The textile industry is more developed than ever, particularly through the clothing industry, but also with regard to household linen. The growing demand leads to increasingly massive production, at low prices, leading to polluting production. It’s not easy to find your way around when choosing your slow deco household linen. The origin of the fabric itself is important, as is its country of weaving, the products used to process it, but also the country where the final product is manufactured.
A current polluting textile industry
Cotton is by far the most widely used textile in the world for its technicality and relatively low cost. Cotton has the quality of being absorbent, hypoallergenic and breathable, which is why it is mainly found in bedroom linens such as table or bathroom linens.
However, its production has a real environmental impact:
A significant carbon impact: it passes through at least four countries in the world before the finished product arrives in our stores,
An excessively aquavorous production: 1000L of water for 100g of cotton
A production often associated with a massive use of pesticides and a green washing business is developed around this cheap fabric.
However, there are labelled cottons that do not use fertilizers, we will discuss this below.
Synthetic fabrics (polyester, viscose, acrylic, elastane, lycra)
Polluting manufacturing: it uses petroleum products (for example, 1.5 kg of petroleum is required to manufacture 1 kg of polyester), and many other toxic components (azo dyes, formaldehyde, phthalates, endocrine disrupters of all kinds, etc.).
A significant carbon impact: products are often produced in countries where labour is cheap, and then travel thousands of kilometres to reach our homes.
A major role in ocean pollution: they are composed of synthetic microfibres (less than 1 mm) that are excessively polluting when washed (even those made of recycled plastic). According to a study carried out by researchers at the University of Santa Barbara, a synthetic fleece jacket releases 1.7 grams of microfibres with each wash. These (mainly polyester, acrylic and polyamide fibres) pass through wastewater treatment plants, but 40% cross them and reach our waterways directly to the oceans. These microfibers are ingested by marine animals, and then eventually by us when we eat them.
Synthetic textiles should therefore be permanently banned from our household linen.
Silk is light and produced by silkworms, which explains its high price.
However, its current production is far from its past letters of nobility:
An important carbon impact: there is no longer any French production, 90% of the current production is Chinese.
Harmful production: worms are often treated with antibiotics and then killed for silk harvesting, the silk itself is also treated with different chemicals.
Forced child labour: In the case of manual labour, children often become forced labourers, especially in countries such as Uzbekistan, where forced labour in cotton fields is already well known.
Harmful dyeing process
In order to be cheap, the dyeing processes are particularly chemical, but even high-end household linen is often dyed in this way.
These dyes contain phthalates, endocrine disrupters of all kinds, formaldehyde, etc. In other words, once again, a whole series of components that are both polluting during manufacture, causing a harmful effect on fauna (disappearance of species, genetic mutations), flora and the health of the man who dyes.
The health impact continues once we get home because we inhale the volatile components (VOCs) of our duvet covers, pillowcases, sheets, carpets, sofas, napkins, tablecloths… for months. They contribute significantly to the indoor pollution of our homes and have an impact on our health.
It takes between 100 and 150 L of water per litre of dyed fabric.
Choose your ecological household linen for a slow deco
The two points of vigilance concern the fabric chosen, depending on its production method, and the dyeing.
Hemp is increasingly used for the manufacture of bed linen (sheets, duvet covers, pillowcases) and table linen (tablecloths, placemats, napkins).
Hemp is still a little-used textile, and yet.
Technical qualities: it is hypoallergenic, antibacterial and breathable. Hemp is also a particularly resistant textile, which makes it a durable material.
An ecological production and plant: its production requires little water, no fertilizers or pesticides and the plant itself depollutes the soil.
A local resource: France is the first European producer country. To date, hemp fabric is not manufactured in France because we have lost this know-how but a weaving industry is being rebuilt.
Linen is becoming the new flagship textile for the manufacture of bed linen (sheets, duvet covers, pillowcases) and table linen (tablecloths, placemats, napkins). It is said that linen cannot be ironed and that it is its imperfection that gives it all its charm.
