So, I can't help but be a little disappointed when I have purchased organic fashion that smells of chemicals, perfumed soaps, incense or some other not so organic smell. I have had this experience numerous times when ordering eco clothing online, and found many dropship items are especially prone.
The following will be a guide for those trying to navigate your wardrobe towards the healthiest (least stinky) options:
1. No Dye - Of course we all super de duper love colors, but no dye will always be the healthiest option when paired with organic cotton. Hemp, bamboo, soy and tencel all go through a chem processing of some sort therefore making more impact on the environment, and possibly not a good choice for the extra sensitive.
2. Natural Dyes - These are the second best option and will include colors made with clay, indigo, bilberries, black walnut hulls or some other naturally occurring substance. These don't carry a chem smell and are not to be confused with low impact dyes (which I will explain next) - although their impact is very low!
3. Low Impact Dyes - As much as I love the idea of low impact or fiber reactive dyes they are still chemical based. Low Impact dyes have less of an environmental effect because they are made to react with the clothing fibers in such as way that the fabric holds more dye making less run off into the environment. So where they may be less toxic to soil and water and even less nasty to your skin, they still contain chems and heavy metals that are needed to create color and have a smell that can reflect that. For those with chem sensitivities low impact dyes may or may not work - they tend to be OK after a few washings but some people can not tolerate this type of dye especially when paired with the fabrics which require more processing such as the hemp or tencel.
4. Fabrics - Organic cotton remains to be one the purest fabrics besides the very expensive peace silk. While bamboo, hemp, tencel and soy are more eco minded then chem fabrics such as polyester blends , nylon & spandex - they still go through some heavy duty chemical processing. Hemp in particular is one which can either be heavily processed with harsh noxious liquids in order to spin it in a fiber faster, or a slower less toxic process can be used such as the processing stages at Ecolution. Bamboo is so silky soft, fast growing, and easily cultivated but uses some nasty chems to spin it into a fiber - same with soy and tencel, except tencel claims to use less toxic and 99% recyclable liquids.
5. The Smell Of Storage - This is an issue which is most difficult to navigate because each warehouse or storing facility is handled differently. I have purchased organic clothing that was discounted at Bluefly and Tobi which are online stores that carry mostly regular fashion and some eco fashion on the side... the organic items will be stored with the piles of out gassing chem dipped clothing and usually will come smelling like it. (My experience with Bluefly was far better then the eco item at Tobi). This is to be expected... but what I don't like is to buy organic clothing from an organic designer only to have it come stinking like cheap perfume or incense. I was recently disappointed to find that some of the dropship items sent out by designers through The Oko Box had been returned and smelled horrendously perfumed. My advice for those looking for organic clothing to come scent free is to call the store first and check with the owner about which items are dropship and which are stored as inventory, and the condition in which they are stored. Each designer literally carries it's own scent and own quality of how pure and organic it really is. There is alot of diversity to this and takes quite a bit of trial and error.
If you are chemically sensitive or have sensitive skin and need to discuss a particular eco designer's stink rating with me , please feel free to contact me through e-mail (found under my profile), comment on this blog or find further contact info at The Oko Box - and ask me any question you have!