Rating the Best Organic Bed Sheets (and why you'll sleep better on natural sheets)

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Written by Leigh Matthews

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If you’re a big fan of crisp, clean sheets that don’t off-gas nasty chemicals, cause skin irritation, or have a deleterious effect on the environment, you’ll want to check out the ecoHome directory.

Buying bed sheets might seem to be simply a matter of color, pattern, size, and cost, but it’s also important to consider the material from which the sheets are made as well as how they are manufactured.

It sounds strange to say that your new set of sheets could have anything but a beneficial effect on your sleep and even your sex life, but the truth is that those sheets might hurt both your rest and your reproductive capacity. What’s more, your sheets could be contributing to antibiotic resistance that might increase the risk of a superbug epidemic. Recent reports from European scientists can certainly make it hard to sleep at night.

If you’re looking for new sheets, it’s smart to ask the following questions:

  1. What are the sheets made from?
  2. Are the materials recycled and/or recyclable?
  3. Have the sheets been treated with toxic chemicals including dyes?
  4. Does the manufacturing of the sheets harm humans, other animals, and/or the environment?

Let’s look more closely at the materials and processes used to make conventional sheets and the problems these materials pose for your health and the environment as a whole.

Our top picks for eco-friendly Bed Sheets

ProductHighlightsLeaf Score Product Link

Coyuchi Organic Sheets

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  • The sheets carry GOTS certification
  • Founded more than 20 years ago, and first to bring organic bedding to the US
  • Coyuchi requires that their supply chain partners are fully compliant with the strictest environmental and social regulations
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Rawganique Organic Cotton, Linen, and Hemp Sheets

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  • Free from sweatshop labor and non-toxic and include organic cotton, linen, and hemp
  • Contain no pesticides, fire retardants, biocides, stain repellents, wrinkle-proofing chemicals, dioxins, or formaldehyde
  • Products are unbleached, undyed, and completely natural
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Sol Organics Bed Sheets

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  • Tight weave leaves sheets soft, cozy, and especially good for winter
  • Made using only non-GMO, certified raw 100% organic cotton, manufactured in a FLO-certified factory
  • Products are free from formaldehyde, pesticides, herbicides, endocrine disruptors and phthalates
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PlushBeds Organic Cotton Sateen Sheet Set

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  • GOTS certified
  • Made without dyes or chemicals
  • Made with a French seam for durability and come in biodegradable packaging made with hemp and corn film
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Savvy Rest Organic Cotton Sheets

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  • Purchases support Safe Sleep Pillows Program, which works to donate new pillows for women and children who arrive at domestic violence shelters across the US
  • Savvy Rest use certified organic cotton that is free from pesticides, herbicides, and toxic finishing chemicals, as certified by GOTS
  • Member of the Carbon Fund, through which they support reforestation along the Mississippi River, a vital habitat for migratory birds
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Things to consider in Bed Sheets

Bed Sheets – What to Watch out for

In a groundbreaking 2014 Swedish study, researchers identified 2,400 textile-related substances in commonly available household products, 5% of which were considered to be of potential risk to the environment and 10% of which were considered a potential risk to human health (R). Only 10% of these 2,400 chemicals were included in the Swedish environmental monitoring program at the time of the study.

According to this study, a staggering 4-44 tons of hazardous dyes might be released annually into waste water in the EU alone, just from washing cotton and polyamide textiles during manufacturing. And this is the best case scenario, assuming companies follow good manufacturing practices. If they don’t, the amount of chemicals released could be five times higher or more.

The problem chemicals identified were all functional chemicals, which means that they are intended to be present at relatively high concentrations in consumer goods. Of these, azo dyes of direct and acid application type seemed to present considerable risk to the environment. Other (auxiliary) chemicals or impurities and degradation products known to be hazardous to the environment included nonylphenol ethoxylates and nonylphenol.

Some of the potential adverse effects of these chemicals include:

  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Reproductive and developmental disorders
  • Endocrine disruption
  • Allergic reactions.

Bed linens are, as with clothing, in close contact with our skin for many hours every day. This means that we have considerable dermal exposure, and respiratory exposure, to the chemical substances in textiles.

