Washing our clothing is just another chore on that dreaded list, we all have to do it and generally don't put too much thought into it. But when it comes to caring for your clothes and working towards a more sustainable wardrobe, how you wash your clothing actually plays a larger role than you might expect. According to Fashion Revolution between 75-80% of our clothing's lifecycle impact comes from washing and drying. So here's what you should consider to ensure you get the longest life and most quality out of your wardrobe while contributing positively to the environment:
Washing Liquids & Powders
What are you actually washing your clothes in? Maybe you buy the brand of washing powder that your parents used and therefore has become a trusted brand, or you might go for the cheapest option. But have you ever considered what might be in the detergents you're using to clean your clothing? Most standard brand detergents actually use chemicals that can be harmful not only to yourself but also the environment. This is especially true for fragranced products and those that use optical brighteners to make your whites appear whiter...I'm looking at you fabric softeners and stain removers! As well as these chemicals lasting in the fabric of your clothing and therefore transferring to your skin they can hardly be helpful in prolonging the life of your garments. Consider using a more environmentally friendly laundry detergent and check out Mother Earth Living's list of chemicals to avoid for detergents that are gentler on your skin and on your clothes.
Line Drying vs Tumble Drying
Using your tumble dryer uses energy and therefore impacts your carbon footprint, meaning it's always better for the environment to line dry your washing rather than tumble drying. What you may not be aware of is how tumble drying actually has a lasting affect on the quality of your clothing. According to a study conducted by Reviewed.com, after 20 cycles of tumble drying a fabric loses around 50% of it's tensile strength, making it twice as likely to tear. So, if you're lucky enough to have an outdoor clothes line then use it as often as you can and for those rainy days invest in a folding rack so you can still line dry most of your clothing. As for those dryer sheets, which I only discovered after moving to New York, beware of harmful chemicals in these just like with your washing detergent. I've recently been recommended wool dryer balls instead which have so many benefits including the fact they're reusable, they reduce static and wrinkles, they reduce drying time and they act as a natural fabric softener. Plus, add a few drops of essential oils to your dryer balls for a natural way to give your clothes a fresh scent.
Always following care instructions is so important, they're put on garments for a reason. I know hand washing can be painful but it's well worth it when you think about the extra miles you'll get out of your knitwear and delicate blouses...and if you're so opposed to hand washing then maybe avoid making purchases that require it! Exactly how you wash your clothing is one of the biggest factors in maintaining its original quality and making it last as long as possible. Consider the water temperature you use in a typical wash cycle, because unless you're washing your kids muddy sports uniform it's likely your clothes aren't in need of a hot water wash. As well as saving energy a cold water cycle is kinder to your clothes. Using the delicate setting on your machine is also helpful in extending the lifecycle of your garments, plus it reduces the need for ironing, bonus!
Does That Need Washing?
We all know it's easier to throw clothing in the wash basket than having to fold or hang it to put away, especially if you're not the one in your household that actually does the washing! But washing your clothing only when it really needs it, which most often isn't after every wear, will not only save water and energy but also contribute to extending the life of your clothing. Remember, each time you wash your clothes the seams are slightly weakened, the fabric becomes a little more worn and colour is dulled. So next time you throw something in the wash basket or add it to the dry cleaning pile, sniff those armpits first and make sure it's really necessary!