Many of us want to move to more sustainable fashion right now, conscious of the impact on the environment that our increased clothes consumption has had over the last few decades. While we’re switching to more ethical brands and reducing our purchases to decrease our footprint, there’s another way we can reduce our impact: by cleaning our clothes more sustainably.
In this post I cover a few of the ways we can do that. With dry cleaning known for being particularly planet-unfriendly, I haven’t included it here. Suffice to say, it’s always worth checking the care instructions whether shopping online or in person, and considering an item’s future energy consumption before you buy. If, like me, you’re looking to make your style more sustainable, check out this conversation with my Gran from a couple of years ago, where she shared her advice on getting your clothes to last longer.
When it comes to living sustainably, it can be hard to do the right thing when there’s so much conflicting information out there. While I don’t have the answers, here are a few things to consider, to clean and care for your clothes.
The delicate cycle
A couple of years ago, researchers found that your washing machine’s delicate cycle pushes out (up to 800,000) more plastic microfibers and uses up to twice as much water as a standard cycle.
Powder vs. detergent
Liquid detergent is less abrasive, and so helps your clothes not to bobble. But on the flip side, it tends to come in more, and less recyclable, packaging, and is more expensive. You could consider using powder for everyday and liquid for more delicate items.
Half vs. full load
Half loads use a little less energy each time but they work out as much less efficient per garment washed. But if you over-fill your washer, you could not only damage the machine, but your clothes also won’t be cleaned as effectively. Over-filling also makes your clothes more likely to go bobbly, with all that rubbing together.
Hand washing vs. machine washing
It’s better for your clothes to hand wash them, but let’s be realistic – it’s much less convenient and much more time consuming. In terms of water waste, you’ll likely use less when hand washing, but you’re equally likely to be washing fewer items in one go. My advice? Hand wash your delicate items and any of those where the garment instructions tell you to, and throw the rest in the machine.
When to wash
It almost goes without saying, but the less you use your machine, the less electricity and water you’ll use. I’m not suggesting you walk around in stained, stinky clothes – but it’s worth considering each time you get undressed whether a garment needs to be washed, or whether it could be re-worn, before putting it in the wash basket. Some items can easily be refreshed by hanging them up in the bathroom while you have a steamy shower.