A Plastic Free Guide to Materials & Fabrics

Our glossary is more than a list – it’s a guide through the diverse world of fabrics and materials, structured to help you distinguish from what’s all natural, semi-synthetic, toxic, or downright dirty.

We've categorized materials into four distinct tiers, each representing a different level of alignment with our commitment to a plastic-free and health-conscious lifestyle:

  • Tier 1: All Natural Fabrics & Materials
    This class represents the epitome of a plastic-free world. These materials are sourced directly from nature, free from plastics and synthetic processes. Think of them as the purest choices for your health and the environment.
  • Tier 2: Nature-Inspired Innovations
    Here, we explore materials that, while not entirely natural, are inspired by nature and brought to life through innovative science. At the end of the day, you’re still met with plastic-free, minimally processed, non-toxic alternatives.
  • Tier 3: Mindful Alternatives
    These options, like rayon or viscose, are mostly plastic-free, but be mindful – their production might involve some non-ideal chemicals.
  • Tier 4: Avoidable (Synthetic) Materials & Fabrics
    The materials in this tier represent what we aim to move away from. Derived from petrochemicals and notorious for their environmental and health impacts, these are the materials we recommend avoiding to truly embrace a healthier, plastic-free lifestyle.

Remember: This isn't about rigid rules, but about empowering you with helpful information. Use this glossary as your compass, make informed choices that align with your priorities, and build a wardrobe and home that reflects your values and supports your health.

Tier 1: Natural Fabrics & Materials

Below, we highlight the materials and fabrics that embody the core principle of our commitment to a plastic-free world.

These fabrics and materials are sourced from nature, free from synthetic processes and plastics.


A soft, breathable, absorbent, and versatile natural fiber grown from the fluffy bolls of cotton plants.

Uses: Commonly used in clothing (shirts, t-shirts, hoodies, socks, underwear), bedding (sheets, towels, pillows, duvet covers), home textiles (curtains, tablecloths), and upholstery.

Good to know: Conventional cotton is one of the world's dirtiest crops as cultivation heavily relies on pesticides, herbicides (glyphosate), and fertilizers, raising concerns about environmental pollution, soil health, and potential health risks for farmers and consumers. This is why some brands and consumers push for "100% organic cotton." Organic cotton skips the harsh chemicals, making it a more eco-friendly and healthier choice.

Upcycled Cotton

Upcycled cotton is derived from cotton fabric scraps and secondhand cotton garments. It aims to reduce waste and the environmental footprint associated with virgin cotton production, including water usage and the impact of pesticides.

Uses: Commonly used in casual wear, home textiles, and as a filler material. It is also gaining popularity in eco-conscious fashion lines for its sustainability profile.

Good to know: The process of recycling cotton involves sorting, cleaning, and re-spinning cotton fibers into new yarns, which can significantly decrease the demand for new cotton and the associated environmental burden. However, the recycling process can sometimes involve mixing with other fibers to ensure strength, and the extent of chemical processing can vary. Recycled cotton supports the circular economy and reduces landfill waste, aligning with eco-friendly and sustainable manufacturing practices.


A strong and naturally crisp fabric woven from the fibers of flax plants, renowned for its breathability, antibacterial properties, versatility, and beautiful drape.

Uses: Popularly used in clothing (shirts, dresses, pants, suits), bedding (sheets, duvet covers), home textiles (curtains), and upholstery.

Good to know: Linen’s natural fibers allow air to circulate freely, reducing the growth of bacteria and fungi. This hypoallergenic property makes linen suitable for those with allergies or sensitive skin.

While linen is inherently a sustainable material, organic linen, certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), offers additional assurances of environmental responsibility:

  • Pesticides: Organic linen is guaranteed to be grown without the use of pesticides or chemicals. Although linen can be cultivated without these inputs, not all producers adhere to these practices. The organic certification ensures that the linen is produced in a truly pesticide-free environment.
  • Retting Process: The process of separating linen fibers from the woody stalk (retting) can involve chemicals like Alkali and Oxalic acid to speed up the process. Organic linen ensures that either no chemicals are used during retting or that any chemicals used are environmentally benign, preserving the integrity of the fabric and the environment.

Bamboo Linen

​​A natural fabric produced from the mechanical processing of bamboo stalks. It's a more traditional method similar to how linen is made from flax. Bamboo linen retains the inherent qualities of bamboo, such as breathability and moisture-wicking properties, without the need for chemical intervention.