Cotton is the most commonly used fiber in the textile industry, followed by polyester, viscose and polyamide. Conventional cotton is hugely problematic as it uses vast amount of water to grow and process and is one of the largest contributors to pesticide use worldwide. Other chemicals are also used to manufacture textiles made with cotton and synthetic fibers. These can remain in the final product as minor contaminants or enter the waste water stream or landfill, where they can damage the health of wildlife and whole ecosystems.

Some hazardous chemicals may form in textiles as the product degrades, meaning that they are not identified when new products are tested. Vintage clothing and textiles may also have significantly higher levels of problematic contaminants, for instance, than newer textiles, in part due to chemical degradation and because stricter environmental regulations have been enacted in recent years.

Children and those with respiratory conditions are especially vulnerable to the effects of chemical molecules bound to fiber particles released during normal wear and tear of textiles. Substances which bind loosely to the material include plasticizers, stabilizing agents, and direct dyes are more readily released during use and when washing textiles. Different fibers have different binding affinities for specific chemicals, and other factors such as high humidity, temperature, and exposure to the sun can affect the release of chemicals in textiles. Considerable amounts of silver, triclosan and triclocarban have been seen to be released during normal washing of textiles treated with biocides (R).

Fiber molecules and bound chemicals make up a significant proportion of household dust. Children are also exposed to chemicals when they suck or chew on blankets, clothing, towels, and other textiles.

Regulations around Eco-Textiles

The EU Regulation REACH and the Regulation on Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) are the two acts governing chemical substances in the European Community.

REACH regulation includes several restrictions on hazardous chemical substances, but it was not designed to account for chemical substances in textile production within the EU, not in final products.

Substances of very high concern (SVHCs), once identified, are placed on the Candidate List and may become subject to authorization under REACH regulation. Worryingly, given that around 80% of textiles in the EU are imported from outside the EU, REACH requirements do not cover substances in articles imported to the EU (R).

Exposure scenarios used to determine safety and whether a chemical is identified as an SVHC also tend to only account for exposure to a single chemical. Given how many textiles (and other sources of chemicals) we are exposed to in any given day, this calculation is problematic at best. This situation also ignores the fact that many chemicals in textiles have not yet been identified or analyzed for safety.

In the EU, the REACH Regulation requires European manufacturers and suppliers to provide information on hazardous substances in their products. This is limited, however, to Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) that are listed on the Candidate list. As such, there is no requirement to provide information on dermal allergens or other potentially problematic chemicals.

In general, then, it makes sense for manufacturers of any items with direct and prolonged skin contact to stop using substances linked to severe health effects. Indeed, minimizing the use of any chemicals, unless proven safe, would be the most sensible precautionary approach. Some companies do follow such a policy, using only tried and tested, safe and natural materials.

Top-Tip – Decrease your risk of exposure to toxic chemicals by asking companies exactly what is in a product, rather than focusing on the handful of things they choose to list as being absent from a product, such as azo dyes.

Chemicals in Textiles

This section gets a bit technical, so feel free to skip ahead to the Health Effects of Textile Toxins or straight to the ecoHome directory for eco-friendly bedding recommendations.

Researchers categorize chemicals used in textile production as functional (or effect) chemical substances, auxiliary chemical substances and chemical substances not intentionally added.

Functional (effect) chemical substances – contribute to the design or certain properties of the final article and are intended to be present in the final article at a high enough concentration to remain useful. Examples include colorants, anti-wrinkling, and antibacterial agents, anti-shrinking agents, oil, soil, and water repellants, and flame retardants.

Auxiliary chemical substances (process chemicals) – are required to make textile processes work but don’t confer any intended property on the final product (so are not meant to remain in the final product). Examples include organic solvents, surfactants, softeners, salts, acids and bases, biocides as preservatives during storage and transport of goods.

The final category of substances are those unintended chemical substances, i.e. contaminants and degradation products, that are present in the final textile but are not there intentionally. These have no function in the final product and are usually at a low concentration compared to functional chemicals. Examples include formaldehyde, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), arylamines derived from certain azo dyestuffs and pigments, toxic metals (e.g. heavy metals) due to impurities from the raw material. Such substances can cause health and environmental problems.

