fertilizers. All of this has to go somewhere, so it winds up in the air, water and earth.
Organic cotton doesn’t produce the same amount of pollution. Rather than heavy duty herbicides and pesticides, organic farmers use methods like trap crops, beneficial insects, or naturally derived weedkillers. They emit 46% less greenhouse gases by not using artificial fertilizers, alone. In theory, untreated cotton is also biodegradable, or at the very least, recyclable. In the United States, textile trash is a huge problem. Americans throw away 12.8 million tons of textiles a year, but most of it is synthetic and can’t biodegrade.
Overall, the cotton industry is changing. Over the last 25 years, farmers in Australia have worked to halve the amount of water needed to grow a single bale of cotton. Nonetheless, organic cotton still makes the most eco-friendly robe.
To learn more about the benefits of wearing sustainable clothes, read our guide on the Benefits of Organic Clothing.
Conventional Robes vs. Organic Robes
Are conventional robes or organic robes the better choice? That depends on what you’re looking for. You pay a premium for sustainability and health. Conventional robes will almost always be cheaper, but that means you might be getting a synthetic fabric, which isn’t ideal for a bathrobe. Natural fibers are more absorbent, making them the perfect choice for sustainable robes, towels, slippers and bathmats.
That’s not to say conventional robes are always synthetic or loaded with chemicals. With Oeko-Tex certification, that doesn’t have to be the case. Farming isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You can even find a non-organic ethical robe made with pristine labor practices, but the best way to ensure that a robe is sustainable and free from harmful chemicals is to reach for organic fabrics.
At the end of the day, organic robes come in just as many colors, textures and thicknesses as the average, non-organic robe (think: the same cozy cotton waffle knit you already love, but better for the environment). They’re not even limited solely to cotton. You can find organic bathrobes made from fibers like hemp or bamboo. An organic flax bathrobe will mimic the beloved lightweight breeziness of a classic linen robe.
To learn more about all of the conventional robe materials, colors, and more in our guide to the Best Cozy Robes and Loungewear.
How to Care for Organic Bathrobes
Organic bathrobes don’t use the same kind of heavy duty dyes as the average non-organic cotton robe. On one hand, choosing an organic robe means you’re not exposing yourself to high levels of sulphur and heavy metals. On the flipside, the colors in organic robes can fade a little easier than colors in synthetic fabrics. Organic cotton is extremely durable, but you still have to be careful to preserve your robe’s longevity
You should always wash your organic bathrobe in cool water using mild, natural laundry detergent. Tumble dry on low, and remove your sustainable robe while it’s still a little damp to prevent shrinking and wrinkles. How much you wash your robe depends on how much you wear it. A good rule of thumb is to wash sustainable robes on a similar schedule to your towels and linens.
At the End of the Day, Good Fabric Makes a Big Difference
A quality robe transforms even the tiniest bathroom into a fancy home spa — but organic bathrobes are more than just a luxury. They also help protect the environment and your family’s health.
You have to live in your skin your entire life. Even if you go organic,you may also want to reach for clothing and linens that are Oeko-Tex certified to ensure that no harmful chemicals ended up in the final product. The coziness of a fluffy robe feels a lot cozier when you know your skin isn’t rubbing up against anything harmful. Check out Parachute’s Oeko-Tex collection, and wrap yourself up in peace of mind.
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