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What is Oeko-Tex? Learn About This Textile Certification Standard

Oeko-Tex certified bedding
Written By
PARACHUTE TEAM
Photographs By
JESSICA SCHRAMM FOR PARACHUTE
@parachutehome
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Nowadays, consumers are becoming more aware of how their products are made. This has led manufacturers to adopt cleaner, more ethical and socially-conscious production practices. So if you’ve recently bought a set of bedsheets or a piece of clothing with an Oeko-Tex label, you’re probably curious about what it means and how important it is.

The prestigious Zurich-based International Oeko-Tex Association has been around since 1992. It now operates in over 40 countries. Its various certifications and standards, including Oeko-Tex Standard 100 and Oeko-Tex Standard 1000, have become a guiding force for consumer safety.

When it comes to product safety and social responsibility, Oeko-Tex is one of the best-known labels worldwide. That's why it's important to know what Oeko-Tex stands for, what it certifies and what differentiates it from other standards on the market.

Here, we've put together a handy one-stop guide to all things Oeko-Tex-related. If you’re wondering what products can be Oeko-Tex certified or whether Oeko-Tex is better than organic, look no further. You’ll find the answers to these and other Oeko-Tex questions below.

What is Oeko-Tex?

The International Oeko-Tex Association was established in Switzerland in 1992, in response to growing global concerns over product safety. That same year, the organization introduced its most famous certification — Standard 100. Products carrying that label are free of high levels of over 100 harmful substances known to be dangerous to humans and the environment.

It's important to note that every component of the product is tested. That means every button, zipper, lining and even special coatings applied to the finished article are separately tested for the same chemicals. This is important, because when you wear a piece of clothing or sleep in bedsheets, any toxic substances they were treated with can be absorbed into your body. So by purchasing products that have the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 label, you guarantee the textiles you wear or sleep in are safe.

The criteria for Oeko-Tex Standard 100 are reviewed and updated every year. Since this is a global standard, the certification requirements are universal regardless of the country. Companies that want their products certified apply voluntarily. Eighteen independent laboratories across the globe test the products. After 12 months, manufacturers must re-apply to update their Oeko-Tex certifications. You can check the validity of every current Oeko-Tex label online.

Is Oeko-Tex Better Than Organic?

Oeko-Tex certifies the safety and "cleanliness" of a finished product and its components. For example, suppose you purchase Oeko-Tex-certified bed sheets. In that case, you can rest assured no harmful chemicals were used to process the fabric. But Oeko-Tex certification is not the same as organic. It’s better.

Unfortunately, nowadays the term "organic" is incredibly overused, and worse, misused. There are no uniform rules that manufacturers must abide by to label their products as organic. That's why purchasing Oeko-Tex-certified products is better than looking for an "organic" label. If you'd like to read more about Oeko-Tex vs. organic, check out our post Are Organic Sheets Worth It? Here's Why "Organic" Can Be Misleading

It's also important to point out that Oeko-Tex certification doesn't measure thread count. In other words, your Oeko-Tex-certified home textiles don't have a higher thread count. But the good news is, they also don't need it. Good quality bed linen made from premium cotton doesn't need more than 400 threads per square meter. Read this post to learn more about thread count: The Truth About Thread Count (It's Not Important). 

What Is Oeko-Tex Standard 100?

Developed in the 1990s by the International Oeko-Tex Association, the Standard 100 is the most well-known and trusted certification for product safety. It is granted to articles tested free of high levels of over 100 toxic substances.

This independent certification system aims to provide consumers with a uniform, reliable way to shop for non-hazardous products.

The toxic substances that all Oeko-Tex Standard 100-certified products are tested for include formaldehyde, nickel and azo dyes, among many others. Many substances that aren’t legally banned but are suspected to be harmful to humans and the environment are also on the list. These include allergy-inducing colorants and synthetic softeners (phthalates). In many cases, Oeko Tex's testing criteria and limit values are much stricter than national or international standards.

Textiles for babies and toddlers are also tested for color "bleeding," through sucking and nibbling simulations. Materials used for bulkier products such as furniture are analyzed for dangerous air emissions, too.

Eighteen independent laboratories worldwide conduct the testing. Standard-100 is granted for one year. Once expired, the certification needs to be renewed by sending in new product samples to repeat the testing process. That way, companies commit to continuous product safety practices.

What Are Oeko-Tex Standard 100 Product Classes?

Standard 100 encompasses a massive number of products and raw materials. Naturally, they can't all be evaluated according to the same criteria. That's why Oeko-Tex developed four product classes, where every article is categorized according to its intended use.

  • Class 1 is for baby and toddler products. This is the most highly-regulated and strictly-tested article group. Because baby skin is very sensitive, it requires special care and protection. This product class carries additional requirements such as "color bleeding" and saliva resistance.

  • Class 2 includes products that come in direct contact with the skin. These can be clothes such as t-shirts, socks, underwear and home textiles such as bath towels and bed linen.

  • Class 3 Oeko-Tex Standard 100 products have very little to no skin contact. Think outerwear (jackets, coats), belts and other clothing and accessories.

  • Class 4 includes textiles and products used for decoration, such as furniture, upholstery materials, curtains and tablecloths.

What Is Oeko-Tex Standard 1000?

Standard 100 certifies non-hazardous textiles and finished products. Oeko-Tex's Standard 1000 is a little different. It certifies that the production facilities where the articles were made use environmentally and socially-friendly practices.

