Sophie Slater, founder of the slow fashion brand Birdsong London, wants to convince people to wash their clothes less. This idea may sound stinky to you, however, there are plenty of methods to keep clothes looking fresh and clean without throwing them in the wash. Slater suggests putting your clothes in the freezer or spraying them with vodka and water solution. “I often hang my dresses or blouses up in the shower to steam and air if they’ve been worn a few times,” she adds.
Why wash less?
The fashion industry already is a big CO2 generator, and clothing care, which consists mostly of washing, accounts for 25 percent of each garment’s carbon footprint. Ironically, constant washing deteriorates clothes more quickly, so avoiding the washer and drier is actually a better way to care for your clothes.
According to research from the charity Wrap, increasing the life of our clothing by nine months reduces the annual carbon, water, and waste footprint of clothing by 20 to 30 percent in the UK. In addition to Slater’s advice mentioned above, there are other ways you can limit your closet’s carbon footprint. For instance, consider lowering the water temperature to below 30C, which could save as much as 186 tons of carbon emissions. Also, try skipping one in six washes, and swapping every sixth dryer usage with open-air drying.
Consumers shouldn’t be the only ones changing their habits. It’s of the utmost importance that fashion brands supply better information to consumers on clothing care labels. There should be a collective shift in mindset that moves away from “efficiency,” which is often not the best for our planet.
There should be more clothes with natural fibers available to consumers, as that will also make the washing process less harmful to the environment. Every year, half a million tons of plastic microfibers are shed each year during the washing of synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester, and acrylic. Unfortunately, 35 percent of primary microplastics are released into the ocean through the washing process.
Another factor that should be considered is your chosen detergent. Look for laundry detergents made with biodegradable and plant-based ingredients, which aren’t just good for the planet, but are gentler on our skin.
Being mindful about how we care for our clothes is a great place to start changing our mindset and habits to lessen our individual impact on the environment. So, the next time you step out of your clothes, remind yourself that they aren’t necessarily dirty just because they’ve been worn.