Studies have found that we are getting rid of our clothes after just seven to ten wears. This may be because we get bored of the clothes we own, but it’s also largely because we’re not taking care of our clothes properly. Although the majority of the damage is done in the production of clothing, caring for our clothes can also have negative environmental effects.
Around 1,900 micro-fibres can wash off a single item in a domestic wash, ending up in waterways around the world.
Conventional laundry detergent generally contains toxic chemicals that end up in our waterways as well. Washing your clothes also wastes energy and generates a high amount of carbon emissions, especially if you’re washing with hot water and using a dryer.
Not to worry though, because there are lots of simple changes you can make to make your laundry routine more environmentally friendly and better for your clothes.
It can be tempting to wash your clothes after every wear, but that shortens the life of your garments, while also hurting the environment.
If you’re unsure of how often to wash your clothes, here’s a washing guide that can help:
Bras: After three to four wears.
Underwear: After every wear.
Socks and stockings: One to two wears.
Sportswear and swimwear: After every wear.
Jeans: Five to six wears.
Tops: One to two wears.
Dresses: One to two wears.
Leggings: One to two wears.
Pants, skirts, and shorts: Three to four wears.
Jackets and blazers: Five to six wears.
Coats: Once every two months of wear.
Sleepwear: Three to four wears.
You can also base your washing cycle off whether or not something smells or has a stain on it. Sometimes an item just needs to be spot cleaned or hung outside to get some fresh air.
Using Your Washing Machine
The most effortless switch you can make is choosing to wash your clothes at a colder temperature. 75% of the energy used in doing your laundry is used in heating the water. Washing your clothes in hot water also shrinks and fades your clothing.
There’s nothing worse than giving away your favourite pair of leggings because they’ve become two sizes two small in the wash!
Choosing a colder cycle also makes a huge difference on your carbon emissions. A study found that washing a load of laundry at 30°C and drying it on the line generates 0.6kg of carbon emissions, compared to the 3.3kg of carbon emissions generated from one load washed at 60°C and dried in a combined washer-dryer.
If you’re in the market for a new washing machine, research energy-efficient models as they’ll save you on energy and water usage. As an example, a front-loading machine uses up to 40% less water than a top-loading one.
When washing your clothes, we recommend turning your items inside out. This will keep the outside of your clothes from fading and losing colour, while targeting the dirt and sweat that has built up.
As you now know, heat is bad for the environment and your clothing, so definitely avoid using your dryer. Choose to hang your clothes out to dry, keeping them away from direct sunlight.
Remember those tiny micro-fibres that we mentioned before? The Guppyfriend Washing Bag is a mesh bag that filters and collects the tiny fibres that are released when you wash your clothes.
In addition to stopping micro-fibres from entering our waterways, the bag also reduces the number of fibres that break off of your clothing. An average of 86% fewer fibres break off of synthetic textiles when using a Guppyfriend Washing Bag, making your garments last longer.
It can also help to wash delicate items like your sports bras and swimwear in separate mesh bags so they don’t tear or lose their shape when washed with larger items. You can also give them a gentle hand wash to avoid the washing machine altogether!
To keep plastic out of your laundry routine, we also recommend using stainless steel or wooden pegs when hanging your clothes. Wooden coat hangers are also a great option, as they retain the shape of your clothing better than plastic or metal alternatives.
Traditional laundry detergent is full of toxic chemicals that are bad for the environment and your health. A lot of the products on the market contain ingredients like chlorine bleach, synthetic fragrance, dyes, and optical brighteners.
The most convenient swap is to choose a plant-based, natural alternative from your supermarket that usually comes in a cardboard box instead of a plastic container.
If you’ve got some more time, and have a bulk store near you, you can take in your own containers and refill your detergent. The Source Bulk Foods stock lemon myrtle laundry liquid, lavender laundry liquid, and a eucalyptus laundry powder. All of their products are plant-based and contain far fewer ingredients than traditional products, with names that you can recognise.
There are also hundreds of DIY laundry recipes online, like this one made from water, baking soda, salt, castile soap, and essential oil.
When dealing with especially dirty or smelly items (like the activewear that you had a killer workout in) it can also help to soak your clothing in a mixture of cold water and white vinegar for 15 to 30 minutes before washing.
Here at Movemetica, we want you to dress in clothes that you feel great in and are excited to take care of! Browse our range of products to find ethical and sustainable pieces that you’ll wear non-stop.
- About the author -
"Amber is a writer who is passionate about leading a more sustainable life and helping others to do the same. She loves reading, watching movies, and travelling. On the weekend you’ll find her checking out the latest vegan restaurants and cafes."