While many of these chemicals are washed away before a textile reaches the shelves at the store, some may linger. Washing new sheets before use seems wise, then, unless you buy from a reputable eco-friendly company that avoids the use of problematic chemicals.

Even bed sheets made with natural fibers but treated with harsh chemicals may release those chemicals into the air or into skin while we sleep, especially if you tend to sweat while you sleep or live in a humid area. It is not enough, therefore, to simply choose organic cotton and ignore the use of azo dyes or other problematic chemicals. In fact, this combination may be even worse for health in some ways! Counterintuitively, perhaps, some of the worst offenders may be natural fibers treated with azo dyes or other chemicals. This is because such chemicals do not bond as well to natural fibers as they do to synthetics, meaning they are more likely to transfer to skin or leach into the environment.

Washing of consumer textiles appears to be an important source of textile fibres in the aquatic ecosystem, with negative effects on fish and other organisms. Stain repellants, including per- or polyfluorinated substances, are also used in household textiles and have been seen in increasing concentrations in the arctic region and in the Great Lakes (R). These compounds do not degrade or degrade very slowly, while others transform into persistent substances, such as the PBT-substances perfluorooctane sulfonyl (PFOS) and perfluorooctanate (PFOA). PFOS have been banned in textiles in the EU since 2008 but are still used elsewhere, including in products imported to the EU and the US.

Health Effects of Textile Toxins

Textile Dermatitis – Are you allergic to your bed sheets?

Textile dermatitis is a skin reaction typically resulting in inflammation, redness and itchiness after direct contact with textiles. The condition is mainly associated with synthetic materials and comes in two key types: allergic and irritant.

Allergic textile dermatitis results from activation of the immune system by a specific foreign antigen that penetrates the skin. These reactions are specific to the individual and are hard to predict. This type of allergy develops in two phases: sensitization (where the immune system identifies a foreign substance and mobilizes a response) and elicitation (where the immune system causes the allergic reaction). Allergic textile dermatitis tends to develop over time, unlike irritant textile dermatitis which is caused by a textile directly irritating and/or damaging the skin and causing a reaction upon first exposure. Contact dermatitis is easier to predict because of the nature of substances themselves. However, in the clinic, it is very difficult for a dermatologist to distinguish between allergic and irritant dermatitis.

Although research exists, it’s often hard to find good information on textile allergies. This is because very few dermatologists are able to accurately test for allergies to chemicals used in textiles. Why? Because companies are rarely transparent about the chemicals they use and the chemicals themselves are tightly controlled and not available for standard clinical allergy testing. Indeed, standard allergy test panels only test for one contaminant found in some textiles: formaldehyde. And, in the rare cases where a doctor does order additional specific testing for possible textile allergens, the chemical composition may differ from that used by some textile manufacturers. What this means is that it is difficult to know how many people are affected by allergies to common chemicals used in the manufacture of bed sheets and difficult to identify specific allergens even in individual cases.

One thing that is clear, however, is that disperse dyes, which are used for staining synthetic fibers, are the most common causes of textile allergy reported in medical literature. What’s more, contact allergy to disperse dyes is a clinically relevant problem, with some recent evidence finding that 3.6% of patients that suffer from contact allergy are allergic to disperse dyes (R).

Azo dyes of acid application (mainly used in polyamide textiles) and fragrances are associated with an increased risk of allergy. These dyes are loosely bound to fibers, meaning that oral, dermal, and respiratory exposure is likely, especially for children. Disperse dyes are the most frequently reported cause of textile dermatitis. The worst offenders are Disperse Blue 124, Disperse Blue 106 and Disperse Yellow 3 (R).

These azo dyes have also been found to persist in the environment and to bioaccumulate (R). This means that when one animal eats another, they also accumulate the toxic chemicals, leading to higher concentrations of chemicals in larger animals, such as humans.

The Swedish study identified more than 200 allergenic textile-related substance that could contribute substantially to allergic skin reactions (R). Some 19 dispersion dyes are listed as allergens by the EU ecolabel, with some also covered by the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 criteria (R). These labels are voluntary initiatives but can be credited with decreasing the use of the most well-known allergenic disperse dyes.

TOP TIP – “Disperse dyes are used to stain synthetic fabrics made from polyester, acetate and polyamide and not for natural fabrics such as cotton, wool or flax.”

