Organic textiles aren't exactly a new thing, but they're certainly having a moment. If you've shopped for sheets, pajamas, baby clothes or hand towels lately, you've probably seen items carrying the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) label.
The seal ensures at least 70% of the fabric was sourced from organic fibers (or 95% if it's label-grade). It tells consumers that something labeled as organic is, in fact, organic and that each stage of the supply chain meets the organization's criteria.
Maybe you've made the switch to organic bedding, were gifted a set of organic towels or are exploring the world of organic fabrics with a few new garments. In any case, you might be wondering how to wash organic cotton.
Read on for step-by-step organic cotton washing instructions, along with insight into caring for this eco-friendly material in a sustainable way, and answers to frequently asked questions about GOTS certified textiles.
Caring for Organic Cotton Bedding
Studies have shown that farming organic cotton plants is less damaging to the earth than regular cotton in terms of water use, soil erosion and energy consumption. Though there's limited research on any proven health benefits of using organic fabrics, those with skin sensitivities may find comfort knowing their clothing and home goods were produced with minimal synthetic chemicals.
So, whether you'd like to live more sustainably or just want to use fewer highly processed products, knowing how to wash organic cotton bedding can help you reach your goals. Find detailed instructions for washing and drying organic cotton sheets and other bedding below.
How to Wash Organic Cotton Bedding
You purchased organic bedding and are relishing in the soft, sustainable fabric — but now what? Follow these washing instructions to maintain the material and keep up your eco-conscious streak.
First, select the delicate cycle on your washing machine.
Set the water temperature to warm/cold (warm water does a slightly better job of cleaning and sanitizing, though cool water is generally gentler.)
Before pressing start or placing your bedding inside, add about a quarter-cup of mild laundry detergent to your washer.
Next, press start and wait a minute or so for the water to dissolve the detergent.
Once the soap has dissolved, place your bedding in the washing machine and close the lid.
Since washer settings vary among models, here are a few things to consider.
When to Add Detergent
Your washing machine may not allow you to have the lid open while water fills the drum. In that case, you can pause it after the detergent dissolves, reopen the lid to put your bedding inside, then resume the cycle.
Another option is to put the detergent and bedding in at the same time, but still with the detergent going in first. That way, it'll have a better chance of dissolving quickly at the bottom.
You might also be able to choose the speed of the spin cycle. Your washing machine will spin your bedding after rinsing to remove water from the fabric — kind of like wringing out a towel by hand. Faster spinning will get the most water out, making your bedding dry quicker. On the other hand, a slower spin will be gentler but leave the material a little more soaked.
Colors, Stain Removal and Brighteners
It's usually best to wash bedding by itself or with similar colors to avoid dulling or discoloring the fabric. If you're working with white organic cotton sheets, you can brighten them with non-chlorine bleach or a mixture of baking soda and distilled white vinegar. OxiClean is great for removing stains and revitalizing all fabric colors.
How to Dry Organic Bedding
What about drying? Organic cotton bedding is usually dryer-friendly, but you can conserve energy and keep wrinkles at bay by following these steps.
When pulling your bedding out of the washer, untwist the fabric and make sure there aren't any crumpled pillowcases hiding in the corners of the duvet cover or fitted sheet.
Place your washed bedding in the dryer, piece by piece, to prevent more twisting.
Choose a delicate or bedding-specific cycle.
Set the temperature to low heat.
Make sure the lint filter is clean and press start.
Organic bedding will dry quicker when the drum isn't packed full. If your dryer is on the smaller side, you might consider drying your duvet cover set and sheets separately. (Two half-hour cycles will use less energy than one 90-minute cycle.)
Wool Dryer Balls
To cut down on your drying time even more, toss in a few wool dryer balls. They help separate the fabrics in the drum, which prevents twisting and wrinkling. This dryer-sheet alternative also keeps organic cotton sheets soft and static-free.
For more insight, see our blog, Do Dryer Balls Really Work? Everything You Need to Know About Wool Dryer Balls.
Why Low Heat?
Tumble-drying your bed linens on low heat might take longer than using higher temps. However, hot air can strain the integrity of the cotton fibers, cause pilling, shrink the fabric and potentially fade colors.
Sustainable Alternatives to Tumble-Drying
You can reduce your carbon footprint by air-drying your organic bedding instead of tossing it in the dryer. An indoor clothing rack is a great option for hanging sheets, and in the warmer months, consider getting an outdoor clothesline.
You can also take a hybrid approach to drying bed linens. Tumble-dry them for about 20 minutes, then allow them to air-dry the rest of the way. Bonus: This method can also minimize wrinkling if you smooth out creases and make your bed while the fabric is slightly damp.
For additional tips, take a look at our guide on How to Wash and Properly Care for Bedding.
Caring for Organic Cotton Towels
How to Wash Organic Cotton Towels
You're wise to check the brand's care instructions on how to wash your towels before tossing them in your washer. Still, most are machine-washable and can be cleaned with these general steps.
Select the delicate cycle.
Set the water temperature to cold.
