Behind the Seams: The Truth About Toxic Clothes, And How You Can Make The Switch

It’s time to detox your closet and upgrade to sustainable fashion.

Let's face it: we all love a good outfit. From work clothes to home wear, dressing up for dates or events, you want to strut out in style. But does making an impression have to cost you and the environment? 

Did you know that only 1% of clothing is recycled into new clothing, while 12.8 million tons of clothing ends up in landfills each year in the United States alone?  Add that to the health risks from chemical exposure from the materials the clothes are made of.  Are you at risk?

You’re not the only one concerned. The 2020 Conscious Fashion Report by the fashion search engine Lyst, showed a 37% year-on-year increase in searches for sustainable fashion. 57% of consumers in a survey by the consulting firm McKinsey have made substantial changes in their lifestyles to minimize their environmental impact. Over 60% of respondents have made a conscious effort to recycle and purchase products that come in environmentally friendly packaging. The global sustainable fashion market is growing and is set to cross the $8.25 billion mark in 2023. Women currently make up the largest portion and men are the fastest growing segment. Sustainable fashion is becoming increasingly popular among men aged 25-34, with 42% of millennials and Gen Z respondents going second hand for items. 

In this article, we'll dive into the world of toxic clothing and show you how to determine if your own wardrobe is a potential health hazard. We'll also introduce you to Vustra, the brand that's changing the game by offering organic, eco-friendly, and ethical men's clothing options. 

What makes clothes toxic?

Conventional clothing options are a cocktail of toxic chemicals, dyes, and materials. These are harmful to both the environment and your health. These are the likes of phthalates, formaldehyde, and flame retardants are often used to make clothing more wrinkle-resistant, waterproof, or flame retardant, but they end up affecting your health and surrounding ecosystems once disposed. Over 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used throughout the world to turn raw materials into textiles, including a range of carcinogens, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors. 

Phthalates are chemicals commonly used in materials such as polyester, nylon, and PVC to make them more flexible and durable. They may also be found in items like vinyl raincoats, handbags, shoes, and even scented clothing. Exposure to phthalates can have negative effects on your health, including asthma, cancer, and reproductive issues. There's even evidence suggesting that phthalates may contribute to obesity and insulin resistance. And it's not just our health that's affected - the production and disposal of products containing phthalates can release these chemicals into the air and water, harming plants, animals, and ecosystems. In fact, phthalates were recently found in surface water and sediment samples from the Yellow River in China.

Other examples include:

  • Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) - These chemicals are used to make clothing water and stain-resistant, such as for outdoor clothes. They are persistent in the environment and have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, and developmental problems. PFCs can persist in the environment for a long time and have been found in water sources and wildlife. They can also contribute to the formation of greenhouse gasses.
  • Flame retardants are used in many children's clothing items and have been linked to developmental delays, hormone disruption, and cancer. They can also end up in the environment through washing, production, and disposal of clothing, which can have lasting impacts on the air, water, and soil. 
  • Triclosan - This chemical is often found in antimicrobial clothing workout clothes and undergarments, and has been linked to hormone disruption and antibiotic resistance. The FDA even banned  its use in some products, including hand soaps, due to concerns over its potential health risks.   Triclosan can accumulate in waterways and contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • Azo dyes - These synthetic dyes are often used in clothing and textiles, especially in the production of synthetic fibers like polyester. They can release carcinogenic chemicals when they break down. Studies have shown azo dyes can release carcinogenic chemicals when they break down. 
  • Lead and other heavy metals - These can be found in clothing and jewelry, particularly in items made in countries with lax regulations. They can cause developmental problems, cognitive impairments, and other health issues.  Once disposed of, the heavy metals can accumulate in soil and water sources and have negative impacts on ecosystems.
  • Bisphenol A (BPA) - This chemical is used in the production of some synthetic fabrics and some types of plastic packaging used to wrap clothing during shipping or in certain synthetic fabrics like polyester. It can disrupt hormone function and cause reproductive problems. BPA can leach from products and contaminate water sources. It has been found in many bodies of water and can have negative impacts on aquatic ecosystems.

5 ways to determine if your clothes are toxic

Curious about whether your clothes are toxic? Here are 5 ways to determine to determine whether they contain harmful chemicals:

  1. Check the label

Start with the label. Look for taglines like “sustainable men's clothing brands”, “eco-friendly men's fashion”, “men's organic clothing”, and “fair trade men's fashion”, as is the case with Vustra. If the label doesn't indicate that the clothing is made from non-toxic materials, you can assume that it contains chemicals that could be harmful to you and the environment. For example, the casual Chard men's shirt shows that it is made from 100% certified organic cotton.

Look up the brand and see if they have a history of using toxic chemicals. A quick online search can reveal a lot about a company's practices and values.