Textiles, including bed sheets made with natural fibers, may also be treated with finishing resins to reduce shrinking and wrinkling as well as to improve the quality, texture and appearance of the fabric. Many of these finishing resins release formaldehyde which can cause textile dermatitis. This used to be a considerable problem in the past but is less of an issue now thanks to stronger legislation and voluntary restrictions. People may still be sensitized to formaldehyde, however, and the allergic reaction is particularly rife among textile workers.

One study found that dyes are the most common cause of allergic textile contact dermatitis, accounting for 79.9% of cases, whereas textile resins and formaldehyde are more often responsible for contact dermatitis in textile workers, accounting for 13.6% and 7.6%, respectively (R).

Skin allergy is not the only potential problem with some textiles. Respiratory irritation may also occur, resulting in asthma, bronchitis and irritation in the upper airways. This, again, is mostly a concern for workers in textile factories.

Your risk of allergy and of experiencing systematic effects related to chemicals in bed sheets depends on the effectiveness of your skin barrier. Dehydration, lack of essential fatty acids, skin irritation, and other factors can all affect skin penetration of chemicals. So, if you already have sensitive skin, avoiding chemically-treated or synthetic sheets is particularly important.

Bed Sheets, Cancer, Reproductive Health and Other Concerns

Concerns exist over the link between cancer and exposure to hazardous substances in textiles such as bed sheets. It is hard to determine the extent of these connections, however, given the long delay between exposure to chemicals and their effects.

Several azo dyes as well as anilines and anthraquinones (also dyes) used in textile production are classified as carcinogenic and/or mutagenic. There is also concern that antibacterial nanosilver particles can cause mutagenic and genotoxic effects (R). REACH guidelines currently list 22 aromatic amines that can be released from azo dyes that must not be found in textile articles at detectable levels (R). Azo dyes of direct application (mainly used in cotton textiles) have been associated with an increased risk of cancer and developmental effects (R). These types of dyes are loosely bound to fibers, meaning that oral, dermal, and respiratory exposure is likely, especially for children.

There are also concerns over reproductive toxicity associated with exposure to brominated flame retardants, highly fluorinated water and stain repellants, phthalates and antibacterial agents used in textile production. Brominated flame retardants, for instance, have been linked to neurobehavioural and developmental disorders, reproductive health effects and alterations in thyroid function (R).

Adverse reproductive effects have been associated with exposure to phthalates found in textiles, all of which were related to anti-androgenic effects, which were likely additive (R, R). Triclosan has also been associated with disruption of thyroid hormones (R) and nanosilver particles have been linked to potential effects on neuronal development and physiological function, including testicular function (R, R).

Perhaps most worryingly, female textile workers have been found to have a massively increased likelihood of miscarriage (more than a 300% increase in some cases!), although it isn’t clear if this is linked specifically to exposure to hazardous chemicals (R). In most cases, it also seems that the individuals who work to produce bed sheets are those most at risk of exposure to carcinogenic aryl amines (formed from textile azo dyes). So, not only is it better for you and the environment to use eco-friendly sheets free from azo dyes, it’s also better for workers’ health.

Bacterial Resistance and Bed Sheets

It might sound weird, but your bed sheets could one day contribute to a superbug pandemic. How? Well, some companies have started treating bedding with antibacterial biocides, so they can promote their products to people who are particularly concerned about bacteria in their sheets and/or who are unable or unwilling to wash their sheets more regularly. These products are marketed as anti-mold, anti-odor, and/or antibacterial.

There are now indications that bacterial resistance to biocides used in textile manufacturing can accelerate antibiotic resistance (R). This means that if you get sick, there will be fewer antibiotics able to help fight the infection. Antibiotic resistance is developing rapidly, all over the world, resulting in growing numbers of deaths by diseases and infections that were once easily treated.

Fortunately, biocides are not as common in bed sheets as they are in clothing (especially sports clothing), but they have been shown to be released from textiles during laundry (R). So, if you’re buying new sports gear or any textile, stay away from those treated with biocides. It’s unnecessary and could cause major problems later on.