Technical qualities: linen is an analgesic and breathable textile. Linen fabric is particularly resistant, does not risk moths, and is biodegradable.
An ecological production: it is an easy to produce plant that requires few inputs, is satisfied with rainwater, and is mechanically extracted. Linen production itself is therefore environmentally friendly.
A local resource: France is the world’s leading flax producer.
However, beware of flax produced outside Europe. Some countries still use fertilizers, as well as chlorine to prepare the fabric for dyeing.
Wool is now a noble material because it has been replaced by cheaper synthetic textiles. Knitted yarn wool is used to make warm plaids for winter.
The fabric made from wool is called felt. Wool fibres are fixed together with a soapy bath. Felt is more and more used today to make decorative objects (baskets, small storage…) or placemats, curtains, lampshades.
Technical qualities: thermal insulation and humidity regulation.
An ecological production: the wool comes from the shearing of sheep, essential to their survival, and has a different name depending on the animal from which it comes: merino (the most common and cheapest), angora (from a rabbit), mohair (from a goat), alpaca (from the animal with the same name in South America), cashmere (from a goat from the area of the same name).
A local resource: France has merino producers.
There are organic labels that are naturally to be preferred.
RECYCLED OR LABELLED COTTON
Recycled cotton and organic cotton are slowly replacing standard cotton.
Cotton production remains polluting and aquavorous, even organic or recycled, which is why cotton is not to be preferred.
An organic cotton (GOTS: Global Organic Tetxile Standard) or a Max Havelaar fair trade cotton is a minimum. Cotton is the target of a large number of green washing, in the absence of the GOTS or Max Havelaar label, it is preferable to abstain.
It is advisable to choose a quality fabric for a better durability over time. The quality of a cotton is measured by the thickness of the yarn used and the number of knots per square centimetre. The more yarns there are, the more resistant and opaque the fabric will be. For a cotton that lasts over time, it is therefore preferable to choose a high number of yarns per square centimetre. Egyptian cotton is also considered to be the most beautiful and resistant.
To go further : An ecological cotton decoration
There are a few organic or fair trade silks that are naturally to be preferred.
The majority of velvets are made from synthetic materials derived from polluting and chemical oil. However, there is 100% organic cotton velvet.
Reuse, recycle, rest of the textile. It is possible to buy good quality household linen on resale sites (curtains among others, sheets on specialized sites). It is also possible to buy old sheets on second-hand goods, recycling, Emmaus and transform and dye them yourself, or by a craftsman. Old fabrics are generally of good quality and can allow you to customize your interior at prices that are sometimes identical to those on the market (including sewing and dyeing).
If you do not have information on where and how the fabric is produced, it is preferable to choose it with a label.
Label GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) is the main international organic ecolabel. It guarantees that the fabric is grown according to organic farming regulations and that no toxic substances are used in the manufacture or printing of the textile. The label also guarantees that decent working conditions are provided for producers.
Label Oeko-Tex ensures a textile that is not dangerous to the health of the consumer. There are two levels of labelling:
The first level (STANDARD 100): ensures that no harmful or allergenic substances are present in the tissue.
The second level (MADE IN GREEN): in addition, it ensures a production management that protects the environment as much as possible (even if it is not organic) with optimum traceability. The latter also ensures that producers enjoy decent working conditions and that no children work.
Label Max Havelaar guarantees an income and decent working conditions for producers. It further encourages solidarity organizations around the work of women, small producers and cooperatives. Their cotton is also guaranteed GMO-free, but not pesticide free.
We (re)discover vegetable dyeing through neo-dyeing centres that prove to us that it is possible to obtain a multitude of colours thanks to plants. All the colours are in nature and the dyer composes in order to produce fabrics with modern and elegant colours in the greatest respect for the planet. Ideally, dyes made with local plants should be preferred. Nature offers us everything we need to transpose its beauty into our interiors.