Looking after your clothes is a crucial element of living a more sustainable lifestyle. The better you look after the clothes, the longer they last and the less waste is created. The more you expand the lifetime of your purchases, the cost-per-wear increases and this isn’t just monetary. In terms of waste, this means the resources used to make the garment go further. Plus, you end up buying less overall. It’s a win-win situation. Taking care of your clothes so they go the distance involves commitment and know-how. Here’s the lowdown.
Skip the tumble dryer
Tumble drying is a huge waste of resources. Annually you could save nearly half a tonne of CO2 emissions for a household that runs a dryer approximately 200 times just by making a switch to other methods of drying your clothes. Secondly, it’s not good for your clothes. “It degrades materials quicker as it breaks down the fibers in the fabric,” Simon Turner, Marketing Director at clothes2orde, explained. This is why clothes often shrink in the drier. “Instead, let your clothes air dry on a rack or on the line, or pop them in the airing cupboard if you have one,” Turner added.
Not all drying is made equal
Now you’ve given up the dryer, it’s important to also get air drying right. “For light clothing, air drying in direct sunlight will help naturally bleach the garments, keeping your whites white. Conversely, dry coloured clothing out of direct sunlight to avoid color fading — dry garments inside out to help preserve colour too,” Clothes Doctor founder Lulu O’Connor suggested. Knitwear needs to be dried flat. “This ensures they don’t stretch and warp when the fibers are wet,” O’Connor confirmed.
Wash your clothes inside out
Unless there are specific stains on the outside you’re trying to tackle, washing clothes inside out is much more efficient. “Washing clothes inside out tackles where most of the dirt and oils are — the part of the clothes that touch your skin. Also, washing inside out will help avoid colour fading on the outside of the garment,” O’Connor pointed out.
Store your clothes with care
Workwear demands the most attention. “Always use proper shirt hangers and correct skirt hangers to maintain their right shape,” Turner said. “On the flip side, casual wear like cotton t-shirts are best served being folded to prevent distortion. The best tip with folding clothes is to follow the seams of the garment to prevent misshaping,” he added.
Invest in durable fabrics
Choose durable materials as these will keep their shape for the longest and prevent telltale signs of wearing like thinning. “If a material is see-through when you put it on, it’s unlikely to last you for many years so investing in higher quality fabrics will serve you in the long run,” Turner said.
Choose low temperatures
Most clothes can be washed at 30 degrees. Not only does this ensure they are not damaged in any way, but it also uses less energy. This is a double win for the planet.
Get good at handwashing
Hand washing is more gentle than machine washing, so your garments will last longer. Lots of delicate items are best off hand-washed. “Many of your garments that say ‘dry clean only’ can actually be hand-washed with a little care,” O’Connor pointed out. See also: items with embellishments like sequins or beads, materials like silk, delicate underwear and swimwear.
Sort those stains
Soaking stains in water as soon as you notice them is the best way to pre-treat them. “Don’t let stains dry onto clothing (except mud stains, which you’ll want to let dry and brush away) or the stain will set. We recommend soaking the affected area in warm water (remember to check the care label for the correct temperature) mixed with stain removal,” O’Connor suggested.
Ironing versus steaming
You will want both in your cleaning arsenal as they serve different purposes. “Steaming is a more gentle way to refresh and decrease clothing and better for light fabrics like cotton. Heavier fabrics like canvas and linen need to be ironed to fully eliminate creases,” O’Connor explained.
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