Uses: Ideal for clothing that requires a lightweight and airy feel, bamboo linen is also used in bed linens, towels, and eco-friendly home textiles.

Good to know: Unlike bamboo viscose, which is chemically processed, bamboo linen is created through a mechanical method that is more environmentally friendly and maintains the natural attributes of bamboo fibers. It is considered a more sustainable option due to its minimal processing, but it is less common, less soft (more coarse), and often more expensive than bamboo viscose.


A versatile and durable natural fiber derived from the long, tough stalks of the Cannabis sativa plant. Hemp is known for its durability, sustainability, and moisture-wicking properties. 

Uses: Commonly used in clothing (shirts, dresses, jeans, jackets), home textiles (curtains, rugs, towels), bedding (sheets, duvet covers), paper products, construction materials, upholstery, cushions, and even furniture frames.

Good to know: Hemp cultivation requires minimal pesticides and herbicides, and it returns 60-70% of the nutrients it takes from the soil. Hemp fabric also offers UV protection and has antimicrobial properties, making it a healthy choice for skin.


Wool is a natural protein fiber obtained from the fleece of sheep and other animals, including camelids (alpacas, camels, llamas), goats (such as cashmere and mohair goats), and rabbits (like angora). It's known for its durability, insulation properties, and ability to absorb moisture without feeling wet.

Wool fibers are crimped, elastic, and can be spun into yarn or woven into textiles. It's widely used in clothing, blankets, carpeting, and other applications where insulation and comfort are desired. Wool is also naturally flame-resistant, making it a great choice for mattresses. 

Wool is classified based on microns – a measurement of the thickness of a wool fiber. A wool with a low micron is softer to the touch than a wool with a larger micron. In perspective, the average human hair is around 50 microns, whereas wool will generally range from 10-25 microns. 

Below is a non-exhaustive list of different kinds of wool. 


A soft and fine wool fiber obtained from the fleeces of Merino sheep, renowned for their gentle nature and adaptability to diverse climates. It is characterized by its exceptional softness, breathability, and odor-resistant properties.

Uses: Popularly used in base layers, sweaters, socks, underwear, activewear, and even home textiles.


A soft and warm fiber derived from the fleece of alpacas, South American camelids known for their gentle nature and dense coats. Renowned for its warmth-to-weight ratio, superior softness, durability, and natural moisture-wicking properties (absorbs the least amount of moisture compared to other wools)

Uses: Commonly used in sweaters, scarves, coats, blankets, home textiles, and various forms of outdoor activewear.

Good to know: Alpaca wool is lanolin-free, making it hypoallergenic and comfortable for those with wool sensitivities. The alpacas are typically raised in free-range environments with low environmental impact. Alpaca farming practices generally support biodiversity and land conservation.


A luxuriously soft and insulating fiber obtained from the undercoat of cashmere goats, native to high-altitude regions like Mongolia and China. Renowned for its unparalleled softness, warmth, and lightweight feel.

Uses: Popularly used in sweaters, scarves, hats, gloves, and blankets.


A luxurious, versatile textile fiber derived from the fleece of Angora goats, renowned for its softness, warmth, and durability.

Use: Primarily used in luxury clothing (sweaters, scarves, hats), accessories, and home textiles (blankets, throws, rugs, upholstery).


A naturally occurring protein fiber spun by the larvae of certain silkworms, prized for its smooth texture, lustrous sheen, and exceptional strength.

Uses: Traditionally used in luxurious clothing (dresses, gowns, lingerie), but also popular in scarves, home textiles (curtains, bedspreads), and upholstery.

Good to know: Silk is often referred to in clothing by its weave, such as chiffon, Crêpe de Chine, noil, faille, satin, Charmeuse, and many others. Unfortunately, these terms are also used by clothing manufacturers using synthetic materials, so confirming you are buying real silk is important. 

Vegetable Tanned Leather

Animal hide (cowhide, in most cases) that is tanned using natural tannins extracted from plants, known for its natural look and ability to develop a patina with age. Often considered a more sustainable, non-tox tanning alternative compared to chrome tanning.

Uses: Widely used in various applications like bags, wallets, shoes, belts, furniture, and accessories.


