Frequently asked questions
- Why does testing for harmful substances in textiles make sense?
The safety of textiles is a quality aspect that cannot be determined through visual inspection alone – not even by experts. Whether an item contains unwanted harmful substances can only be ascertained beyond doubt through specific laboratory tests. This is even more important as our varied demands and expectations for modern textile products can only be realised by using certain chemicals.
Possible residue of these unwanted substances in the end product can be ruled out through testing for harmful substances, providing a real added benefit for consumers – the items certified according to STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® are proven to be harmless to our health and still have all the product characteristics we require for our textiles today, depending on their use: Soft, easy-care materials, vivid colours and patterns, high wearing comfort, good colour fastness etc.
The voluntary OEKO-TEX® label contributes to more product and consumer safety because it also takes into account numerous substances and test parameters which have not yet been explicitly regulated. In this way, OEKO-TEX® criteria also often act as precursors for new laws for more consumer protection.
- Which criteria are used for testing textiles with STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®?
The basis of the testing for harmful substances is an extensive criteria catalogue which is revised and updated by the OEKO-TEX® test institutes yearly. Compared to international legal regulations, STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® places far more stringent requirements on textile products.
The scientifically founded test parameters include:
- legally banned and regulated substances,
e.g. azo dyes, phthalates, heavy metals such as nickel etc.
- harmful chemicals for which no explicit legal regulation exists (yet),
e.g. pesticides or allergenic disperse dyestuffs
- parameters for safeguarding health such as a skin-friendly pH value and good colour fastness
- legally banned and regulated substances,
- Which aspects are particularly strong arguments for STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® where safety is concerned?
Product certification according to STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® is only possible if all components of an end product comply with the criteria required in each case – that means accessory parts such as buttons, zips, interlinings, hook-and-loop fasteners etc. in addition to the outer material and the sewing threads.
In addition, the OEKO-TEX® laboratory tests take into account all the ways how potential harmful substances can be absorbed by the human body:
- through the skin (e.g. through simulation tests with artificial sweat solution)
- through the mouth (e.g. through simulation tests with artificial saliva solution) – particularly important for baby items because infants tend to suck on textiles
- by breathing (emission test)
Another advantage is that the test criteria are always adapted to the actual intended use of a textile item. Products with direct and/or intensive skin contact (e.g. underwear or sports clothing) therefore have to meet more stringent requirements than garments worn away from the skin (e.g. jackets or coats).
- What are the four OEKO-TEX® product classes?
Depending on the intensity of the skin contact, STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® distinguishes between four product classes.
The most stringent requirements for harmful substances apply to baby items, followed by textiles used close to the skin, products without direct skin contact and furnishing materials.
Product class I
Items for babies and children up to 3 years of age.
e.g. rompers, bibs, bed linen, towels, stuffed toys, dressing gowns, quilts, sleeping bags etc.
Product class II
Items used close to the skin.
e.g. underwear, outerwear worn close to the skin such as T-shirts, shirts, blouses, trousers, skirts etc., swimwear, sports clothing, pyjamas, socks, scarves, gloves etc.
Product class III
Items used away from the skin.
e.g. jackets, coats, outdoor textiles etc.
Product class IV
Furnishing materials for decoration purposes.
e.g. table linen, curtains, bedspreads, upholstery covers, throws, floor coverings, net curtains etc.
- Who carries out the testing for harmful substances and the required laboratory tests?
Laboratory testing and certification of textile products is carried out by one of the 18 accredited OEKO-TEX® test institutes in Europe and Japan. In Germany and France the certificates are issued by a special OEKO-TEX® certification centre.
The OEKO-TEX® member institutes carry out control tests for textile products after certification to ensure continued compliance with the required criteria. For these tests, labelled products are purchased from retail shops or unannounced samples are taken from the production facilities and tested in the laboratory. Every year, the product control tests amount to at least 20% of all certificates issued.
- Can I really rely on products with the label "Confidence in textiles" being harmless to health?
The OEKO-TEX® Standard certification system 100 provides extensive safety for the consumer.
Its test criteria have global validity and are updated every year. In addition, the criteria catalogue also takes into account substances and test parameters which are not (yet) legally regulated.
Compliance with the required criteria is tested after issuing of the certificates as well through product tests on labelled items.
Finally, consumers can independently verify the validity of a label at www.oeko-tex.com/validity at any time.
- Which products are certified according to STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®?
Product certification according to STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® focuses on the garment sector as well as on home textiles, but it also includes technical textiles (e.g. car seat covers) and medical applications (e.g. support stockings or bandages).
A wide range of OEKO-TEX® certified products is available in retail. However, it can occur that some products are not marked with the OEKO-TEX® label because product labelling is not mandatory for the manufacturers. So it is always worth asking about the label in the shop.
Examples for OEKO-TEX® certified end products are...
- all types of clothing
- textile products for babies and children
- bed linen and bedding
- other home textiles
- sports clothing and functional textiles
- underwear and swimwear
- textile toys
- terry items
- outdoor textiles
- socks, headgear, accessories etc.
Apart from ready-to-use products, all textile raw materials and intermediate products from all stages of production such as yarns, fabrics or finished fabrics can also be certified before further processing. In addition to the purely textile materials of a product, any contained accessories such as buttons, zips etc. additionally have to undergo testing for harmful substances. The OEKO-TEX® certification system follows the principle "All or nothing at all", i.e. product certification is only granted if all components meet the required criteria (fabric, threads, interlinings, hook-and-loop closures, hooks etc.).
- Where can I buy products with the label "Confidence in textiles"?
Certified textiles are available from almost all retail segments:
- from specialist shops for clothing, underwear, baby items, home textiles, sports clothing etc.
- from specialist departments of department stores
- through mail-order shopping (catalogues and internet)
- from the non-food areas of discount supermarkets
- at online portals and online exchange services etc.
Labelling of items certified according to STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® with the label "Confidence in textiles" is not mandatory, therefore it may occur that not all certified items are actually marked with the OEKO-TEX® label. When in doubt, it is worth specifically inquiring with the manufacturer or (specialist) dealer!