The best thing you can do for the environment when it comes to your clothes – is to keep them for as long as you can. I’m sharing how I make my clothes last and how I care for them. This includes washing them less, avoiding the dryer, and more!
Best practices to care for your clothes for sustainable style
- Reduce the number of washes- not only does this conserve water but it actually increases your garments’ lifecycle. Learn more about water consumption of washing machines here. I successfully used this technique for a number of garments (similar to what I recommend, below as an alternative to dry cleaning). Instead of washing, spray the garment(s) with water, spray any lightly stained areas or any potential odor areas with water and Honest Company’s stain remover or Biokleen Bac-Out stain and odor remover. I then let the garments hang out on my line overnight. What I realized after a few tries, is that the overnight aspect is key because it allows enough time for the garments to freshen with the outdoor air. A few hours in the sunlight doesn’t cut it. If you don’t have a line, put your drying rack outside. Also, for items you have worn for a workout or are heavily stained, you would likely want to wash them in a machine. Again, cold water and a gentle cycle is my go-to technique for helping the clothes last longer.
- Reduce or eliminate the use of the dryer! So back to the damaging aspect of heat, this leads me to drying. I don’t dry my clothes (or towels or sheets) ever. We live in AZ where humidity is almost always less than 50%. I have a line on my patio and two racks. Sometimes I take the racks outside. See my system: Not using a clothes dryer accomplishes many things. One is you will use less energy. Your dryers use energy, lots of it (see this chart), and is the most energy intensive appliance out of all household appliances. This is wasteful (extra GHG emissions) and expensive. The dryer and heat is bad for your clothes just like it is for your hair. Think about shrinking clothes, lint and damage from drying. I am sure you have experienced this before. A side benefit of drying them outside? Your clothes will smell so much fresher and better! The outside air serves as a natural air freshener. See related – why you may want to consider alternatives to products with fragrances and rethink your use of fabric softeners.
3. Reconsider dry cleaning…
I don’t generally buy clothes requiring dry cleaning. For those clothes with “dry clean” labels I don’t dry clean unless I absolutely have to. [*Side note here- I spent most of my professional career working on industrial sites that contaminated groundwater with the same chemical that is used to dry clean clothes (perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene) therefore, I am ardently opposed to this chemical; read more here and here.]
Alternative process for clothes that need dry cleaning:
- Spray garment with water, I used to use Honest Company’s air and fabric freshener (but they no longer make that product), and hang out to dry for most of the day or overnight. I am going to try to make my own fabric freshener with essential oils. You can google search to find your a recipe to make your own fabric freshener.
- For heavier sweaters or pants that need to be refreshed I use Dryel (however, I am moving away from this in favor of #1). Yes, I know this uses heat and my dryer, but for me it’s better than using a traditional dry cleaner and being exposed to those chemicals.
- I go to an organic dry cleaner. This is usually if there is an odor or stain I can’t remove using the first 2 methods. To learn more about why you should consider switching to an organic or eco-friendly dry cleaner, check out this article. Don’t forget to ask your dry cleaner which method they use.
- Also, another technique for sweaters (all fabrics – cotton, silk, wool, cashmere, etc). Hand wash the sweater in cold water with a small amount of a mild detergent. Let it soak and rinse the soap out; avoid wringing the garment as much as possible. Then remove the sweater and remove the excess water by rolling it in a towel. You can then air dry the garment.
Remember to treat your clothes as investments and care for them so they last!
Please note that I am not working with any of these companies and was not asked to endorse or mention any of the products in this post. All opinions here are my own.