We’ve already talked about becoming a more ethical dresser and shared with you some of the most mind-blowing statistics about fashion and the environment, but we’ve yet to talk about keeping your clothes looking their best. If you look after them, they’ll last for years. Below, we’ve put together some top tips on how to clean your clothes without damaging the environment.
Wear it again and again
We know what you’re thinking: I’d never want to wear the same t-shirt three days in a row. And that makes sense; there are some items of clothing, like t-shirts, pants and socks, that should be changed every day for hygiene reasons. But you can still cut back on your laundry loads by just doing less of it, and wearing items more than once before they’re thrown in the laundry basket.
According to The United Nations Environment Programme, you can use as much as five times less energy by wearing jeans for three days or more, washing them in cold water, and drying them naturally rather than using a tumble drier and an iron. And denim giant Levi’s agrees: they suggest washing your jeans every two weeks, rather than every day or once a week.
But jeans aren’t the only things that you can wear more than once before they need a wash. You can get away with washing hoodies, jackets and overcoats once a month, and you can wear the same jumper a couple of times, provided you had a vest or t-shirt underneath. Make these smart laundry-saving decisions, and you’ll be helping the environment as well as your back pocket.
Wash your clothes by hand
Go back to the olden days and give your clothes some tender loving care. Rather than putting on the washing machine, consider buying a laundry plunger and doing a load of washing in your bathtub or sink. Or if you want to be even more energy-efficient and kill two birds with one stone, you could bring your dirty clothes with you in the shower, add in some soap and clean them as you wash. Washing by hand can be good fun and will make you think twice about washing certain items that could be worn a couple more times before they need to be cleaned.
Find eco-friendly detergent
If you really do have to use a washing machine, then look out for eco-friendly detergents and softeners. Most detergents include ingredients that are bad for your skin, your clothes and the environment. Phosphates, for example, can lead to algal blooms and damage ecosystems and marine life, but they have now been banned in detergents in the United Kingdom and Europe.
Look out for biodegradable detergents made from plant or vegetable-based ingredients. This way, you’ll be washing your clothes in detergents that are better for the environment and better for your skin, too. Other green alternatives to everyday detergents include tree seeds, which can be composted after they’ve been used, and white vinegar, which will naturally balance the pH level of your soap and leave your clothes soft - an alternative to harmful fabric softeners.
Make your own laundry detergent
Rather than relying on store-bought laundry detergents, that are often packed with ingredients you've never heard of, make your own at home. Start by grating a bar of soap with a grater, and then put it in a pan with two litres of water and heat gradually, stirring until the soup is dissolved. Then, put 17 litres of hot water into a bucket, and add in your soap mixture, stirring well. Leave the mixture to settle overnight, and shake and stir the next day, before pouring the mixture into containers for future use. Then, use one cup per load - this mix will last hundreds of washes!
Depend on the great outdoors
The average drying-machine cycle uses just over 4 kWh of energy and produces around 1.8kg CO2, so skipping the process altogether can make a big difference to your carbon footprint. One of the best ways to dry your clothes, at least in the dry summer months, is to hang them outside on a washing line. Alternatively, you could buy indoor clothes hangers, or hand-dry your clothes the good old-fashioned way. And don’t think your hard work will have no payoff - on top of reducing your environmental impact, line-dried clothes will last longer than tumble-dried clothes.
Put away the iron
Ironing not only consumes energy from the plug socket and your brain, but it can deteriorate your fabric and cause clothes to shrink and lose their colour and elasticity. So, if you can avoid doing so, put away the iron and let your clothes dry and decrease on their own.
Rather than putting your washing in the tumble dryer and spending an hour or two slaving over an ironing board, hang up your garments when they’re finished in the washing machine. The water in your clothes will work with gravity, and pull out most of the creases and wrinkles.
If you’ve got clothes that simply won’t stay straight without an iron, don’t run the final spin cycle, as this will leave more water in the garments and give them more pull. You can then fold-dry on where you’d like creases to be, and put them under other clothes and items to help press them.
Have you experimented with any of these techniques? Let us know on Twitter @UltraTeeBrand.