Can't cotton to it


PHOTO COURTESY CREATIVE COMMONS

I should've been tipped off by the $29.99 price tag that the set of oh-so-soft to the touch Queen-size sheets at my local wholesale big-box outlet made out of some sort of mystery fibre were too good to be true. Even better, I should've figured it out before the cheapskate part of my nature convinced me to buy three sets but here I am, tossing and turning in a cheap cotton imitator whose limitations only became apparent after I'd opened the packages and voided the return policy by washing them. All three sets.

For the uninitiated, microfibre sheets are silky soft to the touch and significantly less expensive than cotton sheets of the same size. For the most part, they've performed relatively well but the longer I use them, the more I believe they're slowly trying to suffocate me. On their own, they can pass as their purer, more innocent, natural fibre counterparts but once you tuck them snugly over the memory-foam mattress topper, pile on a few blankets and punctuate the whole package with stay-cool pillows, you become sandwiched into a makeshift, artificial tomb that slowly seeks to neutralize anything affiliated with the natural world.

Growing up as the youngest in a large family, my mom once brought home cheap socks she'd found at a flea-market with a label proudly proclaiming they were made of '100 % unknown fibres.' Though my sheets are significantly softer than those red-trimmed, brown socks dotted with odd flecks of random colours that the whole family wore for over a year, the end result of having human skin next to them for an extended period of time is the same – downright yucky.

It's getting harder to find good old, basic cotton clothing and my collection of superhero T-shirts - while being undeniably breathable and comfortable - don't always represent an air of professionalism. Or so I'm told.

I recently purchased a beautiful shirt in a popular clothing boutique that encourages customers to drop off bags of fabric – everything from old clothing to bed linens – for a $5-off coupon towards your next purchase. It was only after recently overhearing a phone conversation in a medical clinic waiting room by a gentleman who worked in the schmatta business did I learn that very few clothes are made from virgin materials these days. Overseas clothing manufacturing apparently now recycles more than it actually makes and the end result, that can pass through an entire wash cycle without even getting wet, may look good but it feels invasive and alien on the human body.

Though I don't have enough data to crunch numbers, it strikes me that the carbon footprint of shipping tons of used fabric overseas, energy and resources spent on breaking it down and re-manufacturing it, then shipping it overseas westward once again, is not quite as environmentally-friendly a practice as the fashion industry would have us believe.

And while I initially thought it was really neat that two-litre plastic soda bottles were being broken down into fibres that were then re-spun into sheets and clothing, the secondary properties the fabric exhibits are disconcerting.

If I'm going to see sparks in my bed-sheets, I don't want them to be the mere result of rolling over.

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