5 Ways to Take Care of Your Clothes & the Planet

Use less energy and make your clothes last longer with these 5 tips.

5 Ways to Take Care of Your Clothes
September 18, 2018 Sarah Culler

Global clothing production is at an all-time high, with nearly 150 billion garments coming out of factories every year. This rate has more than doubled since 2000. This increase in production has a huge impact on our environment, but did you know that the way we care for our clothes can have as much impact on the environment as the actual production of them? A crucial part of the Fashion Revolution is combatting the desire instilled in us by the fast fashion industry to wear things a few times, or even just once, and then move on to the new hot thing. This mentality must be reversed back to a time when clothing lasted decades because it was made well and cared for properly.

carbon footprint of clothing

According to a recent collaboration with the Fashion Revolution, Not Just A Label, and AEG (a UK appliance company), the average household does as many as 3.2 loads of laundry a week. Aftercare has a huge impact on how long our clothes last and on the environment, but many people are (rightly) confused by all the crazy symbols on their clothing tags or they simply ignore them.

It’s time to change the way we care for our clothes. If we’re going to love our clothes, and the people who made them, we’re going to have to take better care of them!

Here are 5 tips to help you take better care of the clothes you love!

1) Don’t Overwash

90% of all clothing is discarded far earlier than needed, often due to lack of care that causes fading, shrinkage, or misshaping. The Fashion Revolution wants you to know that it’s okay to not wash your clothes after every use! If you’re saying this is crazy, just think about the fact that most of our washing habits are inherited from our parents, and while the technology of washing machines and dryers has dramatically changed, the care labels on our clothes, and our washing-habits have not. Over-washing and drying causes extra wear and tear on your clothes so next time you head to the laundry, try to decide if each garment really needs that wash. Maybe you can just spot-clean that little stain on your favorite pair of jeans, or give that comfy sweater a good airing out after it’s acquired the smell of your favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant!

 

2) Wash at a lower temperature.

As much as 60% of the washing energy can be saved by washing at a lower temperature. Many clothing tags advise us to clean our clothes at a higher temperature than is needed. If a garment says to wash on hot (50° C) or warm (40° C), that is typically the highest safe level for that particular fabric. With modern washing machines, you can easily get your laundry clean on cool or even cold. You can experiment with the temperature yourself! If you’ve been washing on warm this whole time, give cool or cold a try and see if your clothes seem as clean. Washing on a lower temperature also causes less strain on the fabric, making your clothes last longer!

wash your clothes on cool

3) Use Dryer Balls!

If you haven’t tried using felt dryer balls in your dryer yet, you’re in for a game-changer! Pop at least two into each load and they’ll keep your clothes from getting stuck together which means they’ll dry more than 25% faster. They last for thousands of washes – compare that to the one-and-done use of dryer sheets! If you like a little fragrance in your freshly dried clothes, you can add a few drops of essential oils, like lavender, citrus, or cedar. Pro tip: to help with static control, slide a safety pin onto each ball to help ground the electricity!

felt dryer balls in use

4) Fold ’em, don’t hang ’em

It’s best to fold your t-shirts and knits. Don’t cram too many in a drawer or shelf, give them some room to breathe so they are less likely to wrinkle and crease. Hanging your t-shirts can give them hanger marks at the shoulders and it stretches them – t-shirts can grow an inch just from gravity’s effect on the cotton! If you’re going to hang clothing, invest in some quality wooden hangers that fit your clothes. The hangers should be no wider than the shoulder-width of your garment or they will cause some stretching.

fold your clothes

5) Avoid Dry Cleaning

Dry clean your clothes only if you have to. Dry cleaning involves chemicals that are bad for fabrics, the environment, and your skin. Many garments that say “Dry Clean Only” (like silk blouses and wool coats) can actually be washed in modern at-home machines, simply avoid hot temperatures and vigorous drying cycles – use the delicate cycle and line dry for extra sensitive pieces. If an item has very delicate materials, such as cashmere, sequins, or beading, you may still need to dry-clean. In this case be sure to look for a local dry cleaners that is more eco-friendly and doesn’t use harsh chemicals.

Same thing goes for garments that say “Hand Wash Only.” Use your best judgement, and often you can wash things on gentle, cool cycles.

**Have any tips that we missed? Let us know in the comments!


Sources:

https://www.notjustalabel.com/editorial/what-care-label-project-and-why-you-should-care/

https://www.nytimes.com/guides/tmagazine/how-to-take-care-of-your-clothes/

https://www.fashionrevolution.org/dont-overwash-its-time-to-change-the-way-we-care/

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