You spend about one third of your life laying in bed. And, while getting enough sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health, you’ve got to be careful where you do it. Because, believe it or not, the majority of bed linens contain dangerous chemicals, rubbing directly against your body, and populating the air you breathe deeply, eight hours out of every 24. Avoiding those chemicals may require an extra step or two, but it’s very easy—and well worth the effort.
You’re Surrounded By More Chemicals Than You Think
The typical bed linens aren’t what they used to be.
For instance—in the old days, a 100% cotton bedspread was 100% cotton.
Not so today.
A sheet set can call itself 100% cotton even when it’s not! Some sources say it can be as little as 73% cotton, and contain a proprietary mix of formaldehyde, dyestuffs, polyacryl, softening agents, and a smattering of other chemicals like optical brighteners that fill out the remainder.
You see, cotton in its natural form is very coarse. And it’s expensive to soften cotton naturally. So companies take shortcuts, using a toxic mix of chemicals to do the hard work for them.
You don’t need me to tell you how dangerous that can be. Formaldehyde, for instance, is a known carcinogen, and it readily outgasses. This is the exact same chemical that was used as insulation in homes through the 1970s, until it was discontinued due to health concerns.
Yet you’re sleeping on top of it every night. Not just breathing it in, but absorbing it through your skin as well.
Polyacryl, meanwhile, can cause skin irritation and redness, along with attacking your central and peripheral nervous system.
Dyestuffs can irritate your respiratory system, sometimes leading to asthma. Especially if you breath them in—which you’re likely to do, if your head is lying on a pillowcase.
Toxic Fabric Softener
Softening agents contain all sorts of nasty chemicals, including chloroform—a known carcinogen and neurotoxin. Or A-terpineol, which has been linked to everything from Parkinson’s to seizures and strokes.
Meanwhile, if you’re sleeping on an artificial textile—like a polyester blend—the number of chemicals involved just goes up exponentially.
It’s hard to believe, but most of us are sleeping on top of a toxic blend of chemicals every night, rubbing them into our skin as we toss and turn, breathing them in with every deep, long, sleeping breath.
Go Organic To Avoid These Nasties
Luckily, there’s no reason you have to wallow and breathe in this toxic mess every night.
There are a plethora of organic bed linens available for purchase.
These organic linens avoid all chemical treatments and detergents. If they say they are 100% cotton—well, they actually are.
My favorite store to purchase organic bed linens is West Elm. Bull and Branch also has a number of attractive organic sheet sets to choose from. Even Target has a large line of organic bed spreads, now!
Where you get your sheets isn’t that important. What is important is that you look for the organic label, and avoid everything else.
You may have heard that you should wash your sheets before you first sleep on them. And while that will take away some of the chemicals from artificial sets, it won’t take away all of them.
There simply is no substitute for a set of organic sheets. And, since they generally cost about as much as toxin-laden sets, there’s no reason to inhale and rub up against all those unhealthy chemicals.
Organic living—it’s not just about food.
- Keegan, Selena. Fabric Softeners Contain Toxic Chemicals. Natural News. Published Jan 11, 2012. Accessed Jan 16, 2017.
- Dyes and dyeing. Health and Safety Executive of the UK Government. Accessed Jan 16, 2017.
- Formaldehyde And Cancer Risk. The National Cancer Institute. Published June 10, 2011. Accessed Jan 16, 2017.
- Exactly What Chemicals Are Used In My New Sheet Set?. O Ecotextiles. Published Dec 9, 2009. Accessed Jan 16, 2017.
Last Updated: May 29, 2021
Originally Published: February 8, 2017