Water based ink in Fashion — environmental impact and health benefits

Providing eco friendly products shouldn’t stop with the right materials and packaging.

The fashion industry is the second largest polluter with major carbon emissions and waste water production. A large part of this pollution is actually attributed to the printing process. This is where we want to make a difference and contribute to a greener fashion industry.

Eco friendly brands that use water based inks for their prints are committed to making a difference. Why is the ink used for printing even important — for you or for anyone else for that matter? Find out what the fuss is all about and why it should matter to you when choosing that fun statement shirt.

2 things you need to know about eco friendly printing:

1. Helps the environment

There are billions of shirts out there, with all types of colourful, fun prints on them. Unfortunately, most companies only focus on coming up with a pretty design for these prints and a cheap, quick way to produce their statement tees and hoodies. Which means that the majority still uses plastisol inks because they’re inexpensive and ideal for mass production. Another problem fast fashion has brought upon us.

What’s so bad about that?

Plastisol inks contain PVC and phthalates. What? Putting it simply: plastisol is a type of plastic (PVC) which needs to be elastic and flexible so it can be used for printing. It is therefore liquefied by using plasticizer (phthalates).

We all know that plastic is harmful to our environment. It doesn’t decompose, which is also the case for shirts printed with plastisol inks. And unlike plastic bottles, they’re difficult to recycle.

As if this isn’t bad enough, it’s the release of toxins that has the biggest impact on our planet. During its life cycle, both PVC and phthalates release toxic, chlorine-based chemicals. When exposed to heat, phthalates continue to release toxins. This means, wearing a shirt in the sun will have a toxic side effect on the environment, as these toxins are still being released into the atmosphere.

How can we avoid this?

Luckily, there are eco friendly alternatives out there. One of them being water based inks. Water based inks work without the use of plastic and chemicals. As the name suggests, it’s water that acts as a solvent to carry the colour pigments. Usually it’s small brands that are committed to their cause and want to make sure they provide 100% eco friendly products.

You’ll also feel the difference: while plastisol based prints sit on top of a fabric and have a plastic-like feel to it, water based prints soak into the fabric. They are soft and breathable. Go ahead, touch the print on your shirt — you’ll quickly notice if it’s eco friendly ink that has been used because only then you won’t be able to even tell the difference between the fabric and ink!

2. Good for your skin and health

Remember the toxins we just mentioned? If plastisol inks are bad for the environment, they’re most certainly not going to be good for you as an individual.

It’s toxins such as dioxins, PCBs and others that are forming during the use of PVC for printing. They’ve been found to cause skin conditions, such as acne and rashes or even impact your liver.

The plasticizers, or phthalates, that are used to soften PVC are even more worrying. They are considered carcinogenic and have found to have hormone-disrupting effects, with impacts on reproductive organs.

How do these toxins enter your body?

You’re just wearing the shirt, not eating it…so how would all these chemicals even manage to enter your body?

You might not be the one working in a print shop, where you’d be exposed to all the toxic by-products during the printing process. That doesn’t mean you won’t be exposed to them once you start wearing such a shirt.

Don’t forget that the toxins continue to be released even after you’ve purchased a product that has a plastisol print on it. Being close to your skin and just centimeters under your nose and mouth, every time you’re wearing that statement shirt, these toxins will be there. Every inhale means you’re letting them work their way into your body.

Water based prints protect you from all of that?

Check the website of the brand you’re interested in supporting. If they’re 100% eco friendly, they’re typically certified by some type of official eco certification such as the OEKO-TEX® ECO PASSPORT and GOTS 5.0. Those certifications prohibit the use of PVC and phthalates for printing. They also ensure that all ingredients used are not harmful to human health.

Brands that choose this printing method really want to make a difference: by helping the environment and reducing the impact fast fashion has on your health. It’s your choice to support them and help save the environment. All of this while looking stunning in a lovely outfit like this one — your skin will thank you ;)

Exploring health and environmental impacts of the fashion industry.