What are the best options for baby blanket material?
Whether you are making a homemade baby blanket, or looking for a good baby blanket to buy for your new baby or grandchild, you'll want comfort, durability and a baby blanket which is easy to care for.
A beautiful baby blanket or shawl, made from earth-friendly natural materials can asily become an heirloom or gift to pass on to friends' families.
Here are some of the best options for eco-friendly baby blanket material available on the market today.
Picture left: a good handmade baby blanket or shawl can easily become an heirloom.
Cotton has a long history and if you buy organic cotton or cotton fleece you can be sure that your baby's blankets were made without using earth-damaging chemicals. Not only that, it's reassuring to think that the cloth from which the blanket is made is free from any chemical residues.
If you are opting for a coloured blanket you will want to source ones which are dyed using safe and eco-friendly dyes, particularly non-synthetic and azo-free dyes. Organic cotton can be a superb choice of baby blanket material and there is plenty of variety to choose from.
Cotton comes in many forms - cotton terry towelling, cotton jersey, cotton fleece and brushed cotton are popular types which are all suitable for blankets, either alone or in combination with other materials.
One of the advantages of cotton is that it is and easy to clean - just pop it into a normal wash. Cotton is also generally relatively cheap.
However cotton products can need tumble drying and softeners to get that fluffy bounce back into the fibres. One green solution is to add a cupful of vinegar to the last rinse cycle.
Drying in a tumble drier with a drier ball also will help some. If you like to line-dry your baby blankets you will get better results if you dry cottons in the shade. See Laundry tips for more greener laundry ideas.
Amazon has a fairly extensive collection of organic baby blankets, including this Miracle Baby Swaddling Blanket which apparently lives up to its name!
Cotton fleece is fairly soft and lightweight and quite desirable as a cuddly baby blanket material. It may need a more careful approach to washing and drying than other cottons. A low temperature "woolen" wash cycle is sometimes recommended.
Cotton fleece may also suffer from fluffing and pilling.
Where to buy: In the UK you can get such cotton blankets from Hippychick and GreenEyedFrog. For the USA, check out the swaddling blanket mentioned above. Amazon now have dozens of organic baby blanket options available.
Bamboo is one of the most earth-friendly materials. It grows amazingly fast - up to a metre a day - and it requires very little by way of farming inputs. The resultant cloth is exceptionally soft and snuggly and - it gets better - it gets even softer the more you wash it!
Because it is breathable, antibacterial and hypo-allergenic it tends to stay fresh for longer than other fabrics - meaning that you probably won't even need to wash it quite so often (barring spills, of course).
It's only real downsides as a baby blanket material, from the view point of parents, are that it can be a little slow to dry. And some parents find that the material tends to stretch a little more than wanted. This should not be a problem with more conventional baby blankets made from bamboo.
You can get organic bamboo blankets from several on-line suppliers, including Amazon . It is sometimes mixed with other fibres, such as silk. Personally, I'm very impresses with bamboo as a material. Yes, it does take a little longer to dry - but the additional softness makes it worth it.
Bamboo is a good choice if there is a history of allergies in your family. As it is hypo-allergenic and naturally resistant to moulds and other pathogens and highly breathable, as well as warm and snuggly, you will be giving your baby the best of all worlds.
Polyester "Polar" fleece blankets are warm, lightweight and very snuggly. Some are now made from recycled bottles (PET) and other plastics so they are quite environmentally sound. They also last extremely well if you take good care of them and at the end of their useful life you can recycle them as cleaning cloths!
They wash well and are hydrophobic - meaning that they do not soak up water easily. This also means that they have great breathable qualities - good for warmer conditions when your baby or child may perspire. Yet they are light and warm in chilly conditions too.
A low temperature wash is all that's needed usually. Fleece dries quickly and does not need ironing. Fleece does tend to pick up dust, fluff and hairs because it easily picks up a static charge, so it can look a little scruffy. Fleece is comparatively light - wool is generally much heavier, for example. Most authorities now advise parents to use lightweight blankets to reduce the risk of cot death.
Microfibres are man-made fibres of polyesters and fine denier polypropylenes which are spun into thin threads of 1 denier or less dimension. Microfibre blankets are soft and attractive and last well. They are resistant to staining as long as you deal with spills quickly.
Microfibres are similar to polar fleece in some respects but also have some distinct properties. Microfibre blankets will absorb water more readily than fleece - they are super-absorbent which is why microfibres are used in some nappy systems.
Microfibre blankets are made from a non-renewable resource - petroleum - and they are not biodegradable. However, you can use them as cleaning cloths as their excellent absorption and fine fibres make them especially suited to this!
They are easy to care for and they wash well on a low temperature wash programme. They do not even need detergent as it can impair the subtle properties of the fibre. Here are the downsides: microfibre baby blankets could pose a toxic hazard.
Microfibres are highly flammable and release toxic gases when burnt, so perhaps not the best of baby blanket material! Less important but annoying, microfibres will embed animal and human hairs into their surface; it's a tease to release them. Microfibre is sometimes found in blankets as "microfibre suede".
Microfibre suede is a super-fine type of microfibre material which is both hard wearing and soft and pliant to touch. It is entirely man-made. It is sometimes used as the outer surface of travel blankets. The super microfibres can be as fine as .001 denier, which makes them very absorbent as well as tough.
Despite being relatively heavy, there are wool products which can be worth a look. Wool has been the baby blanket material of choice for generations of Europeans. Many people shudder when they think of the woolen undies our Victorian forbears had to endure. Nevertheless, wool is an excellent baby blanket material.
If it is spun for lightness and woven to achieve a light open structure, wool blankets can be very desirable. Some of them even become heirlooms - that is unless a teething baby decides that this particular heirloom is their favourite "Linus" blanket!
Some of the best woolen products for small babies are from specialty wools such as cashmere and alpaca.
It can be fun to make your own baby blanket, if you have time. Even simple techniques like knitting squares to sew together can make an attractive and useful blanket which is a pleasure to own.
There are lots of good websites devoted to knitting and crocheting skills and patterns. Unfortunately real wool is not cheap but even acrylics and other artificial fibres can make for warm and durable baby blanket material.
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