Eco-Friendly Bed Sheets

There are plenty of good options available for natural, eco-friendly bed sheets. Natural and organic sheets don’t off-gas and have a lower carbon footprint than sheets made with synthetics, chemically processed bamboo and conventional cotton, assuming that they are not subjected to toxic dying processes. Natural and organic sheets are also easier to recycle and upcycle, may well last longer than synthetics and are able to break down naturally without damaging the environment.

Some good options for natural eco-friendly sheets include:

  • Organic cotton
  • Hemp
  • Flax linen
  • Linen/cotton chambray blends
  • Silk (depending on the source)
  • Bamboo (depending on the processing).

Regardless of which bedding set-up you prefer, choosing sheets made with natural materials is better for breathability, comfort, durability, and all-round health. A quality set of sheets can easily outlive your mattress and may last for several decades without needing to be replaced. If more people choose eco-friendly sheets this could help to keep millions of tons of material out of landfill, significantly reduce water waste and water pollution, reduce workplace exposure to toxic chemicals for those making your bedding, and generally help clean up our environment.

Pros and Cons of Organic Cotton Sheets

Conventionally grown cotton is resource-hungry and involves the use of pesticides and other chemicals that damage the environment and are bad for human health. Organic cotton is grown and processed without pesticides, formaldehyde, or other harmful chemicals and is very soft, making it an excellent option for cozy comforters.

Eco-friendly sheets are made with organic cotton that has been dyed using natural processes or is left undyed and unbleached, with a natural ecru tone.

Because cotton shrinks when washed in warm or hot water, it is best to wash on a cold gentle cycle and air dry. Some organic cotton sheets are produced ‘pre-shrunk’, so you can wash them on a warm water cycle without having to worry about shrinkage.

Pros and Cons of Hemp Sheets

Hemp is a wonderfully sustainable, renewable resource with myriad applications across multiple industries. Hemp sheets are particularly good because hemp is one of the most breathable materials, managing to keep its cool even in hot and humid temperatures, and helps wick moisture away from your skin. This means it’s good for keeping bedding feeling fresh, especially as hemp is naturally anti-microbial and anti-bacterial. Hemp is resistant to mold and mildew and doesn’t hold onto odors.

Unfortunately, hemp sheets just aren’t that widely available, which means they tend to cost more than organic cotton sheets. Hemp sheets are certainly worth the investment, however, if you live somewhere particularly humid.

Hemp is also a very environmentally friendly fiber as the crop is naturally resistant to pests and grows so thick that it prevents the growth of weeds around the plants. This means that you don’t typically need to use pesticides or herbicides when growing hemp, nor do you need fertilizers as hemp actually enriches the quality of soil. Because hemp roots grow deep, they are good at using groundwater and help reduce soil erosion.

Pros and Cons of Flax Linen Sheets

Even more absorbent and breathable than cotton, and better at insulating, linen is excellent for keeping you cool and dry in a hot and humid summer and cozy and warm in winter. While textured, flax gets softer and suppler with every wash, especially if mixed with organic cotton.

Flax is durable and can easily be grown without pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemical inputs, which is why it isn’t always necessary to have organic certification for flax. Most of the time, flax will have been grown according to organic standards simply because it makes the most sense for farmers.

Pros and Cons of Silk Sheets

Silk sheets are luxurious but tend to be expensive and fraught with ethical issues. In conventional silk production, cocoons made by silkworms on silk farms are put in boiling water before the worm breaks out of the cocoon (which would cut the thread). The worms are then boiled alive as silk farmers unravel the cocoon to produce a continuous thread that can measure as much as 500 meters in length. This silk is typically known as Mulberry silk and comes from many generations of inbreeding of silkworms for commercial purposes. Such inbreeding has resulted in silkworm moths that are too heavy and disfigured to fly or even move naturally, and the farming practices result in significant suffering and premature deaths of the moths. Some estimates suggest that the average necktie requires 50 grams of silk, for which you would need to boil around 150 worms in their cocoons. For a sheet, pillowcase, or silk comforter, the death count would be significantly higher, of course.

