You may have heard that extending the life of clothes by just nine months reduces their carbon, water and waste footprints by 20-30%. This is a huge opportunity for us to reduce our environmental impact by making the most of the clothes we already have hanging in our wardrobes.
Small changes in our habits can have significant positive impacts. By just considering the way we launder will go a long way in prolonging the life of our clothes, while doing good by the planet. It may even reduce the time spent in the laundry. Win, win, win!
Here I have compiled a list of some super simple things we can all introduce now to our washing routines.
We have all probably thrown things in the laundry basket because it’s easier than putting them away (at the time anyway). I know I am guilty. But with each wash we are using water and consuming energy. Not only that, we are risking the release of plastic microfibres into our waterways. Therefore, before we throw things into the wash basket, we really should be asking ourselves - “does this really need washing?”
Worn doesn’t necessarily equal dirty (CEO of Levi Strauss & Co didn't wash his jeans for a year), so maybe just consider;
Whether the item just needs freshening up. In that case, maybe hanging it outside for some fresh air, or in a steamy bathroom is all it needs.
Hand washing small everyday items such as underwear or socks throughout the week.
If a spot clean will suffice. A whole garment doesn’t need washing for a single mark or small stain, does it?! If you need some help, check out this YouTube playlist from Love You Clothes on Stain removal: clothing tips covering all your common ones from biro, coffee to sweat stains.
Tip 1: Why not try avoiding stains in the first place? Don an apron, or pop a tea towel down your front while cooking in the kitchen to protect your clothes from stains and spills that are inevitable.
But what if you really have to wash?
Lower the temperature
While you are at it, opt for a gentler cycle too.
Here are a few reasons why a temperature of just 30 degrees, and a gentler cycle is the way to go;
We need to abandon this mentality that hot water equals clean (with a couple of exceptions of course), that’s what the washing machine and detergent are for.
The process of water heating consumes about 90% of the energy it takes to operate a clothes washer. Therefore, lowering the temperature will also save you money on your electricity/heating bill.
The agitation and friction that occurs in the washing (and drying) process results in the release of those plastic microfibres.
Our clothes prefer being washed at a lower temperature, it’s better for them.
Turn your clothes inside out
You know those little white tags with writing on them that are usually sewn into the side seam? Well they actually include some pretty useful information. We often forget, but the care label will not only tell you what your clothes are made from, but how to wash and care for them.
I can appreciate that the symbols are confusing, but a simple google search will help you decipher their meaning. My suggestion, head over to the Love Your Clothes site again and download their symbol guide, which you can find here.
Tip 3: Keep items like jeans and printed tees turned inside out when washing. You may just lessen the impact of the sometimes harsh laundering process and avoid some fading.
Tip 4: Avoid snags by zipping up your zippers, and putting things with hooks and eyes (e.g. bras) in a mesh bag.
Reconsider your detergent and powders
Standard types of detergent are not so great for the environment as they contain fossil fuel based substances, which don’t biodegrade. Therefore, maybe have a think about the laundry detergent you use.
A good, easy to access brand (i.e. available at most leading supermarkets) is Ecover. They use plant-based, biodegradable ingredients, bottles that are made from 100% recycled plastic being widely recyclable, are certified cruelty-free, and their products are made in a Zero Waste certified factory.
Ditch the dryer
The dryer not only makes your clothes wear faster, but is energy intensive, while adding to the plastic microfibre issue. Therefore, air drying is not only better for your clothes but also the planet.
There a couple of things you can do before you air dry your clothes to make your life a little easier;
Clothing can become bunched up and twisted in the washing machine. So it is a good idea to give your clothes a bit of a shake as soon as they come out of the wash to reduce creases (highly recommend for linen fabric). This may also just limit your need for ironing!
Remember to check those care labels, as some materials may need to dry flat to avoid mis-shaping them, or positioning them in the shade.
If using pegs, try to position the pegs on the seams to avoid marks, and hang tops from the bottom, and bottoms from the top.
Synthetic clothing (like activewear) is designed to dry fast, so air drying just makes sense!
I live in a studio apartment in Munich, so I get that air drying when it is -10 degrees out is not feasible. But there are some great indoor drying racks out there, and some tips and tricks to increase your dryers efficiency and shorten the drying time.
Please GET IN TOUCH or leave me a comment, and let me know if this article was helpful. I would also love to know your laundry tips and tricks.
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