We all know that the fashion industry is a major contributor to environmental issues like air and water pollution, but did you know that almost 25% of the environmental impact of your clothes actually originates from the wear and tear in your own home? In other words, how you wash and care for your garments is super important if you care about the environment and minimising your impact. Many of you might not know this, but I’ve worked in the fashion industry for more than ten years. One of my recent roles was as a Product Quality Specialist, so I know a thing or two about textiles and how to properly care for different materials. So, today I would like to share with you my top tips on how to do your laundry in a more sustainable way that is beneficial for both the environment and your clothes.
- DON’T OVER DO IT
Okay so the first tip might be a bit counterproductive, since it is to not wash your clothes unless they actually need washing. You will be amazed at how well an old fashioned airing works. This works especially well for natural materials, like wool for example. Oh well, once you really do need to wash that sweater, make sure to wait until you can fill up an entire machine. I sort my laundry in three different bins, 30°C, 40°C and 60°C, and I only start the washer once I am able to fill an entire machine in one of these categories.
- USE THE RIGHT TEMPERATURE
My second advice is to wash in colder temperatures as much as you possibly can, since the heating of the water consumes a massive amount of energy and is one of the largest contributors to the environmental effect of washing machines. The exception here is underwear, socks, bed linen and towels that need to be washed in 60°C to kill all bacteria. However, it’s also important to note that it’s better to wash once in 40°C than to wash more often in 30°C because your clothes doesn’t get 100% clean. In other words, make sure to adapt the temperature based on how dirty your clothes are! A combination of stain removal before wash, and a lower wash temperature is often a great combination!
- CHOOSE THE RIGHT DETERGENT
Choose a detergent that is kind to the environment and to your clothes. Powder detergent is harsh on the textile fibers and can cause excessive colour fading after some time. In other words, fluid detergent is the best alternative since it makes your clothes last longer. Make sure to pick one that is natural, without heavy perfumes, and preferably certified by organisations like Ecolabel or Svanen. You can also use alternatives to normal detergent, for example soap nuts!
- LOOSE THE FABRIC SOFTENER
Fabric softener is used to add perfume, softness, and prevent static electricity in your textiles. But did you know most fabric softeners are packed with chemicals that are extremely harmful to the environment? Since the softener is applied at the end of the wash cycle, the chemicals are left in your clothes and can cause allergies as well as hormonal changes. Not that nice, right? Fabric softener is especially bad if you have smaller kids whose skin is a lot more sensitive than an adults. Fabric softener isn’t that great for your textiles either. For example, towels will loose their ability to absorb water, and your workout clothes won’t be air wicking anymore. One great alternative to fabric softener is white vinegar.
- AVOID THE TUMBLE DRYER
Tumble drying is perfect for towels and bed linen, but avoid tumble drying your clothes as far as possible. Not only does it consume massive amounts of energy compared to line drying, it also wears the textile fibers down causing unnecessary wear and tear for your clothes. In other words – your clothes will last longer if you let them line dry instead of tumbling them. I have a tumble dryer myself but I solely use it for bed linen and towels, that’s it!
- STOP THE MICRO PLASTICS
Every time you wash garments made from synthetic materials like acrylic and polyester, small micro plastic particles are released into the water and hence into our oceans. Micro plastics are extremely harmful to the environment and to the animals in our oceans. The first thing you can do to minimise your emission of micro plastics is of course to buy clothes made from natural materials like cotton and linen instead of synthetic materials. But since most of us already own garments made from synthetic materials, another alternative is to prevent the micro plastics from entering our waters. One way of doing this is using a washing bag, like this one from Guppyfriend. It reduces fiber shedding and protects your clothes while at the same time catching all of the micro plastics that are released during washing. Genius!