A long, tough natural fiber derived from flowering Corchorus plants, known for its strength, affordability, and eco-friendliness.

Uses: Primarily used for burlap sacks and packaging, but also for rugs, mats, upholstery padding, twine, rope, and even geotextiles for erosion control.


A stiff, fibrous plant material extracted from the leaves of the Agave sisalana plant, native to southern Mexico and widely cultivated for its durable fibers.

Use: Commonly used in floor rugs, carpets, mats, and other home textiles. Sisal is also found in applications in rope, twine, dartboards, and even acoustic panels.


A silky and air-filled fiber harvested from the pods of the kapok tree, native to tropical regions like Southeast Asia and South America. Renowned for its exceptional lightness, hypoallergenic properties, and natural buoyancy, making it a unique and sustainable filling material.

Uses: Due to its soft, supportive, and breathable nature, it is primarily used as filling for pillows and comforters. It is also gaining traction in insulation materials, soundproofing applications, and life jackets.


A strong and lustrous fabric woven from the fibers of stinging nettle plants, primarily Urtica dioica. Renowned for its durability and breathability, all while being sustainable and eco-friendly.

Uses: Popularly used in clothing (shirts, dresses, pants, jackets), home textiles (curtains, tablecloths, towels), and even some accessories like bags and scarves.


A flowering plant, Boehmeria nivea, belonging to the nettle family Urticaceae. It's native to eastern Asia and widely cultivated for its strong, versatile, and wrinkle-resistant fibers

Uses: Commonly blended into various clothing items (shirts, dresses, pants) and employed in home textiles such as curtains, tablecloths, and bedding.


The dried outer shells of buckwheat seeds, a gluten-free grain native to East Asia. Renowned for their firm texture, excellent air circulation, and natural temperature regulation.

Uses: Primarily used in pillows and mattresses due to their supportive nature, promoting proper head and neck alignment and providing pressure relief.


The tiny outer shells of millet seeds, a gluten-free grain native to Africa and Asia. Renowned for their smooth texture and hypoallergenic properties.

Uses: Primarily used in pillows and mattresses for sleepers who prefer a smoother, quieter, and slightly softer filling than buckwheat hulls. Millet is also finding applications in pet bedding and natural packing materials.


A naturally occurring, versatile material derived from the fruit of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). Different parts of the coconut can be processed into various useful materials.


  • Coconut husk: The fibrous outer layer surrounding the coconut shell that can be used for buttons
  • Coconut coir: The coarse fibers extracted from the coconut husk, often used for brushes, mats, and upholstery padding
  • Coconut shell: The hard inner shell, often used for bowls, cups, buttons, and other craft items
  • Coconut meat: The white edible flesh inside the shell, used for food, oil, and milk.


A naturally occurring plant-based material derived from the seeds of the tagua nut, also known as "vegetable ivory," from the Ivory Palm tree native to South America. Renowned for its resemblance to horn in appearance and durability.

Uses: Primarily used for buttons due to its exceptional strength, heat resistance, and ability to take dyes and engravings. Also gaining traction in jewelry, accessories, and decorative items.


A natural material harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree (Quercus suber), known for its unique texture, insulation properties, and durability.

Uses: Sometimes used in fashion and accessories (wallets, handbags, belts, footwear, jewelry) and home decor (floor tiles, coasters, furniture accents, wall coverings) and even yoga mats.

Good to Know: Cork harvesting promotes the health of cork oak trees, unlike practices that harm or cut down trees. These trees absorb more carbon dioxide than they emit, making them valuable for the environment. Healthwise, cork's inherent properties make it suitable for people with allergies and sensitive skin. Its resistance to mold and mildew also adds to its appeal.

When considering cork, look for certifications like FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) to ensure responsible harvesting practices.

Untreated Bamboo

Natural bamboo in its raw, unprocessed state that boasts strong and durable features with a natural aesthetic. Notably, unlike processed bamboo fabrics, untreated bamboo utilizes the natural structure and properties of the bamboo itself. No chemical treatments or complicated processing is involved.

Uses: Commonly used in furniture (chairs, tables, shelves, sofas, etc.), utensils, flooring, and other household items.

Tier 2: Nature-Inspired Innovations

Plastic-Free Alternatives

While we often strive for "natural" and "organic" fabrics and materials, both healthy and eco-conscious alternatives still exist. They are inspired by nature and brought to the market by science and innovation.

