Life is busy. Taking care with our laundry is usually on the list of things we aim to do, but probably don’t. But, with the climate crisis growing, more of us are wondering how we can lower the impact of our clothes washing, whilst keeping our clothes fresh.
Here are 8 simple and actionable steps for washing our clothes in a way that takes the least from our planet, and gets the most out of our wardrobe:
#1 Let your clothes breathe.
At the end of the day, leave your clothes on a hanger to let odours escape. It is widely acknowledged that we wash our clothes too often, increasing our energy footprint and shortening our clothes’ lifespan. Airing them will reduce the number of washes needed, keeping your clothes looking new for longer.
#2 Sort it out.
Sorting laundry can be time-consuming. But, finding a way that works best for you can help save energy and keep your garments looking new for longer. Here are a few options:
|Energy saving - one wash||Activewear - two washes||Garment health and sanitization - two washes|
#3 Deal with stains pronto.
Get to stains quickly to reduce the chance of them sticking around. Dab it with a sponge or a cloth so you don’t rub it further into the fabric. If it’s a heavy stain, treat it with diluted detergent before adding it to your regular cold wash.
#4 Wash t-shirts, jeans and items with zips inside out.
This will prevent your jeans fading, your graphic tees peeling, and your zips and buttons making tiny tears in your clothes.
#5 Lighten the load.
When you fill your washing machine, leave a hand span’s width of space at the top of the drum. This will leave enough room for the water and detergent to circulate, and reduce friction between garments. The washer will work more efficiently, and your clothes will love you for it.
#6 Wash cold.
Labels are there to give you the maximum wash temperature. This is usually 40°C, but washing at 20-30C lowers the risk of shrinking, fading and tearing your clothes. It’s also the most energy-efficient option, dropping energy costs by 60% when you switch from 40°C to 20°C (Which? Magazine).
Check out your machines Energy Consumption Guide to fine tune your preferred wash cycle against your load requirements.
|20||Everyday clothes that haven’t been stained.
Use liquid detergent, as powder struggles to mix in cold water.
|Natural fabrics: cotton, linen, wool, silk|
|30||At 30 degrees, most washing detergents will be effective on almost all your washing. But, you can also buy detergents specifically designed for cold-water washing.||Natural fabrics: cotton, linen, wool, silk
Lightly soiled synthetics
|40||A warmer temperature will be more effective on underwear and synthetics like sports gear.||
Synthetics: nylon, polyester, spandex and rayon
|60+||Only use for heavy duty fabrics like bed linen and towels, particularly if you want to combat heavy stains or contagious bacteria.
Use a powder detergent.
Sanitizing infected fabrics
#7 Set a reminder.
Just like the school run, your clothes love to be picked up on time. It reduces creases and bad odours from developing and avoids the dreaded re-wash. Get them on the line as soon as possible and, if you still need to iron those creases, keep the temperature low to avoid shrinkage and damage to the fabrics.
#8 Put it all on the line.
Air dry, but keep it out of the sun to avoid shrinkage and fading colours. Heat can shrink and weaken the fabric, so keep away from tumble dryers when your washing is done. Using a tumble dryer 20 times a month for 1 year uses more CO2 than a tree can absorb in the first 50 years of its life (The Waterline). So, you’d be saving the planet a lot of damage, too.
Adding 9 months to your clothes lifespan will reduce their water and carbon footprint by 20-30%. But, your clothes are more than just fabrics with a footprint. They’re the memories of where you’ve taken them and what they’ve seen. They started as plants in the earth and were crafted into symbols of who you are and what you stand for. Loved clothes last, so washing them with care will protect those memories, and ease the demand we place on our planet.