  1. Use an ethical fashion awareness app

Apps like "Good On You", come in handy to help you make sustainable and ethical fashion choices. This particular app evaluates fashion brands based on their sustainability, ethics, and environmental impact. Over 3,000 brands are assessed using their comprehensive rating system. Each brand gets a rating out of five, ranging from "We Avoid" (1) to "Great" (5), as well as individual scores for its impact on people, the planet, and animals. Though not all brands are included, this app can be a useful resource for finding sustainable menswear options and staying up-to-date on eco-conscious fashion trends.

  1. Identify what the fabric is made of, and check its sustainability

Look for clothes made from sustainable materials like organic cotton, hemp, linen, and bamboo, grown without the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers. These materials are grown and processed without the use of harmful chemicals, making them better for you and the environment.  This is what you get from Vustra shirts and tees, which are made from certified organic cotton and linen. Other sustainable materials include:

  • Tencel: A sustainable fiber made from the wood pulp of eucalyptus trees and others like beech, birch and spruce. that requires less water and energy to produce than cotton.
  • Recycled fabrics: These are fabrics made from post-consumer waste materials like plastic bottles and fishing nets.
  • Wool: A natural and renewable fiber that can be sustainably sourced if the sheep are treated humanely and the grazing land is not overused.
  • Silk: A natural fabric made from the cocoon of the silk worm that can be sustainably produced if the silkworms are allowed to complete their life cycle.
  • Cork: A versatile material that is made from the bark of the cork oak tree and is renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable.
  • Pineapple leather: Also known as Piñatex, this material is made from the fibers of pineapple leaves and is an eco-friendly alternative to traditional leather.

  1. Check for Certifications 

Don’t just take the company’s word for it. Independent third-party organizations carry out tests on consumer products to determine how safe the products are, as well as the sustainability of the brand’s operations. Such certifications include the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which ensures that the clothing is made from organic fibers and meets strict environmental and social criteria. Other certifications to look for include Fair Trade Certified, Bluesign, and Oeko-Tex Standard 100. These certifications indicate that the clothing has been tested for harmful substances and meets high environmental and social standards.

  1. Use a Fabric Testing Kit

Fabric testing kits can help you identify the presence of harmful chemicals in your clothes. These kits use a simple chemical test to detect the presence of harmful substances, like formaldehyde or chlorine. This can be a useful tool for those who are concerned about the safety of their clothing.

Stylishly sustainable: Making your wardrobe more eco-friendly

In addition to being keen on the type of materials the clothes have been made of, you can also take the extra step to:

  • Work with transparent brands

By choosing transparent brands, you can be sure that your clothing choices align with your values and support a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry, and all workers involved in the production process are treated fairly.  These brands are more likely to use non-toxic materials and have supply chains that are easily traceable. 

Take a look at some of Vustra's supply chain partners for instance: 

  • Raymond, an Indian-based textile company, has been leading the industry for almost 100 years. They specialize in creating fabric and yarn that meet the highest industry standards while also minimizing the use of toxic chemicals such as bleaches and dyes. Their products consist of a minimum of 95% organic fibers, making them an eco-friendly choice. Raymond is recognized globally for their strict organic textile standards and are among the most respected Indian manufacturers worldwide. They have been certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
  • Gulsen is a women-owned and operated enterprise based in Turkey that focuses on fair-trade production. Through collaboration, they enhance the effectiveness of their ethical trade strategies by sharing audits directly with their customers. They have been certified by the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (SEDEX).
  • T Tantos Textil, based in Portugal, a reliable partner that shares the same values of creativity and quality as Raymond. They specialize in producing knitwear, menswear, and casual clothing. Together, they aim to develop sustainability in the industry's supply chains. They have been certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Organic Content Standard (OCS), and Control Union.

  • Buy second hand

Buying secondhand clothing is a great way to reduce your impact on the environment and avoid contributing to the production of new, potentially toxic clothing. Second hand stores, consignment shops, and online marketplaces like eBay and Poshmark offer a wide range of pre-loved clothing options. Just be keen on the quality of the clothing item, its condition, the return policy, and the seller reputation. Thrift+ is another online second hand store that offers a range of high-quality men's clothing.

Make More Sustainable Clothing Choices

In summary, to look and also feel good about your fashion choices, you’ll want to focus on two key things:

  • Are the clothes eco-friendly?  Made using sustainable and non-toxic materials and processes. This includes materials such as organic cotton, recycled polyester, and biodegradable fabrics.
  • Does that brand have ethical and fair labor practices?  This includes ensuring fair wages and safe working conditions for workers, as well as minimizing waste and environmental impact. When you choose fair trade men's fashion, you can support workers and communities around the world and help promote sustainable and ethical fashion practices.

Turning to menswear like Vustra organic clothing and eco-friendly shirts, enables you to reduce your impact on the environment and support sustainable fashion practices. Whether it’s for your work or social life, wedding suits or beachwear, you can ensure that your choices count towards a healthier and more sustainable future. Go green with your wardrobe here. 


Photo by Bozhin Karaivanov

Collection list