While these materials might not be "natural" in the traditional sense, they're derived from renewable plant sources and avoid harmful plastics and other petroleum-based synthetics entirely.

Sure, some processing is still involved, but the end result? Bio-based, biodegradable, plastic-free alternatives that are sustainable and relatively healthy for humans.


A regenerated cellulose fiber derived from wood pulp, often eucalyptus, beech trees, or bamboo. This material possesses a soft, comfortable feel similar to cotton yet exhibits strength and durability, even when wet.

Uses: Commonly used in clothing (shirts, pants, dresses, underwear), bedding (sheets, towels, blankets), home textiles (curtains, tablecloths, etc.), and various industrial applications.

Good to know: Unlike conventional viscose or rayon, the production of lyocell uses a closed-loop system that recycles most of the solvents, minimizing environmental impact and chemical exposure. Furthermore, compared to other cellulose-based fabrics, lyocell uses significantly fewer and less harmful chemicals during processing. For example, in most cases, the wood pulp is dissolved in a non-toxic organic solvent, N-methylmorpholine N-oxide (NMMO), to create a solution. This solution is then extruded through fine openings to form filaments, which are solidified into fibers.


A brand name under which Lenzing AG, an Austrian chemical & textiles company, markets its lyocell fibers. TENCEL™ is well-known for its sustainable and eco-friendly qualities. It is derived from sustainably sourced wood pulp, often from eucalyptus trees, and produced using a closed-loop process, where the solvent used in the manufacturing is recycled, minimizing environmental impact.

Natural Latex

A biodegradable, elastic material sourced from the sap of the rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis). It is processed through methods that maintain its natural composition without synthetic additives or harsh chemicals.

Uses: Favored in products requiring flexibility and resilience, such as mattresses, furniture, pillows, and various apparel components like elastic waistbands.

Good to know: "100% Natural Latex" assures a product made solely from harvested rubber tree sap without synthetic materials. Using generally safe chemicals like sulfur and zinc oxide, the vulcanization process doesn't synthetically alter the latex but stabilizes its inherent qualities.

Latex Processing

Different attributes can be enhanced depending on the manufacturing process.

Dunlop Latex Process: This method, used for about a century, involves pouring natural rubber sap into a mold, adding minimal ingredients like Zinc, Sulfur, and soaps to form a gel-like substance. It's then baked, washed to remove impurities, and baked again for drying. The result is a dense, durable foam. Dunlop latex often meets the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS), requiring at least 95% organic content. Its straightforward production process, using minimal additives, aligns well with these standards.

Talalay Latex Process: Developed in the 1940s for a less dense foam, the Talalay process starts similarly with pouring rubber sap into a mold. The mold is only partially filled, and synthetic materials like styrene-butadiene rubber and other chemicals are sometimes added. The mixture is then vacuum-sealed and flash-frozen with carbon dioxide before baking. This process results in evenly distributed air pockets within the foam. However, most Talalay latex does not meet GOLS standards, and the exact chemical additives are often undisclosed, leading to potential concerns about human health. One exception is Vita Talalay, which achieves OEKO-TEX certification.

For Talalay latex products, especially mattresses, be aware that chemicals may be introduced post-processing. Its lower density can require adhesives to bind smaller pieces together, forming larger sheets. This practice can introduce additional chemicals into the final product.

Overall, while both Dunlop and Talalay processes start with natural rubber latex, their production methods and the additives used vary significantly. Dunlop latex generally offers a more health-conscious choice, meeting higher organic standards. In contrast, Talalay latex, with its potential use of synthetic additives and post-processing chemicals, requires more careful consideration.


Innovative materials derived from the root structure of mushrooms (mycelium). These fabrics are grown by feeding agricultural byproducts to mycelium cells, which then form a dense, interconnected network.

Uses: Emerging in the fashion industry, particularly for vegan leather alternatives in shoes, bags, and accessories. It's also being explored for use in packaging, construction, and even furniture due to its versatile and customizable properties.

Good to know: While mycelium-based fabrics are highly innovative and sustainable, they require some degree of chemical treatment and human manipulation to transform into a viable textile. However, these fabrics require minimal growth resources, produce zero waste, and are fully biodegradable. The production process emits significantly fewer greenhouse gases than traditional leather or synthetic materials. They offer a promising sustainable alternative for a variety of applications, aligning with circular economy principles.

