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Learn about one of the most widely used standards in the fashion industry- OEKO-TEX.

Words By Varnika Srivastava




With rising awareness of environmental trends and a rising consciousness among consumers, many brands have, intentionally or not, used environmental labels and tags the wrong way.

Our mission at Staiy is to inform our readers about making conscious consumer choices.

Thus, this article will talk about the famous OEKO-TEX standard for textiles, bring forward facts and debunk myths about it.

What is OEKO-TEX?

To put it simply, OEKO-TEX is a label for textile and leather products that are safe from a human-ecological perspective. STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® is one of the most well-known brands for hazardous content testing of clothing raw materials, intermediates, and finished goods (at all levels of production). It is a symbol of consumer confidence and high product quality. Around 100 control parameters are used in the OEKO-TEX® laboratory experiments, which take into account the expected use of the textiles. The stricter the limit values for each commodity class, the more intense the textile product’s skin touch is.

Textiles and fabrics for babies and toddlers up to the age of three are classified as product type I. Textiles and fabrics with a surface that comes into close contact with the skin form Product type II. Textiles and fabrics whose surfaces do not, or only to a small degree, come into close contact with the skin are classified as product type III and furnishing/decorative materials are product type IV.

Getting Certified 

To get an OEKO-TEX certification for a cloth or leather product, manufacturers must send samples of all components (including attachments like buttons, zips, studs, sewing threads, stickers, or prints) to a laboratory at one of the OEKO-TEX member institutes for study. After successfully inspecting the products for compatibility with the OEKO-TEX requirements and signing a statement of conformity, the OEKO-TEX certificate is released.

A business examination at the approved item’s manufacturing plant, performed immediately before or after the certificate is issued, is also a part of the certification process. Audits are conducted at least every three years after that. The OEKO-TEX Association conducts annual tests on at least 25% of all issued Standard 100 and Leather Standard certificates, to ensure continued conformity with the necessary limit values.

Unannounced company visits and testing reviews of labelled product samples obtained from stores and manufacturing facilities are also part of these evaluations. The OEKO-TEX website has up-to-date records on revoked licenses. OEKO-TEX conducts unannounced on-site visits at the processing plants to ensure continued conformity with the criteria in the case of STeP certificates.

Multiple human-ecological features are covered by the credential, including hazardous compounds that are banned or controlled by regulation, chemicals that are considered to be harmful to humans but are not legally restricted, and parameters that are used as a precautionary measure to protect health. OEKO-TEX first launched the STANDARD 100 as a marker for textiles screened for hazardous substances at the Interstoff trade fair in April 1992, providing customers with credible assistance in the purchasing of safe textile items of all types.

By 1995, The OEKO-TEX Association had introduced the OEKO-TEX Standard 1000, an additional qualification for established environmentally sustainable and socially acceptable manufacturing facilities in the textile chain, as a complement to the product-based checks for hazardous substances as per the OEKO-TEX Standard 100. By February 2011, after the inception of the certification scheme, the OEKO-TEX Association had issued the one hundred thousandth OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certificate, reiterating its importance as a leading national, independent mark for textiles screened for hazardous substances.

Debunking Myths

Many people believe that OEKO-TEX is an ecological certification because of its name, which has an environmental reference (OEKO is eco in German). However, that is not the case. OEKO-TEX is a health certification. A major criticism for this certification is what it considers to be a non-harmful textile or substance. Let us take the example of cotton bed linen. Cotton textiles are responsible for about 25% of pesticide use worldwide, not to mention organic fertilizers, insecticides, and defoliants, so traditional cotton bed linen is extremely polluting. GMO cotton makes up the majority of conventional cotton, disrupting the biodiversity balance.

Cotton, in its traditional form, is the most water-intensive fiber on the planet. Many textile-producing countries also spill traditional cotton dyeing and finishing materials into rivers and groundwater. Endocrine disruptors and carcinogenic compounds are also present in dyeing and printing materials that have been approved for sale in Europe. All the variants mentioned above have been certified as non-harmful under STANDARD 100. OEKO-TEX certainly certifies that the garment is safe for human use (except for endocrine disruptors and certain substances that may cause cancer). However, OEKO-TEX does not promise that textiles are environmentally friendly or healthy.

In the end, considering the true purpose of OEKO-TEX as a health certification rather than an ecological one, conscious shoppers must remind themselves about its efficiency in regards to human safety and its unreliability in regards to environmental safety.