By Gaia Rattazzi
This side of sustainable fashion often gets overlooked, but it’s so important to know how we can properly take care of clothes so they last longer. Fashion Revolution actually calculated that 25% of the carbon footprint of clothes comes from the way we care for them! And especially how we wash and dry them, so here are my best tips to make your clothes last!
This is Gaia from @ssustainably_ taking you through some of my best tips and learnings I’ve gathered over time.
Washing clothes. How often?
You’ll be surprised to know that these simple actions not only lessened my environmental impact, they also saved me so much time AND money! It’s a win-win! I learnt that washing clothes as often as we’re told to actually ruins clothes in the long run.
I used to wash my clothes after every wear, now I only wash undergarments (or anything that’s in contact with my skin) and synthetic workout clothes regularly. Synthetics especially I wash as soon as I take them off because they absorb oils and odour so if I sweat in synthetics I make sure to wash them straight away. Anything that isn’t in contact with my skin like sweaters, trousers and jackets I only wash a few times a year.
Jeans especially, as the CEO of Levis said, should never be washed! I just spot clean them (to remove a specific stain without washing the whole garment) and if they’re smelly I just air them out so they freshen up. And this is actually valid for all clothes! Another thing to try is just steaming clothes which deodorizes, sanitises and softens then. To remove germs you also don’t need to wash clothes! Elizabeth Cline in her book The Conscious Closet explains that line-drying clothes in the sun is as effective as bleach in killing germs! A very important thing is to always remember to check the care label of a garment before washing it.
How to wash them?
I like to wait until I have a full load before I machine wash clothes, that way I save energy, water and time! Although I avoid overfilling when machine washing my clothes because that can cause too much friction which damages fibres. When I do my washing instead of using normal detergent I use a laundry egg which is a refillable ball with biodegradable pellets that replace detergent and fabric softener.
I also use a guppy bag which is not only great to reduce the number of microplastics that synthetics garments shed, it also significantly reduces fibre breakage, protecting your clothes from wear and tear. Read more on the topic on Renoon’s previous post by Anastasia.
I usually wash in cold water as it saves so much energy and colours remain vibrant.
Drying our clothes. What are the ways?
After washing my clothes I avoid machine drying whenever I can. This is obviously easier in summer but can be easily done in winter too, it just takes a little longer. Air drying clothes is not only a way to save energy, it’s also so much better for your clothes. Just keep in mind that white clothes brighten if left to dry in the sunlight but with dark clothes it’s better not to leave them in direct sunlight or else the colour might fade.
Storing the clothes
Washing less and better is not the only way to make clothes last longer, storing them properly is also important. I always make sure my clothes are clean before putting them away as dirt can attract moths. Lavender is also useful to get rid of them.
Another important thing that I try to do as much as possible is organising my clothes to reduce clutter, give them breathing space and reduce wrinkling! Repairing our clothes is also crucial to make them last, I’m personally not very skilled at sewing so I bring my clothes to a tailor when they need to be repaired or altered.
Don’t avoid the tags
As Ruth McGlip said in this article, it’s important that brands as well put in the effort to encourage their consumers to make their clothes last. She stresses the importance of offering clear and concise washing instructions on care tags and she adds that clothes should be sold with extra replacement buttons or embellishments to make mending and repairing clothes easier and therefore increase clothing longevity.
To me it’s imperative that I try to do better and extend the life of my clothes through these small, simple steps, but I also know that I can’t take all the responsibility for “greening” the fashion industry. As well as making our clothes last, I like to be part of a movement that supports brands that are doing their best to manufacture garments that are durable and easy to care for.