Spider Silk

Tougher than Kevlar and stronger than steel, spider silk is a high-strength, versatile, and super unique protein fiber naturally produced by spiders. It’s only downfall? It’s difficult to harvest and produce commercially. This limitation has spurred scientists to look for alternative ways to harness the remarkable properties of spider silk, and has led to the creation of synthetic spider silk, created through bioengineering processes using yeast, bacteria, or other microorganisms.

Uses: While not widely available for commercial use yet, synthetic spider silk holds potential in a variety of applications due to its unique properties. It's being explored for use in performance wear, medical sutures, and bulletproof clothing.


An innovative material derived from the fibers of the nopal cactus, primarily cultivated in Mexico. This material is celebrated for its remarkable similarity to animal leather, offering comparable suppleness, durability, and aesthetic appeal.

Uses: Initially popular in the footwear industry for shoes, sandals, and boots, cactus material is rapidly expanding into other areas, including accessories like bags, wallets, and belts. Its versatility and leather-like qualities also open doors to its use in various apparel applications and upholstery.

Good to know: While cactus-based material is more sustainable than traditional leather and many synthetic alternatives, it does undergo some chemical processing. This process involves extracting and refining the cellulose fibers from the cactus, which may involve using certain chemicals to create the final textile product.

Algae-based materials

Algae has recently emerged as a bio-based material that can replace both plastics and textiles without the use of chemicals.

Uses: Packaging materials, disposable items (like water bottles and cutlery), and even in the fashion industry for accessories and details in clothing. 

Good to know: The production of algae bioplastics and textiles is relatively low-impact, as algae can grow in a variety of environments, including wastewater, and does not compete with food crops for land resources.


An umbrella term – coined by Unwrap – for a new generation of textiles created through advanced scientific methods and eco-friendly processes. These fabrics are derived from unique natural sources or by transforming existing natural fibers into more durable and versatile materials.

Uses: The applications for futurefabrics are diverse, ranging from high-fashion and everyday apparel to industrial uses and home textiles. These materials are often sought after for their unique properties, such as increased strength, enhanced comfort, or special functionalities like water resistance or breathability.

Good to know: Companies like Natural Fiber Welding, with their CLARUS® technology, and Modern Meadow, with their biofabricated materials, are at the forefront of this movement. These companies leverage scientific advancements to not only create new materials but also to enhance the properties of existing natural fibers. The focus is on creating textiles that are not only environmentally sustainable but also meet the high demands of modern consumers in terms of quality and ethical production standards. FutureFabrics represent a shift towards a more conscious and responsible approach to textile production, prioritizing both the planet's health and consumer needs.

Tier 3: Mindful Alternatives

Plastic-Free, Semi-Synthetic Alternatives

In our journey towards more health and eco-conscious choices, Tier 3 materials/fabrics – which we've named Mindful Alternatives – play a unique and important role. This tier focuses on materials free from plastics, aligning with our commitment to reducing plastic use and its environmental impact. 

However, it's important to note that these materials may involve some trade-offs in terms of chemical processing that may raise environmental or health concerns. This is where the 'mindful' aspect comes into play – understanding and weighing the pros and cons.


A semi-synthetic fiber known for its silk-like texture and feel. Rayon is derived from wood pulp and is often praised for its softness and versatility. However, its production process raises some environmental and health concerns.

Uses: Commonly found in various clothing and bedding items, due to its ability to mimic the properties of cotton and silk. Its affordability also makes it a popular choice in the fashion industry.

Good to know: While rayon is based on a natural material (wood pulp), its transformation into fiber involves intense chemical processing. This process typically includes a heavy chemical bath, turning the pulp into a viscous solution, which is then spun into fibers. The environmental impact of this process is considerable, contributing to deforestation and pollution due to the chemicals used. Additionally, the chemical processing involved in rayon production can pose health risks to the workers involved in its manufacturing and potentially to the end consumers. As such, while rayon offers certain desirable textile properties and cost benefits, it is important to be aware of its environmental and health implications in the production process, making it a material that requires mindful consideration.


A type of rayon, modal is a semi-synthetic fabric known for its softness and high strength when wet. It's derived from the cellulose of beech trees and is particularly appreciated for its silky, smooth texture and lustrous finish.

