Garment care is a significant aspect of sustainable style that often gets overlooked and underestimated - up to 40% of a garment's carbon footprint comes from laundering. Brands can control composition and suggest care, but it's completely up to the consumer to follow through. Between plastic-packaged detergents loaded with toxic solvents, water and energy usage, microplastic shed, and product-cluttered cabinets, there's a lot we can to do to clean up our act while cleaning our clothes. Here's how!
1. WASH COLD
90% of energy used during the washing process is from heating water. Heat breaks down dyes and fibers - wash cold to save energy and improve the lifespan of your clothes. And hand wash what you can!
2. HANG DRY
The average household dryer emits a ton of carbon per year - the most carbon intensive aspect of laundry. Reduce your energy bill and improve the lifespan of your clothing by hang drying. If you don't have outdoor space for a clothes line, try a drying rack - stick it next to the radiator for residual heat. If you do use a dryer, skip the dryer sheets! They contain carcinogens, neurotoxins and also break down organic fibers, decreasing the lifespan of your fabrics. Choose wool dryer balls instead to shorten drying time, fluff fabric and reduce static.
3. WASH SPARINGLY
My friend and I recently coined the term "chair clothes." You know, the clothes that are too dirty for the closet but too clean for the hamper, the clothes you pile on a chair and just keep wearing. You're probably wearing them right now. If they're not smelly or stained - don't wash 'em! Wool is particularly resilient to odors, dirt and wrinkles, and can literally go months, even years, with regular wear without laundering. Long live wool, and long live chair clothes!
4. DITCH DETERGENTS
Whether it's about plastic packaging, toxic solvents or sensitive skin, there's every reason to go all-natural when it comes to detergents. Conventional detergents contain dangerous ingredients like 1,4-Dioxane, sodium laurel sulfate (SLS), ammonia and phosphates which are irritating at best and carcinogenic at worst. There are ample plastic-free and non-toxic options out there like Earth Breeze detergent strips. Sub borax for bleach. Add white vinegar as a detergent booster!
5. SORT STAINS
Next time you have a stain, resist the urge to buy more products. Try this instead:
6. SEPARATE SYNTHETICS
Check the label - if it contains polyester, nylon, acrylic - it's plastic. Synthetics shed microplastics during wash, contaminating our waterways and wildlife. Prevent the shed by washing your synthetics in a Guppy Friend.
7. REPAIR IT
Kill throwaway culture! Because apparel has been so devalued through cheap fabric and unethical labor, clothes have become disposable. When we spend very little on an item, we're much more likely to send it to the landfill instead of caring and repairing. Get in the practice of investing in quality items, and repairing them with natural wear and tear. Learn to darn, sew a button, patch a knee! It's sweetly satisfying. You'll feel proud of your wabi-sabi repairs. You can even make it a social affair!
We can all engage in sustainable fashion with these simple swaps. Clothes are a relationship and fabric care is skin care. Invest well, care and repair!