So-called ahimsa or peace silk (also known as Tussah silk) is harvested after the silkworms emerge from the cocoon. As such, ahimsa silk threads are much shorter and have to be spun together to create a single thread. The yield is also lower per cocoon, but the spun yarn is softer, stronger, and more like linen than silk. If the cocoons are harvested in the wild and the silk is not treated with toxic dyes, the resulting silk could be considered a sustainable eco-friendly fiber, especially as silkworms feed on mulberry leaves, meaning that there is little energy input (although considerable water input) involved in silk production.

If a company can demonstrate its commitment to harvesting wild silk and avoiding the use of toxic chemicals during processing, silk can be a good choice for sheets. Silk is a natural temperature regulator, so is a good option if you live somewhere with dramatically shifting temperatures throughout the year. Silk is often touted both as hypoallergenic and as having benefits for skin and hair because it contains amino acids (the building blocks of proteins called fibroin and sericin that make up the central core of silk fibers. There’s no real indication that any kind of amino acid transfer occurs between skin and silk when you sleep on silk sheets, however. What’s more, if it did, the potential for allergic reaction would be higher given that most allergies involve an immune response to proteins.

So, while silk sheets are often heavily marketed for skin and hair benefits, it’s probably best to focus instead on their other advantages. For instance, with proper care, silk can be very durable, lasting some 15-20 years, making it rather eco-friendly. However, silk is a little tricky to care for. Some types of silk are machine washable on a delicate cycle, while others need to be dry cleaned (which normally involves toxic chemicals). If washed, silk should be dried by ironing while damp as it tends to wrinkle and stiffen if line dried.

When looking at silk products, in addition to determining whether the silk is cruelty-free, you may also want to look for terms such as charmeuse and momme. Charmeuse is a type of weaving style that creates silk sheets with a shiny and a dull side. Momme is the measure used for the weight of 100 yards of silk (1 momme (m/m) = 4.3056 g / square meter). This measure ranges from 6-30. Silk sheets that are assessed around 19 momme are a good option in terms of affordability, quality, and strength.

Sadly, it seems that eco-friendly, ethical silk sheets are sorely lacking. We can, however, recommend the Ethical Silk Company’s silk pillowcases and the grade A charmeuse silk pillowcase from White & Green, both made with ‘peace silk’.

Pros and Cons of Bamboo Sheets

Bamboo sheets have become popular in recent years and is often touted as an eco-friendly fabric. Bamboo is good at wicking away moisture and has some natural anti-odor and antibacterial qualities, but some of the qualities that make bamboo a fantastic choice for an eco-friendly flooring material also make it rather problematic for use in producing soft textiles.

Bamboo is an astonishingly versatile and strong plant that has a wide range of uses. It can grow up to four feet in a day, absorbs five times more carbon dioxide than most other trees, and produces around 35% more oxygen. It regenerates itself quickly after harvesting and requires little water and no pesticides to grow well. But, because bamboo is incredibly strong (it is used in bridge-building!), it has to undergo significant processing to create soft fibers. This can be done mechanically but is most often done using harsh chemicals.

Mechanical processing of bamboo is very labor intensive and time consuming, so not very economically viable. Products are available using mechanically produced bamboo, however, including clothing and bed sheets, but it’s hard to know how a company making these textiles sources their bamboo. Why does that matter? Well, chemically produced bamboo involves the use of chemicals such as sodium hydroxide and sulfuric acid, and results in a product called viscose rayon. These chemicals cause air and water pollution and endanger factory workers. A slightly better option is something called lyocell (TENCEL), which is chemically produced bamboo fiber using a closed loop processing system. So, the chemicals are still bad, but they don’t escape into the environment. If you’re committed to having bamboo sheets, PlushBeds are an otherwise mostly eco-minded company that offers Tencel sheets.

Some companies use more traditional ‘softening’ methods for bamboo that take longer and use less harsh chemicals or natural fermentation, which means a much lower environmental impact but a much higher price. In general, then, if you really want bamboo sheets, choose mechanically processed bamboo and be prepared to pay a little extra.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

When it comes to the environmental impact of sheets, it’s not just your choice of new sheets that matters. Old bed sheets may be dumped in landfill, where they take many years to break down. Depending on the type of sheets, they may leach harmful chemicals into the ground water and soil or into the air if incinerated. Only an estimated 15-20% of textiles in the EU are recycled, with the figure likely much lower in the US due simply to geographical factors (R).