Uses: Modal is widely used in clothing, such as underwear, pajamas, and sportswear, due to its breathability, moisture-wicking properties, and resistance to shrinkage and fading. It's also found in home textiles like bed linens and towels.

Good to know: While modal shares many characteristics with standard rayon, including its base in natural cellulose, it is generally considered more environmentally friendly due to more sustainable and efficient processing methods. However, like rayon, the production of modal still involves chemical processing, notably using chemicals such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and carbon disulfide (CS2), which can have environmental and health impacts.


A type of rayon, viscose is a semi-synthetic fabric made from regenerated cellulose, typically derived from wood pulp. Known for its silk-like luster, smooth feel, and high absorbency, viscose closely mimics the qualities of silk and cotton.

Uses: Viscose is commonly used in a variety of garments, such as dresses, shirts, and linings, due to its draping quality. It's also found in home textiles like bedding and curtains, offering a soft, comfortable feel.

Good to know: The production of viscose involves dissolving cellulose in a chemical solution, usually containing sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide, to create a viscose solution which is then spun into fibers. This process is similar to other types of rayon but is distinct in its use of specific chemicals and methods. While viscose offers desirable textile properties, the environmental and health concerns associated with its production process are significant. The chemicals used can be harmful to both factory workers and the environment if not properly managed. This has led to increased interest in more sustainable and safer methods of producing viscose, including closed-loop processes that minimize chemical waste and exposure.

​​Synthetic Blend Latex

A material often marketed as natural latex, but actually includes a blend of natural and synthetic rubber. Synthetic blend latex is less environmentally friendly than 100% natural latex and may involve additional chemicals in its processing.

Uses: Common in various products where elasticity is key, such as mattresses, furniture, gloves, and medical supplies. It's also found in certain clothing items where stretch and durability are important.

Good to know: Synthetic blend latex differs from 100% natural latex as it typically contains petrochemical compounds, which can reduce the product's overall biodegradability and eco-friendliness.

Polylactic Acid (PLA)

A biodegradable bioplastic derived from renewable resources like corn starch or sugarcane.

Uses: Common in single-use products like packaging, disposable cutlery, and bags. Also used in 3-D printing and as a biodegradable medical implant material​​.

Good to know: While PLA is biodegradable under industrial composting conditions, it poses challenges in traditional recycling systems and can contribute to contamination of the recycling stream if not properly sorted. Its production also raises concerns about land use and food security, as it competes with food crops for agricultural resources.

Pineapple Leaf Fiber (Piñatex)

Piñatex is a distinctive and sustainable textile developed by Ananas Anam, made from the waste leaves of pineapples. As a popular vegan alternative to animal leather, Piñatex stands out with its unique texture and feel, closely resembling traditional leather.

Uses: Piñatex is extensively utilized in the fashion industry, particularly for creating bags, shoes, wallets, and clothing accessories. Its adaptability also makes it suitable for use in upholstery and interior design, offering an eco-friendly option.

Good to know: The process of creating Piñatex involves an innovative approach to sustainability, using a byproduct of pineapple cultivation to reduce waste. However, it's important to note that Piñatex, as a finished product, includes some synthetic elements. The pineapple fibers are bonded using a resin, which may contain synthetic compounds to enhance the durability and functionality of the material. This incorporation of synthetic components is necessary to meet the performance standards expected of a leather alternative. As such, while Piñatex is a significant step forward in terms of environmental responsibility, it does blend natural and synthetic materials in its production.

Tier 4: Avoidable Materials

Petroleum-based Synthetics

In the world of fashion, textiles, and everyday essentials, a variety of materials have become staples due to their adaptability and cheaper cost of production. Yet, many of these, derived from petrochemicals – essentially refined oil – present health risks that can no longer be overlooked.

The concerns are wide-ranging, but the evidence is mounting.

As these synthetic materials break down, they shed small pieces of plastic, which have become known as microplastics.

Particularly concerning is the ability of microplastics to cross the blood-brain barrier. This barrier is a critical defense mechanism of the body, protecting the brain from toxins. However, new studies have shown that microplastics can bypass this barrier, potentially leading to neurological issues that are not yet fully understood.

Other studies have shown that exposure to plastics and plasticizers can disrupt the endocrine system, affecting hormonal balance and fertility functions. Microplastics can lead to changes in gut microbiota and cause inflammation, potentially impacting digestive health. Microplastics have also been observed in human lung tissues, suggesting a risk to respiratory health. Most concerning? All of this research is relatively new.