The International Oeko-Tex Association launched both standards in the 1990s, as consumer concerns over product safety, climate change and unethical manufacturing practices heightened. In answer, the organization developed a list of strict guidelines that manufacturers can use to improve their operations. 

Standard 1000’s requirements include a safe and healthy workplace for employees, no child labor, minimal noise and dust pollution levels and the use of non-hazardous substances. Companies must also prove that at least a third of their overall production is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified. Experts from one of the 18 Oeko-Tex Institutes worldwide routinely audit the company's facilities before that company is granted the Standard 1000 certificate. It’s valid for three years, after which it needs to be renewed.

Standard 1000 is also known as STeP Oeko-Tex (STeP stands for Sustainable Textile Production). 

Oeko-Tex vs. GOTS Certification

Today, companies can apply for hundreds of certifications to evaluate their products and production facilities. These certifications measure safety, sustainable manufacturing practices, animal welfare, and other criteria. But the most well-known, prestigious and widely used are Oeko-Tex and the Global Organic Textile Standard or GOTS.

So what’s the difference between these two labels, and which one is better?

Oeko-Tex certifies non-hazardous end-products and all of their components. Products that carry the Standard 100 label have been tested and proven free of harmful levels of toxic substances.

By contrast, GOTS certified the organic production of raw materials such as cotton, flax etc. GOTS covers "the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labeling, trading and distribution of all textiles made from at least 70% certified organic fibers," according to the standard's website.

GOTS uses two labels: “organic” for materials with a minimum of 95% organic fibers and “made with organic materials” requiring at least 70% organic fibers. Both organizations include requirements for ethical and fair employment practices.

What Products Can Be Oeko-Tex Certified?

The prestigious International Oeko-Tex Association certifies textile products and their components. Some of the most commonly-used articles that can be Oeko-Tex certified are clothes, home textiles such as Oeko-Tex sheets, Oeko-Tex pillows or Oeko-Tex blankets.

Since you use these products daily, it’s crucial to invest in bedding that poses no threat to your and your family's health.

For example, if you are a new parent, you will want to make sure your bundle of joy sleeps in Oeko-Tex-certified crib sheets that are gentle to the skin and won't contribute to any allergies, rashes or respiratory issues down the line.

Similarly, suppose you are shopping for a duvet you’ll use for years to come. It’s safest to purchase one produced without any toxic substances such as formaldehyde, which manufacturers often use to achieve a wrinkle-free look.

If you’re interested in learning more about Oeko-Tex duvets and how to choose the best one, check out our Guide to Duvets & Duvet Covers.

Where to Shop for Oeko-Tex Certified Bedding?

When it comes to luxury, high-quality and Oeko-Tex certified bedding, you’ll find a refreshing line of the best products at Parachute. The bedding options you’ll discover there are free of bleaches and toxic dyes, so they’re safer not only for humans but for the environment, too.

Parachute’s products are made from premium 100% long-staple Egyptian and Turkish cotton fibers grown sustainably and spun into luxury bath towels and bedding in family-owned factories in Europe. Whether you’re looking for comfortable sheets or beautiful top-of-bed options, you’ll uncover a curated selection of chic, Oeko-Tex certified options at Parachute.

High-quality materials are at the core of home textiles. Whether it's percale, sateen, linen or brushed cotton, Parachute can help you find the perfect Oeko-Tex-certified bedding for your home.

And because being a parent is stressful enough, Parachute also helps new moms and dads find soft, toxin-free bed linen for babies and toddlers. You’ll find a wide range of children's bedding products at Parachute, all of which exceed Oeko-Tex's safety requirements.

Other Commonly Asked Questions About Oeko-Tex

Here are a few more frequent questions about the Oeko-Tex certification.

What Materials Are Oeko-Tex? 

Oeko-Tex tests and certifies products made from textiles. Think clothing, accessories, home textiles, furniture and other decor items. Any fabric can be Oeko-Tex certified, as long as it passes the organization's rigorous testing requirements. You can find the Oeko-Tex label on a large variety of items, such as a silk blouse, a polyester dress, a cotton pillowcase, a pair of leather pants or a down duvet.

Our percale, sateen, linen, and brushed cotton bedding materials are all Oeko-Tex certified!

Is Oeko-Tex Waterproof?

Yes, certain fabrics can be waterproof and Oeko-Tex certified. But not all Oeko-Tex certified fabrics are waterproof. As long as the waterproof material hasn't been treated with any toxic substances or coatings that are dangerous to humans, it can carry the Oeko-Tex label.

How Much Does Oeko-Tex Cost?

Companies pay for their products to be tested and certified by the International Oeko-Tex Association. The certification comes at no additional cost to the end consumer. 

How do I Clean my Oeko-Tex Bed Sheets?

Oeko-Tex-certified materials and products should be cleaned according to their care labels. For example, if you purchase a set of Oeko-Tex-certified cotton sheets, you would wash and dry them according to the specific care instructions on the label. Consider using nontoxic laundry products like natural detergent, wool dryer balls, and linen mist to extend the length of your bed sheets’ lifespan. 

Learn more about proper care for your Oeko-Tex certified bedding in our How to Wash and Care for Bedding Guide and wash and care guides for Percale, Linen, Sateen, and Silk.