Organic cotton, hemp, flax, silk, and other natural plant-based materials are the best options for truly biodegradable, eco-friendly sheets. And, as with every household product, before you even consider sending old sheets to landfill, think about ways to repurpose, upcycle, or recycle it.

You could donate lightly used sheets to a nearby retirement home, shelter, or social housing for those in need. Sheets are also great for craft projects at home, such as making costumes, or you might turn large sheets worn in one corner into smaller sheets that are perfect for a child’s bed or smaller guest bed. Old sheets can also be repurposed as a tablecloth, plant cloche in winter (to keep the frost off), or as a window cover at home or in a parked car to keep frost off or sun out and minimize the need for air-conditioning and heating. Animal shelters might also have need for sheets to keep abandoned pets comfortable and safe.

Green Certifications for Sheets

There are around 100 international standards and eco-labels for textiles but only a handful assess both the final product and the manufacturing process as a whole. To help you figure out the right eco-friendly sheets for your needs, here are some of the most robust green certifications that provide a greater degree of reassurance not just for quality but for environmental and ethical standards, including growing conditions for raw materials, manufacturing processes, worker conditions, non-human animal welfare, and social and environmental impact overall.

One key logo to look for when buying sheets is GOTS.

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

GOTS requires that at least 95 percent of the materials in the duvet be certified organic, and it prohibits outright the use of certain substances even for the other 5 percent, such as chemical flame retardants and polyurethane.

Green America

Green America certifies businesses that actively use their business as a tool for positive social change. To be certified with Green America a business must also:

  • Operate a “values-driven” enterprise according to principles of social justice AND environmental sustainability;
  • Demonstrate environmentally responsible practices in the way they source, manufacture, and market their products and run their operations and facilities;
  • Be socially equitable and committed to extraordinary practices that benefit workers, customers, communities, and the environment; and
  • Be accountable for their work by continually improving and tracking their progress and operating with transparency in every facet of their business.

Green America has been evaluating and certifying small businesses since 1982 and has worked with companies such as Holy Lamb Organics, PlushBeds, and Haiku Designs, all of whom are listed in the ecoHome directory.

There is also a Green America Gold certification that is reserved for companies who are industry leaders for responsible, sustainable business practices. Holy Lamb Organics is Green America Gold Certified.

IOAS

International and Organic Sustainable Accreditation (IOAS) is administered by a non-profit organization and certifies the integrity of a product’s claims to be organic, sustainable, environmentally sound, and produced with social justice and fair trade in mind.

Oeko-Tex Standard 100

Oeko-Tex Standard 100 lays out limits for the emission of harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It also outright bans the use of certain chemical flame retardants, colorants, and allergenic dyes, but it doesn’t offer any guidance on whether materials are organic or sustainably sourced and it’s not always clear if an entire product or just a single component is certified.

The certification process for the OEKO TEX Certification is fairly robust and includes testing for a variety of hazardous chemicals, pesticides, phthalates, lead, arsenic, and other heavy metals. If sheets carry this certification, they have been tested and found to contain no:

  • Chlorinated phenols
  • Carcinogenic dyes
  • AZO dyes
  • Allergy inducing dyes
  • VOCs.

The OEKO TEX Standard 100 Certification is voluntary and must be updated each year in order to remain active.

Check out the ecoHome directory for conscientious options for eco-friendly sheets.

Companies to Consider for Eco-Friendly Bed Sheets

With so many eco-friendly materials available, a huge number of companies, small and large, have popped up in recent years offering products that sound eco-friendly, at least at first glance. Upon closer inspection, a lot of the hype from these companies is revealed as simple greenwashing. Many companies make luxury sheets and use terms like ‘natural’ to promote their products, but further investigation reveals absolutely no eco credentials, little if any transparency about materials and dyes, and no apparent interest in sustainability, fair working practices, or environmentally friendly manufacturing.

As far as possible, the companies and products included in the eco directory are there because they not only produce safe products from organic materials, but also show a commitment to environmentally friendly manufacturing practices and charitable enterprise.

These companies include:

Leigh Matthews

Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT, is a health and wellness writer for Gene Food specializing in plant-based nutrition. Read her full bio here.

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