5 Reasons to Avoid Synthetic Clothing

textiles Mar 23, 2018

by Angela Cummings and Sophia Ruan Gushée


When I first learned about chemicals found in everyday products, I looked to make simple, gradual changes.  

Clothing was one of the areas that seemed logical.

As my clothes wore out one by one, I replaced them with cottons instead of polyesters.

Boy, am I glad that I did. Here’s what I found.

Synthetic Fiber vs. Natural Fiber

Synthetic fibers are made from plastics and oil byproducts. Whenever I think of synthetic fibers I remember reading that synthetic fibers melt in a fire. (1) Not burn up into ashes. They melt!

Materials that are made from synthetic fibers include:

  • Polyester
  • Nylon
  • Acrylic
  • Rayon
  • Microfiber

Natural fibers are made from 100% natural products. Materials made from natural fiber include cotton, wool, hemp, linen and silk.

While bamboo is a natural fiber, it requires a significant amount of chemicals to soften bamboo for clothing fabric. Therefore, it is not typically considered a healthier material.

Here are the top 5 reasons I switched to natural clothing:

1. Made from plastic and oil byproducts.  I found it hard to believe that synthetic clothes were made from plastics and oil byproducts. So I did a little online research. Sure enough, it’s made from an element of crude oil—the same crude oil in your car and that gasoline is made from.  

Clothing material sits on our skin all day and night, and contributes to the air we breathe. It’s reasonable to conclude that synthetic clothing may be one of the ways that chemicals are entering our bodies.

2. Synthetic material needs synthetic dyes.  Synthetic material does not absorb natural dyes well, and sometimes not at all. The synthetic material absorb synthetic dyes far better. Therefore, it’s reasonable to expect that synthetic clothing is dyed with synthetic dyes.

3. Yucky feeling clothing. When I talk to people about clothing, I often hear that they feel “yucky” when wearing synthetic clothing. When they talk about natural clothing they mention comfy, breathable, cotton clothing. Our bodies are so intelligent! They know what’s healthier for us.

4. Holds bacteria. Body odor from armpits and sweat is created from bacteria and toxins that the body is trying to rid of. Everyone has it, there’s no shame here! Synthetic materials hold the bacteria more often than natural materials.

We try to cover up the odors by using fragranced laundry detergents and fabric softeners. But we don’t need to. Wearing clothing made from natural materials, along with rinsing clothes with vinegar, gives a better opportunity for clothes to smell fresh without added chemicals.

5. Static cling. Clothes that cling together are electrically charged and result in static cling. When my closets were filled with synthetic clothes, I kept handy a container of static cling spray. After converting my closet to all-natural clothing, I don’t even think about static cling any more. I haven’t peeled a sock off my shirt in years.

In Summary

Converting your closet from polyester pants to cotton khakis is an easy way to reduce the amount of chemicals in your closet. Synthetic clothing fibers are made from plastics and oil byproducts and most times is dyed with synthetic dyes. The material can hold bacteria, increase static cling and feel just plain “yucky.” Feel good in your clothes every day! Consider buying 100% natural clothing as you replace your clothes.  


(1) "Stop, Drop, and Roll." City of Phoenix - Fire Safety. https://www.phoenix.gov/fire/safety-information/fire-safety/stopdroproll

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Ruan Living simplifies a nontoxic lifestyle through its Practical Nontoxic Living podcast, free detox workshops, online D-Tox Academy, and transformative 40-Day Home Detox. It aims to help you avoid toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from what you buy, own, and do— without compromising your joy and convenience. Ruan was founded by Sophia Ruan Gushée, author of the bestselling critically acclaimed book A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Toxic Exposures and several detox workbooks. A graduate of Brown University and Columbia Business School, Sophia has served on the Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Council and Well+Good Council. A popular nontoxic living speaker, consultant, and teacher, Sophia lives in New York City with her husband and three daughters. Her passion for empowering others to enjoy nontoxic living began with the birth of her first daughter in 2007. Everything she creates is a love letter to her children and for the healthiest, brightest future possible. You can learn more here: Sophia’s Impact.


This article is for informational purposes only. This information is provided “as is” without warranty.

It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. We do not offer medical advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other opinion on your conditions or treatment options. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Ruan Living.

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