Add about a quarter-cup of mild laundry soap (too much can make towels stiff).
Press start and wait about a minute for the water to dissolve the detergent.
Place your towels in the washer and close the lid.
Since washing machines and towel weaves vary, consider these aspects for best results.
Towels are usually thicker and heftier than most other linens, and they become even heavier when soaking wet. A faster spin cycle will help wring out the moisture. Most towels can handle the higher speed, but you may want to choose medium-fast to preserve the integrity of the material.
Like bedding, it's best to wash your towels alone or with similar colors. Classic plush and waffle weaves are notably absorbent, which is good when drying off your body, but it also means the materials can soak up dyes from other fabrics.
Washing machine capacities vary from about 5 cubic feet to roughly 9 cubic feet. Whatever the size of your drum, try to avoid overloading it to prevent oversaturating your towels with water (about half or three-quarters full is ideal).
How to Dry Organic Towels
As mentioned, a faster spin cycle will help get most of the water out before you toss your towels in the dryer. Follow these steps to save energy and maintain the softness of the textile.
Untwist your organic cotton bath towels when pulling them out of the washer.
Place the towels in the dryer, piece by piece, to prevent more twisting.
Select a delicate, normal or towel-specific cycle.
Set the temperature to low heat.
Ensure the lint trap is clean, then press start.
Using wool dryer balls can help separate the fabric as it tumbles while reducing your drying time, minimizing static and making your towels fabulously fluffy.
Air-Drying Organic Cotton Towels
Hanging your towels to dry can help cut down on your carbon footprint and electricity bill. But to avoid mildew and musty smells, it's best not to hang them up when completely drenched.
What's the solution? You can choose a fast spin cycle to get almost all the water out or tumble them for about 20 minutes in the dryer, then air-dry them the rest of the way. Heated drying racks can also work, though most only hold one or two towels at a time.
See our guide on How to Wash and Properly Care for Towels for more tips.
How to Care for Organic Cotton Bathrobes and Garments
Does organic clothing require special care? Not necessarily, but there's always room to make your laundry more sustainable and skin-friendly. Read on for tips on how to wash organic cotton bathrobes and clothing.
Use Mild Detergent
Mild laundry detergent will be gentle on your clothes and easy on the environment. Plant-based formulas often contain enzymes that fight stains without discoloring or damaging fabrics. They're also a good choice for babies and folks with sensitive skin.
Learn more about why and how to wash organic cotton with mild soap in our article, Why Use a Natural Laundry Detergent? Your Questions Answered.
Use Cold Water
As noted above, cold water is the gentlest on organic garments. If washing soiled baby clothes or bedding, however, warm water will help get the stains and odors out while sanitizing the material.
Learn more about how to wash baby items in our blog, The Best Way to Wash, Dry and Care for Baby Bedding and Baby Towels.
Tumble-Dry on Low
When it comes to preserving the integrity of your clothes, "tumble-dry low" are words to live by. Lower heat will help prevent shrinking, puckering, fraying and premature wear.
Air-Dry If Possible
If time and space allow it, air-dry your organic cotton clothes, bathrobes and baby wear. You'll save energy and can avoid straining or shrinking the fabric with warm air.
Organic Cotton Care: FAQs
Find answers to frequently asked questions about how to wash organic cotton below.
Is Organic Cotton Soft?
Organic cotton is just as soft as regular cotton — sometimes softer. As with linen and other naturally sourced fabrics, you can expect organic cotton bedding to get softer with ongoing use.
Is Organic Cotton Machine-Washable?
In most cases, organic cotton can be washed in a standard washing machine. That said, be sure to check the brand's recommended care instructions before tossing them into the machine.
Can You Wash Organic Cotton with Other Fabrics?
Organic cotton can usually be washed with other fabrics, but stick with similar colors to avoid discoloration. Additionally, try not to overload the washing machine, and be mindful of pieces with zippers, hooks or velcro that could cause tearing or abrasion.
Does Organic Cotton Shrink?
Like regular cotton, organic cotton bedding and garments can shrink in the wash. You can avoid this by using cold water, tumble-drying on low heat and reshaping the fabric before hanging it to dry.
Does Organic Cotton Wrinkle?
Any product made of 100% cotton is prone to wrinkling, so yes, the organic variety can develop creases in the wash. Drying garments flat can help prevent wrinkles. With bedding, take it out of the dryer a few minutes early and make your bed while it's still ever-so-slightly damp. As noted above, wool dryer balls can help too.
How Often Should You Wash Organic Cotton Sheets?
No matter what fabric your bed sheets are, weekly washing is ideal. You can increase that time by a couple of days, but try not to go longer than 10. While washing too frequently can wear down the material prematurely, failure to wash often enough can lead to stains.
For more information, check out our blog, How Often Should I Wash Cotton Sheets?
Where to Buy Organic Wearables and Linens
Feeling inspired by sustainable linens and clothing now that you know how to wash organic cotton? Parachute is your source for GOTS certified bedding, throw blankets, towels, pajamas, loungewear and robes. Shop the organic collection today!