Not sure what is this mark really means?
Here we explain the OEKO-TEX labels and how they compare to other common textile standards such as GOTS and Bluesign.
As the fashion, textile, and footwear industry has been competing for consumer approval by pursuing aesthetics and functionality, the use of chemicals has also increased - reaching around 8000 different synthetic substances. In fact, treating fabrics with the right cocktail of chemicals can provide the desired qualities to deliver a marketable product. After all, who doesn't want their garments to have vibrant, long-lasting colors and prints, or their gear to be odor-free, waterproof, or UV-resistant in extreme conditions?
Yes, these amazing features are all possible with science that happens to utilize toxic and cancerogenic compounds. However, we are rarely warned about the harmful effects on human health and the environment.
Thankfully, chemical certification is becoming more common among conscious fashion brands. GOTS, Bluesign, and OEKO-TEX are some of the trusted labels in this space. Although different in scope, each of them tests products and facilities to guarantee human-ecological safety.
What is OEKO-TEX Certified?
OEKO-TEX® maintains five (5) distinct standards. However, when brands label products as OEKO-TEX certified, they usually refer to STANDARD 100. It ensures that textiles have been tested against a long list of harmful substances (prohibited azo dyes, formaldehyde, nickel, PFCs, etc.) and therefore are harmless for human health. Every single component is subject to a lab test consisting of nearly 100 parameters. This also includes threads, buttons, zippers, linings, prints, and coatings.
OEKO-TEX® 100 is sought out by consumers who want proof of high product safety. That is especially true for sensitive categories such as baby textiles and textiles in direct contact with skin. This includes:
- Clothes for babies and toddlers
- Home textiles - bedsheets, mattresses, towels, etc.
OEKO-TEX® 100 certificate doesn't mean that textile is "organic" and similarly "organic" doesn't mean that textile is safe to use. What is more, OEKO-TEX® is not limited to natural fabrics, even synthetic fabrics can be certified if they meet the standard. Also, keep in mind that organic certification only applies to the production of raw materials (cotton, hemp, wool, etc.) and it doesn't regulate textile manufacturing where a lot of the chemicals are used.
That being said, OEKO-TEX® and organic certifications cover different stages of textile production so neither is better than the other. And if you are wondering which one to choose, ideally, the answer is BOTH.
Organic farming is massively superior when it comes to protecting the environment, saving water, maintaining healthy land, and biodiversity. It may also limit your exposure to certain chemicals such as synthetic pesticides, but if you want guarantees for safety then you should seek certifications such as OEKO-TEX® 100.
If organic cotton has been used in a product, the OEKO-TEX® 100 standard allows manufacturers to include terms such as "Bio cotton" or "Organic cotton". It requires a valid certificate to be submitted indicating the origin of the raw material and providing that no Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) were used. The terms can be used for fabrics containing 100% organic cotton or when it is mixed with other materials. However, the standard doesn't allow the claims if organic and conventional cotton is mixed.
In summary, OEKO-TEX® 100 is not only a great complement to organic textiles but also helps consumers confirm the origin of the raw materials.
OEKO-TEX vs GOTS
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is largely considered to be the most rigorous textile certification system. Similar to STANDARD 100, it ensures that products are free of harmful chemicals and therefore safe to use. Both OEKO-TEX® and GOTS rely on independent certification bodies and institutes to audit facilities and test products based on their criteria.
Unlike OEKO-TEX®, GOTS only applies to fabrics that contain a minimum of 70% organic materials - cotton, wool, silk, etc. In addition, the GOTS logo means that all processors, manufacturers, and traders in the textile value chain are certified. This includes the stages of fiber preprocessing, yarn spinning, weaving/knitting, wet-processing, sewing, packaging, labeling, and distribution.
With that, GOTS is generally regarded as the highest standard for sustainability. Its strict criteria not only ensure product safety and efficient use of chemicals but also prove eco-friendly manufacturing and social responsibility.
MADE IN GREEN (STeP + STANDARD 100) is the OEKO-TEX® standard that has been designed to be as comprehensive as GOTS. Unfortunately, it is still not common to find fashion carrying the label.
OEKO-TEX vs Bluesign
OEKO-TEX and Bluesign are both trusted chemical management solutions that certify products, production sites, and inputs such as dyes and auxiliary materials. Just like OEKO-TEX has different STANDARDS, Bluesign has a CRITERIA that defines requirements for brands, products, facilities, and substances.
