How to Identify Toxic Clothing in Your Closet

Did you know that your clothing could be  poisoning you? Since your skin is your body’s largest organ, it’s very  important to be discerning about  what clothing  you put on your skin. I wanted to cover a few key things you should know about toxic clothing materials.

Here are  a few fabrics to avoid:

Acrylic Fabric

Acrylic fabric is highly flammable, which means it’s treated with toxic flame retardants. These flame retardants are made with toxic chemicals that are carcinogenic, endocrine disruptors and known causes of neurodevelopmental problems. In fact, in 1070, the EPA voiced concerns about  the residual monomers in acrylic fabric that were found to be  carcinogenic.


Did you know that nylon was the first-ever created synthetic fiber? Chemical residue is retained inside  nylon fabric even after its  manufacturing process is completed. Moreover, the process of manufacturing of nylon itself emits nitrous oxide,  a powerful greenhouse gas. It’s also sprayed with permanent chemical finishes to make the fabric colorful & stretchy. Nylon is also a poor conductor of heat, thereby preventing sweat from being emitted from the body.  


Rayon (Viscose). Rayon was introduced in 1924, and is one of the first man-made textiles. Rayon undergoes intense chemical processing through carbon disulfide and sodium hydroxide, and  emits toxic substances that can cause nausea, headaches, vomiting, and chest and muscle pain.


Acetate is another fabric made of cellulose, and is derived from chemically processed wood pulp. You could say it’s similar to rayon, but tends to be more prone to melting. Acetate is made of fossil-based chemicals, and is processed with acetic acid, acetone, and acetic anhydride, all of which have been shown to cause neurological problems, nausea, skin issues, and other central nervous system related problems.



Polyester is a commonly used synthetic fiber derived from petroleum. It’s often treated with chemicals like ethylene glycol and antimony, which can be harmful to human health. In fact, it’s been shown to have a negative impact on fertility, decreasing sperm count and leading to miscarriages in female dogs. Since it doesn’t allow the skin to breathe, polyester also promotes the absorption of toxic chemicals into the skin.

Spandex, or anything synthetic or man-made

Synthetic fabrics are made from harmful chemical substances like polyurethane, a known carcinogen. Prolonged contact with these fabrics can also cause skin irritations like dermatitis.

Here are  a few fabrics to consider purchasing:

Organic cotton

One of the best fabrics you can wear, organic cotton is breathable, absorbs moisture  from the skin,  protects against heat in the summer and cold in the winter, and is hypoallergenic. Organic cotton in particular offers more benefits over conventional cotton production, particularly because it’s produced without the use of any synthetic chemicals. If you tend to have sensitive skin, this fabric would be  the best choice  for you.


Silk not only has a luxurious texture, but is naturally-hypoallergenic, anti-microbial (it resists mold and dust mite growth), and is the perfect choice for anyone with sensitive skin.


Hemp fabric is well-known for its strength and durability. Did you know that is also helps protect your skin by naturally filtering UV light? It also resists bacterial growth, “breathes” well, and has four times the strength of cotton. It also tends to retain color better than any other fabric.



Linen is highly comfortable, hypoallergenic, and allows your skin to breathe! In fact, linen fabrics are scientifically tested and proven to be highly absorbent due to their molecular structure. Best part? It’s suitable for every season.

Merino wool

Merino wool is an all-natural, temperature and moisture regulating material that doesn’t lose shape with time. It also offers natural UV protection and has antibacterial properties. A recent study published in the medical journal Dermatitis also confirmed that wearing Merino wool clothing compared to other  clothing provided improvement in the severity of atopic dermatitis.


Since it’s a natural fiber, cashmere is not made with any synthetic chemicals. Cashmere helps to regulate body temperature (without the scratchiness of some other materials), it has hypoallergenic benefits, also has natural anti-bacterial properties, and is insulating. Fun fact –it’s  insulation capacity is actually three times higher than wool.

I know that was a lot of information, so, to sum it up, here are a few simple tips to help you avoid toxic clothing when shopping:

  1. Avoid anything made with synthetic materials
  2. Opt for organic fabrics (my two favorite clothing brands are MATE the Label and Wear PACT)
  3. Wash clothes before wearing – the simple practice of washing new clothes before wearing ensures the removal of any residual chemicals and dyes.
  4. Avoid any fabrics that claim to be anti-static, anti-slip, anti-microbial, insect resistant, and flame-retardant.

I hope this was helpful!

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Jacqueline Genova, CHN

Jacqueline Genova, CHN

Jacqueline Genova, a certified holistic nutritionist, is passionate about wellness. She resorted to holistic approaches for healing to reverse some of her own health problems, and to help her mom battle cancer. She is a graduate of Babson College where she researched and wrote a thesis that supports a more integrative treatment approach, and is a strong advocate of incorporating complementary therapies into conventional treatment methods. As she discovered the healing powers of food as medicine, both through her own experience as well as in her research, she developed a desire to share what she learned with others. So, she started WellnStrong. She believes in a holistic approach to wellness that addresses the root causes of illness, not just the suppression of symptoms.