You often see Screen Ink Manufacturers stating that their inks are certified to OEKO-TEX standards. Either that they are certified or that they conform (quite a big difference). So what is OEKO-TEX and what is its purpose?
In 1992 the Austrian Textile Research Institute (OTI) and the German Research Institute founded OEKO-TEX. Its main aim being to provide an objective and reliable product label for consumers. Its aim is to ensure that products posed no risk to health, its moto is to increase ‘Confidence in Textiles’.
OEKO-TEX introduced a testing and certification process which incorporates textile research and testing institutes in Europe and Japan. For an ink (or textile) to achieve certification the manufacturers’ products must be tested and certified to a strict criteria. Areas covered include:-
- Illegal substances such as carcinogenic colourants
- Legally regulated substances such as formaldehyde, plasticizers, heavy metals or pentachlorophenol
- Substances which according to current knowledge are harmful to health, but which are not yet regulated or prohibited by law such as pesticides, allergenic dyes or tin-organic compounds
- Parameters such as colour fastness and a skin-friendly pH-value, which are precautionary measures to safeguard consumer health
If an ink or textile product is certified you should see the product class that it is certified to, the class is based on intended use, so under OEKO-TEX Standard 100 there are the following classes :-
Product class I:
Textiles and textile toys for babies and small children up to the age of three, e.g. underwear, romper suits, bed linen, bedding, soft toys etc.
Product class II:
Textiles which, when used as intended, have a large part of their surface in direct contact with the skin, e.g. underwear, bed linen, terry cloth items, shirts, blouses etc.
Product class III:
Textiles which, when used as intended, have no or only a little part of their surface in direct contact with the skin, e.g. jackets, coats, facing materials etc.
Product class IV:
Furnishing materials for decorative purposes such as table linen and curtains, but also textile wall and floor coverings etc.
Source: OEKO-TEX website
So is the standard important? The simple answer is YES. If an ink has been certified to a given class we know that it is considered safe for the particular use, many retailers are now only stocking products which conform to those standards. So if you are screen printing baby clothes it is highly recommended to use inks which has been certified.
Leading ink manufacturers such as FujiFilm Sericol and Magna Colours have invested heavily in producing products which have been certified to OEKO-TEX standards. In economically challenged times it is tempting to purchase the cheapest inks but to ensure quality and safety of products always choose certified either OEKO-TEX or other certified products where possible.
In a future blog article we will be explaining what the other main certifications are and also the certifications for the inks we sell.