Some responsible brands offer textile products made of Bluesign® APPROVED fabrics as a guarantee for safety and sustainability. When products are made of at least 90% Bluesign® APPROVED textiles and 30% Bluesign® APPROVED accessories, brands are allowed to use the Bluesign® PRODUCT label.
It's clear that OEKO-TEX and Bluesign have a wide range of solutions that largely overlap in what they have to offer to businesses and consumers. However, they have a different approach and product labels that mean a different thing.
From a consumer point of view, it makes sense to compare the most common labels - OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100 and Bluesign® APPROVED fabric.
Similar to OEKO-TEX® 100, Bluesign® APPROVED fabrics are tested for consumer safety against a long list of chemicals. However, OEKO-TEX examines the final product, while products containing Bluesign® APPROVED fabrics may have other unsafe components such as zippers, buttons, prints, etc.
On the other hand, Bluesign® APPROVED means that products were manufactured with responsible use of resources and the lowest possible impact on people and the environment. While OEKO-TEX® 100 isn't focused on sustainable production and doesn't include social criteria. This is covered in OEKO-TEX® standards STeP and MADE IN GREEN.
Bluesign® APPROVED Fabrics
OEKO-TEX® maintains a portfolio of five (5) distinct standards. STANDARD 100 and the LEATHER STANDARD test textile and leather products for safety. STeP is a modular certification system for production facilities that are environmentally friendly and socially responsible. MADE IN GREEN is a traceable product label that ensures consumer safety and allows tracing all kinds of textiles to STeP certified facilities. And ECO PASSPORT regulates chemicals, colorants, and auxiliaries used in the industry.
OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100
STANDARD 100 is probably the most recognized OEKO-TEX label. Certified garments and home textiles are trusted by consumers for their safety.
Independent OEKO-TEX institutes conduct extensive lab tests on every product component to verify that the contained chemicals are harmless to the consumer. The standard measures concentration against limit values for more than 100 substances including heavy metals, pesticides, formaldehyde, PFCs, banned azo colorants, etc.
The standard defines four product classes depending on the intended use. They are
- Babies and toddlers
- Direct contact with skin
- No direct contact with skin
- Decoration material
Rated from most to least strict, each class sets different requirements (limit values) for the concentration of substances.
The LEATHER STANDARD is the equivalent of STANDARD 100 for leather products and takes account of all processing stages, leather materials, all kinds of leather accessories, and leather shoes.
The standard applies to leather and skins without hair or with hairs on. Leathers from exotic animal species such as crocodiles, snakes, armadillos, etc. are NOT certifiable.
STeP stands for Sustainable Textile & Leather Production. It is a modular certification system for production facilities that aims to implement environmentally friendly manufacturing processes, improve workers' health and safety, and promote socially responsible working conditions.
STeP is a comprehensive system that analyses and grades all important areas using 6 modules:
- Chemical management
- Environmental performance
- Environmental management - handling of wastewater, carbon emissions, etc.
- Social responsibility - working times, wage payment, and medical requirements
- Quality management
- Health protection and safety at work
STeP covers the entire textile and leather production chain. Manufacturers from all processing levels can be certified, including
- fiber processing - spinning, twisting
- weaving, knitting, nonwoven production
- dyeing, tanning, printing, finishing, etc.
- making up - cut & sew
- textile and leather logistics
MADE IN GREEN
MADE IN GREEN is a combination of STANDARD 100 (or LEATHER STANDARD) and STep. The label allows consumers to trace textile and leather products (garments, home textiles) down to the production facilities. Certified articles are tested for safety and made in environmentally friendly and socially responsible STeP facilities.
MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® can compete with GOTS on the completeness of the standard with the difference that it is NOT limited to organic fabrics.
The portfolio of OEKO-TEX® standards allows you to pick based on your priorities as a consumer. The modular approach to textile certification lets you choose product safety (STANDARD 100), sustainable manufacturing (STeP), or both (MADE IN GREEN).
OEKO-TEX® offers a solution for any textile and leather. It stands out especially when it comes to synthetic and cellulosic fibers where we don't have many alternatives (also check out Bluesign). However, for natural and organic materials such as cotton, we highly recommend GOTS for its strict and comprehensive criteria.