Wearing these fabrics and materials on our bodies and using them throughout our home environment is, unfortunately, only one part of the problem…

When discarded, they contribute to the burgeoning waste in landfills and oceans, where they persist for centuries, posing a threat to ecosystems and contaminating the food and water sources we depend on.

Our stance is clear: The most effective way to mitigate the hidden dangers of these plastics is to avoid them entirely.

To simply stop purchasing fabrics and materials containing toxic synthetics (plastics).

To embark on a plastic-free lifestyle.

That said, the more familiar you are with today’s commonly used hazardous materials and fabrics, which we’ll cover below, the better consumer you can be. Are we trying to save the world? No. Are we virtue signaling? No. Greenwashing? Not that, either.

Our goal is to promote healthier choices simply.

Because it all starts with you – looking after your health.

By taking care of our health and wellbeing, you can also contribute to protecting our planet from further pollution.


A synthetic fabric made from petroleum-based fibers, known for its durability, wrinkle resistance, and quick-drying properties. Polyester alone makes up a staggering 50% of the fabrics used in America today – a number that’s still rising – primarily due to its low cost and versatility.

Uses: Just about everything. Polyester's applications are vast, ranging from clothing like shirts, pants, and dresses, to home essentials such as curtains, bedding, and upholstery. It's also commonly used in athletic gear, due to its water-resistant qualities.

Good to know: Polyester is to the fashion industry as seed oils are to big food industry. While polyester offers practical benefits in textile production, its health and environmental impacts are significant. Starting with petroleum (a bad enough start), the process includes several stages of chemical cleansing, extreme heating, spinning, melting, and additional chemical treatment. A major concern is its contribution to microplastic pollution; washing polyester garments releases tiny fibers into the air, our lungs, and on our skin.


Elastane, also known as Spandex or Lycra, is a synthetic fiber known for its exceptional elasticity. It's a polyurethane-based material, valued for its ability to stretch up to five times its original length and return to its original state.

Uses: Elastane's stretchy quality makes it a staple in various forms of tight-fitting clothing, including activewear, swimwear, and underwear. It is also commonly blended with other fabrics in clothing to add stretch, as well as in home textiles like fitted sheets for a snug fit.

Good to know: Elastane is a bit of a hidden staple in the fashion world. It’s commonly found in small percentages (up to ~5%) across even the most “ethical,” “sustainable” or “organic” clothing items to ensure a comfortable, secure fit. Think waistbands, collars, joggers, socks, etc.

The production of elastane does involve complex chemical processes, including the use of substances like polyurethane and various solvents. As an entirely synthetic fabric, no organic materials are used to make this substance, and it does not exist anywhere in nature. In terms of shedding, elastane does contribute to microplastic pollution. Additionally, elastane can sometimes cause skin irritation, especially in tight-fitting garments where prolonged skin contact occurs.


A synthetic polymer, nylon is a resilient, versatile material originally designed as a silk substitute. It's known for its strength, elasticity, and resistance to mildew and moths.

Uses: Nylon's uses extend beyond clothing, such as swimwear, windbreakers, rain jackets, compression shorts, and wetsuits, to a variety of items including ropes, toothbrush bristles, and sleeping bags. It's also common in home textiles like carpets and upholstery due to its durability.

Good to know: Nylon poses concerns due to its petrochemical origin and the chemicals involved in its production, which can include adipic acid and hexamethylene diamine. When it comes to consumer use, Nylon can release microplastics into the environment, particularly during washing. Additionally, Nylon products can off-gas volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particularly when new, which may affect indoor air quality and pose respiratory risks.

Recycled Polyester

A fabric derived from post-consumer plastic waste, recycled polyester is often touted as a sustainable option, made from items like plastic water bottles and fishing nets recovered from oceans and landfills. It's seen as a way for brands to engage in sustainable practices.

Uses: Recycled polyester is found in various products, from clothing and accessories to home textiles. Its applications are similar to traditional polyester, offering the same versatility and durability.

Good to know: Despite the "recycled" label, it's important to approach recycled polyester with a critical eye. While you are extending the life of plastic waste that would otherwise impact our planet, at the end of the day it's still post-consumer garbage (quite literally), washed and reprocessed with chemicals. Regarding health, troubling studies have shown that recycled plastic fabrics are prone to just as much, if not more, shedding, while other studies suggest that recycling plastics possibly exacerbates our global microplastic dilemma.

