Sustain your wardrobe and the environment with these helpful care tips

Often without realizing it, many of us have poured countless hours into choosing clothes that best represent who we are, our style and our values. Sure, we might have made some impulse purchases, had regrets, or returned items that seemed like a good idea at the time (I just can’t pull off a fedora, ok?).

But for the most part, our wardrobe is a capsule of decisions made and lessons learned about what looks and feels good on our skin and what best suits who we are as individuals. 

Time spent caring for our garments means less time and money spent on replacing worn-out or damaged articles of clothing. Items that are well cared for simultaneously benefit the planet, too, since washing and drying clothes puts strain on natural resources, expends energy and can release harmful chemicals into the environment. 

So, let’s dive in and see where we have room for improvement. 

  1. READ THE LABELS

You know that scratchy thing at your waist or neck that you want to remove the minute you try on a new top? Remember to read that tag before discarding it, as it contains manufacturer instructions on how to best clean your garment to prolong its life. Important information can be found on these tags such as :

  • Wash cold
  • Wash by hand 
  • Line dry
  • Don’t iron 
  • Turn inside out

Although a garment might seem robust, over time, you might notice the quality, shape, and texture deteriorate if you don’t follow care directions with each wash. Before you purchase an item, check to see if it is dry clean only. Not only will this demand more of your time and resources, but dry cleaning can also be environmentally toxic. Determine whether hand washing might be a good alternative or if you should opt for a different garment altogether. 

 

  1. WASH LESS

Many fibers and garments simply don’t need to be washed after one wear. For instance, a wool sweater worn on top of a cotton t-shirt doesn’t need a daily wash. Thick denim doesn’t require daily washing either (Levi’s CEO famously stated he washes his jeans seldomly and only while wearing them in the shower!). Admittedly, your undies should be cleaned after one wear, but try to accumulate a larger load of laundry before running a cycle. 

 

Washing can be very energy-intensive, particularly if you are using hot water. When you need to do laundry, opt for cold water and select eco cycle if it’s an option. 

 

By washing less, everyone wins. You will save time while folding less laundry, money on using less soap, and buying fewer items to replace those that wore out. The environment wins too since machines do not spend unnecessary energy, and fewer harmful chemicals are released. 

 

  1. PLASTIC PARTICLES

Products made from synthetic fibers, like polyester, will leach microplastics throughout the wash cycle, which end up in waterways or septic tanks and can be virtually impossible to trap through traditional straining methods. Washing these items less often means fewer microplastics are released and helps your garments last a little longer. For synthetic items that might need more frequent washing, like your running attire, consider using a guppy bag, which have been said to trap up to 90% of those harmful microplastics. 

 

  1. LINE DRY

Research suggests that avoiding the dryer altogether will prolong garment life. Using a drying rack to air dry your clothes is also a cheap and effective way to avoid wasting energy. If you live in an area where line drying is possible, you will also benefit from a fresh outdoor scent. Additionally, the sun offers a natural disinfectant via UV rays, which can even get at some germs your washer couldn’t. 

 

  1. RETHINK YOUR DETERGENT 

It’s understandable to be puzzled by all the detergent options on the market. There are always new options that claim to be eco-friendly, so it’s a matter of researching and trying a few out to determine which ones best suit your needs and lifestyle. The Suzuki Foundation offers suggestions on how to shop for detergents and instructions on how to make your own. 

If you are going for a more traditional detergent, opt for a concentrated, environmentally friendly option that reduces plastic use. Better yet, find a refilling station that carries a brand you like! There are also a variety of laundry strips on the market, like Eco Living Club, that eliminate the need for large plastic tubs or laundry tabs from The Unscented Company. 

Often just as effective as their less eco-friendly counterparts, many brands that produce non-toxic laundry detergents will expose you, your clothes, and the environment to fewer irritants and chemicals. 

Proactively caring for our clothes means we are mindful of what we already have and end up needing less over time. There is something really joyful about respecting the garments that become so entrenched in our daily lives, and it becomes one way of protecting our little corner of the planet.