THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SUSTAINABLE GARMENT CARE
Garment care seems pretty straight forward… wash, dry, fold, repeat, right?
Is it even possible to make the process eco-friendly?
By the time you’re done reading this post, the answer should be a resounding yes!
This post is split into three categories that cover all the basics of sustainable garment care.
You’ll learn how to care for your pieces as well as best practice tips that will save you time and money. Included is also a clothing label directory to help debunk some of the symbols on garment labels.
For convivence, you can click on a particular section you’re interested in below.
Tips for Sustainably Cleaning Your Clothes
1. Don’t Over Wash
While it may be tempting to throw your sweater into the washing machine every time you wear it, doing so (depending on the material) will shed microfibers that end up polluting waterways.
Beyond that, over washing can cause colour to fade and is a sure-fire way to decrease the lifespan of your clothing.
Wash your garments only when they a truly dirty.
If your t-shirt has a stain on it, spot clean it with a gentle detergent (more on that below).
2. Only Use the Washing Machine For Full Loads
Did you know that washing clothes in the washing machine when it is less than full causes friction between garments?
Why does this matter?
Well for one thing, it encourages the shedding of microfibers.
Just like over washing, friction can dull the fibers of your garments causing them to unnecessarily wear out faster.
The solution: only use the washing machine for full loads.
A bonus is that by limiting the number of loads you do, you’re saving on time and money
3. Get Picky with Your Detergents
Look for eco-friendly detergents that are free from phthalates and phosphates and are also biodegradable.
Powder versus liquid?
Whatever you prefer- powder or liquid- is fine, there’s really no difference in terms of effectiveness. Just keep in mind liquid is good for addressing liquid based stains like oil, while powder works best for solid stains like mud.
4. Temperature Matters
While it is common believed that hot water helps clean clothing better, cold water, in actuality is just as effective.
Anytime you put a load in the washing machine, wash it on cold! (unless instructions on the garment label say otherwise, of course)
Not only is washing with cold water better for the environment, it also has the added benefit of saving you money on your water bill.
5. Turn Your Clothes Inside Out Before Washing
You might be wondering, why does this matter?
Remember the whole friction thing mentioned earlier?
One of the best ways of protecting your garments from the effects of friction is by turning your clothes inside out.
In this way, the inside of your clothes gets the brunt of the color fading effects of friction while the outside stays intact.
6. Prevent the Shedding of Microfibres
While microfibers shed from your clothes regardless of how few loads you do, one way to help prevent them from ending up in our waterways, is to put your clothing in bags such as Guppyfriend which collect the mircofibers.
7. Air Dry, Air Dry, Air Dry
80% of the emissions related to a garment purchase has to with garment care- specifically washing and drying.
By simply air drying your clothing instead of using a dryer, you’re helping to reduce this percentage drastically.
On a summer day, hang your clothes to dry on a clothesline outside.
On not so nice days, use an indoor clothes horse.
Either way, you’re reducing your emissions while once again, saving money on electricity.
Sounds like a win-win to me.
FYI: Be sure to consult the clothing label before hanging your clothes up to dry as pieces made from materials like wool, for example, need to flat dry.
If you must use the dryer, turn it to its lowest heat setting as the heat can cause garments to shrink and fade.
8. Steaming or Ironing?
From a longevity standpoint, consider investing in a steamer as opposed to an iron as it is more gentle on fabrics, thus extending the garment’s life.
9. Try Not to Dry Clean
Dry cleaning should be avoided where possible due to the chemicals used to treat the clothing which is not only bad for the environment, but wears on the garment itself.
Most items that are labeled ‘dry clean only’ can actually be hand-washed or washed on the gentle cycle with like items in your washing machine.
If an item absolutely needs to be dry cleaned, consider looking into eco-friendly dry cleaners that use non-toxic products.
10. Clothing Storage
Make sure your garments are stored in a cool dry place.
Also be mindful of the fabric composition when hanging your clothes in your closet.
Delicate cashmere or wool sweaters for example, are better folded on a shelf rather than hung on a hanger as hanging can cause the item to stretch.
For this same reason, do up any buttons or zippers your garments may have before hanging them. This not only helps keep their shape but also helps prevent other clothes around it from snagging.
For more clothing storage and organization tips check out the How to Shop Your Closet Master Guide.
How to Care for Specific Fabrics
To Wash: Wash by hand for spot treating (before putting into the washing machine) or put directly into washing machine with cold or lukewarm water
To Dry: Hang or lay flat to dry, also may put in dryer if garment is not 100% pure cotton on lowest setting (pure cotton will shrink when heated).
To Store: Hang on a hanger or fold flat on a shelf.
For Wrinkles: Use a steamer to remove wrinkles. To prevent wrinkles, shake wet garment before drying.
To Wash: Wash by hand with cold water. A silk garment may be put into the washing machine with other like items as long as they are not too delicate with cold water.
To Dry: Hang or lay flat to dry.
To Store: Hang on a hanger to prevent wrinkling.
For Wrinkles: Use a steamer to remove wrinkles.
Wool and Cashmere
To Wash: Wash by hand for spot treating with cold water or put directly into washing machine with cold water.
To Dry: Lay flat to dry.
To Store: Fold flat on a shelf.
For Wrinkles: Use a steamer to remove wrinkles. Use a fabric shaver to remove any pilling. Be sure to steam after using the fabric shaver.
Look at the label for fabric composition and follow the care instructions for the fabric that makes up the largest part of its composition.
For example, if a sweater is made up of mostly cotton with a few other textiles mixed in, follow the care directions above for cotton.
Clothing Care Guidelines
Below is an explanation of the symbols you pretended you knew but really had no idea what they meant.
Remember to always follow the care guidelines first before following the fabric care guide above.
That’s all for now!
Are there any sustainable garment care rules I haven’t mentioned that you abide by?
Let me know in the comments!