By wearing and using products made from recycled polyester, we are essentially repurposing waste materials for direct contact with our bodies, raising questions about the long-term health implications.

Polyurethane (PU)

Polyurethane, commonly known as PU, is a synthetic polymer used in a wide range of applications. Primarily used in the manufacturing of foam in padded furniture, it's also notable for its adaptability to other forms due to its unique properties. PU can be transformed into both a fiber and an elastomer, leveraging its inherent elasticity. Think of it as a versatile "chameleon" material, adapting to various shapes and uses.

Uses: Polyurethane is used as the core foam in mattresses, couches, and mattress toppers, given its cushiony properties. It is also found in carpets, kitchen sponges, shoe soles, and even in paints, coatings, sealants, and adhesives. Additionally, due to its elastic properties, polyurethane is essential in manufacturing fibers like spandex and lycra, commonly used in stretchy, form-fitting clothing.

Good to know: The versatility of polyurethane comes with several health considerations. Its production involves the use of chemicals and solvents, such as isocyanates and dibutylin, both known carcinogens. In household applications, polyurethane contributes to indoor air pollution through off-gassing VOCs, which can lead to respiratory issues and other health concerns. Products made with polyurethane, especially furniture and mattresses, are often treated with flame retardants containing endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Last but not least, as PU breaks down, it contributes to microplastic pollution, a concern for both human health and environmental sustainability. The widespread use of PU, particularly in common items like furniture and clothing, underscores the importance of being aware of its potential impacts and considering healthier alternatives.

Polyethylene (PE)

Polyethylene is the world’s most common plastic, known for its versatility and wide range of applications. It is a polymer made from ethylene, a compound derived from petroleum and natural gas.

Uses: In textiles it's found in some waterproof fabrics due to its moisture-resistant properties. Beyond clothing, polyethylene is a primary material in plastic bags, bottles, containers, food packaging, and household items like cutting boards and storage bins. It's also used in the construction of pipes and insulation.

Good to know: From a health perspective, polyethylene poses concerns related to its production and disposal. While it is less toxic compared to some other plastics, its manufacturing process involves petrochemicals and can release harmful emissions. Polyethylene items can leach chemicals, particularly when heated or in contact with oily substances, potentially contaminating food or drinks. When polyethylene products break down, they release microplastics that can contaminate water and soil, ultimately entering the food chain and potentially impacting human health. The widespread use of polyethylene, especially in disposable products, highlights the need for more sustainable alternatives and better waste management practices to mitigate its environmental footprint.


Acrylic is a synthetic polymer derived from fossil fuels that can be formulated to mimic the properties of natural fibers like wool. The acrylic fabric is known for its lightweight, soft, and warm characteristics.

Uses: Commonly found in clothing (sweaters, fleece jackets, gloves, hats, socks), home textiles (blankets, rugs, carpets), upholstery, and even craft supplies (yarn, felt). Acrylic is also well-suited for awnings, boat covers, and outdoor furniture due to its resistance to fading, mildew, and sunlight.

Good to Know: Acrylic is one of the most dangerous, commonly used fabrics in the world today. Studies show acrylic sheds significantly more microplastics than other fabrics during washing, polluting the air you breathe, water, and our food chain. In the study, researchers found acrylic released over 700,000 microplastics per wash, compared to polyester's 496,000 and cotton-polyester blends 138,000.

While extremely harmful toxins/chemicals aren’t commonly present in the final product, the production process of acrylic does warrant some consideration. It involves toxic base substances like Polyacrylonitrile and Acrylonitrile. Polyacrylonitrile is highly flammable and mimics cyanide poisoning when inhaled, while Acrylonitrile is a toxic liquid, harmful to the eyes, skin, lungs, and nervous system and is directly linked to certain cancers.

A range of other chemicals (formaldehyde, phthalates, chlorine, and solvents such as acetone and dimethyl formamide) and flame retardants (bromine compounds) are used to produce some forms of acrylic that we won’t even get into.

While the risk from wearing acrylic clothing may be lower, especially if washed before wearing, the presence of these toxic substances in the fabric's lifecycle makes acrylic a less desirable choice for health-conscious consumers.