The label lowdown... dotte cheat sheet

By shopping secondhand for kidswear, we've already skipped past any production nasties by buying clothes that already exist - woohoo! But what about the garment DNA of the clothes already in your little one's wardrobe? We’re giving you the label lowdown with the dotte garment cheat sheet, breaking down what the labels in their clothes really mean.

First things first, check out our key to match up what properties are in their clothes:

Now for the fabrics:

Although a natural fibre, cotton has a bad rep for its sustainable production, and rightly so! To name but a few toxic traits, creating new cotton uses a large amount of water, it's often sprayed with pesticides to grow, and involves an intensive bleaching process to give us that crisp white cotton tee that’s the staple of our wardrobes. That's right... cotton isn’t naturally white!

When it comes to shopping secondhand however, the clothes are already on the earth so you’re not directly contributing to any of the production nasties involved in making anything new. Therefore, if you're shopping preloved for your wee one, we’d totally recommend cotton! It's comfy to wear, strong and sturdy. Better still, 100% cotton is quick to biodegrade, and easily recyclable! However, it's good to bear in mind, cotton is as an absorbent fabric and (with messy kids!) it does need to be washed on the reg' so be cautious of potential shrinkage. But, as cotton is a natural fibre, no microplastics are released in the wash cycle no matter how many times it makes it into the drum, hurrah!

A low-cost synthetic fibre made by humans, secondhand polyester is certainly affordable, but the fibres longevity is questionable. Made from plastic, Polyester tends to lose quality over washes and pill (those little bobbles our jumpers and socks get riddled with) and worse still, when we wash synthetic fibres microplastics are released into our washing machines, passing through waste water filtration systems and into our rivers and oceans. Plus, polyester also takes up to 200 years to biodegrade! No bueno. By investing that little bit more in better quality materials over polyester, you're buying clothes that last for longer and have the best chance of survival for resale on dotte. Win for the planet, win for you!

Renewable, biodegradable, recyclable... wool is a great option when buying secondhand. Wooly fabric has a natural stain resistant quality to it, so unless your little one is jumping in puddles, you can likely wipe down a stain rather than putting it in the washing pile! Plus, you'd be mad to wash wool at anything but cold, so it's extra efficient when it does come time to give it a rinse. 100% wool is less common in kidswear, so be aware of synthetic blending (i.e. 30% wool, 70%  polyester), as this puts the biodegradability and recyclability of the garment into trouble.

If buying wool "new" (straight from a shop!), please be aware of how to wool is farmed. Common in wool farming is mulesing, a cruel and painful way of removing a sheep’s skin infested with flies, without any pain relief or anaesthetic. There are more humane ways of preventing this, so if buying new, look for sheep that are ‘non-mulesed’.

Wooly fabric has a natural stain resistant quality to it, so unless your little one is jumping in puddles, you can likely wipe down a stain rather than putting it in the washing pile!

A synthetic dupe of wool, acrylic fibre is super durable, and there’s no worry of the dreaded shrinkage when washing it. You know you’re not going to put a cardigan that fits your three year old in the washing machine and take out one that fits a three month old. The durability of the fibre also means that acrylic clothing is capable of withstanding kids day-to-day activities without stretching or breaking. Acrylic is also generally hypoallergenic, so great for kids with sensitive skin that can get itchy-scratchy feeling from clothing.

Sadly it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Not only is acrylic non-biodegradable, it’s also the worst fabric culprit for releasing microplastic in the wash, releasing almost 2x more than Polyester. Eeesh! If you’re kids wardrobe has lots of acrylic or other synthetic fibres, you could try washing their clothes in a Guppyfriend bag, which collects microplastics that are small enough to flow through our washing machine filters, stopping them getting into our oceans – pretty cool!

Known similarly as Polyamide, Nylon is another synthetic fabric, typically blended to improve quality of other fabric, or is the main fibre in you kids swimming cozzy’s and trunks!

When buying Nylon new, it scores a big, fat F on the sustainable report card for manufacturing, with high water usage, potent emissions, and a energy-hungry process. As is a running theme with synthetic fabrics, Nylon doesn’t biodegrade; it releases microplastics in the wash, and is not easily recycled. A big thumbs down! Luckily for Nylon, it’s very long lasting and easy to keep in good condition, so clothes containing nylon should be passed on to lots and lots of littl'uns.

Although more likely to be worn by children on special occasions than to preschool, secondhand silk is a great fabric for kids that get eczema or suffer from sensitive skin, with it’s soft, natural properties! Though easy to stain and dis-colour (silk isn’t ideal for the muckiest of hooligans!) it does biodegrade, albeit slower than wool and cotton. Plus, when 100%, silk can be easily recycled.

A natural sourced fibre that uses an unnatural process to turn it into the viscose we know and wear, the semi-synethic rayon fabric is created from wood pulp,  using polluting chemicals and heavy metals in it’s manufacturing. Viscose is one of the leading factors of deforestation today, as well as making huuuge by-product pollution and waste in it’s process, so that’s something to keep in your noggin if you’ve got any new viscose in your shopping cart. Although it is biodegradable, Viscose is prone to shrinkage and often needs ironing, so it’s not the ideal fabric to dress your little one in on the regular!

Have you heard of Tencel, also known as Lyocell? A renewable and sustainable alternative viscose on the scene that we’re jumping around for, Tencel is making moves in the womenswear, menswear and activewear scene, but it’s yet to have it’s spotlight moment in kidswear… but we’re waiting!

A little bit of this, a little bit of that. Most clothing made nowadays isn't 100% of one fabric, and is often blended with a variety of fibres to improve fabric longevity, texture and affordability. As a rule of thumb, 100% of one fabric (a.k.a mono materials) are much easier to recycle, and natural fibres (blended or mono) are biodegradable. Understanding which fabrics to buy and how to care for them is a bit of a minefield, so we're here to make it that little bit easier. We've got lots of tips on garment care coming your way in June, so keep your dotte diaries tab open for more!

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