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How toxic is black in clothing really?

There is a lot of chemistry in black clothing. No wonder. It takes more than just dye pigments to produce the darkest of all shades. But is black dye in our favorite jeans and tops really toxic? Tikbow clarifies.

Black jeans make your legs look long, the little black dress belongs in every closet, and you can’t get through the winter without opaque black tights. Black is without a doubt one of the most popular colors for textiles. But very few people know how time-consuming the production of the color is and how much chemistry is really involved in a single piece of black clothing. So how toxic is black?

How do you make black?

Black is a so-called developing dye – a substance that needs two phases to get a really rich tone. In the first stage, color particles such as blue, yellow and orange are mixed together and applied to the fabric, the more particles, the more intense the color.

In order for this to adhere to the fibers, the material must be chemically treated in a second step. For lighter fabrics, it is sufficient to fix the colors with steam. Darker colors and especially black must be chemically fixed. Black is usually subjected to an oxidation process so that the fibers can absorb the dark color over the entire surface, resulting in a particularly intense, dark color.

Does black clothing harm health?

So, in percentage terms, there is more dye in every black garment than in a lighter one. Accordingly, the production of black textiles should also be more expensive. But especially in the textile industry, which is considered to be particularly opaque, there are many ways to lower prices and cheat on quality. Whether a dye manufacturer really only uses pure textile pigments or whether he also uses allergy-causing disperse dyes or carcinogenic azo dyes is usually difficult or impossible to determine.

Cheap substances used in the oxidation process are also a cause for concern. It is not uncommon for laboratory tests of black textiles to find traces of the heavy metal lead in the fibers. The danger: Similar to the questionable aluminum salts in deodorants, heavy metal molecules can be absorbed through the skin and accumulate in the body. The consequences can be allergic skin reactions and, in the worst case, symptoms of poisoning.

Little transparency in the textile industry

In fact, information on the production process cannot be read off the label. This lack of proof "of production standards was also the reason why the German natural brand "hessnatur" even dispensed with the color completely in the 1980s. "At that time, the development of the dye industry was not yet at the level it is today", a press spokeswoman explains to Tikbow. "That is why we did not offer models in black for a while. Further developments and improvements in the area of the manufacturing processes made it possible that the color black also meets our ecological quality requirements and can therefore be found in our assortment again;

For them, it is also clear that dyeing is not just about health risks: “The goal should basically be a manufacturing process that is not detrimental to people or the environment. Our mills have to meet very strict production standards. These include the use of ecologically sound dyes, low water consumption and a minimum two-stage wastewater treatment plant;

Natural black without chemicals – is that possible?

However, it has not yet been possible to develop a natural black shade for mass production, explains the hessnatur spokeswoman: “Compared to synthetically dyed materials, natural dyes also show clear deficiencies in terms of color fastness, luminosity and UV resistance. Another challenge is the exact reproducibility of a color shade for a reorder, which is very difficult with natural dyes."

So what should you look out for if you want to avoid the chemical club "black"? Firstly, black clothing in particular should be washed before being worn for the first time in order to remove any loose chemical residues. If skin problems caused by textiles are already known, it is advisable to avoid buying clothes that are close to the body, such as underwear or stump pants, in black. "If you want to be on the safe side, you should look for Öko seals such as "GOTS" or "Öko-Tex-Standard 100" when buying new clothing, says the press spokeswoman. Here, the proportion of heavy metals in particular is regularly checked.