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Four ways to care for your clothes sustainably

Four ways to care for your clothes sustainably

Unless you’ve been avoiding the news for the past few years (and we wouldn’t blame you), you’ll probably notice a growing effort to make changes that help protect the environment. And your wardrobe is a great place to start. Don’t worry – we’re not going to come at you with climate change fear tactics to force you into wearing the same t-shirt for the next decade. But, if you’re trying new ways to live more sustainably, why not start by taking better care of your clothes? It’s an easy way we can all do our part for the environment, and it benefits your clothes too. 

For many of us, being more sustainable begins with cutting down on what we’re buying, and whilst reducing our environmental footprint by demanding fewer belongings is a good place to start, it’s not realistic in the long run if you don’t properly look after the things you already own. Caring for your clothes takes a lot of energy, water, and not-so-good-for-the-planet products, but this is about more than just eco washing powders. Follow these four simple tips to help you take better care of your clothes, and ultimately the planet.

Method 1: Treat your clothing well 

This will guarantee a longer lifespan for your pieces, meaning not only will you get more enjoyment out of them, but you’ll be sending fewer old, worn out pieces to landfill. So where to start?  

Hang up your clothes in a place where they’ll get fresh air circulation that allows the fabrics to breathe. We’ve all taken what we thought was a clean shirt from the wardrobe only to find it smells of must and moth balls. Storing your clothing strategically also helps to prevent your clothes from taking in bad smells, and reduces how often they’ll need to be washed (another small win for the environment).

Take note of any clothing tags that give specific instructions regarding the general care and storage of your items to extend their shelf life, and streamline your seasonal storage so that your favourite winter knits remain unscathed through the summer months. Chucking them into an old cardboard box leaves them open to insects, dust, and odours. Instead find a space that’s clean, cool, dark and dry.

Method 2: Take care when washing

We all know the basics: we should be washing our clothes at cooler temperatures; using eco-friendly products and shorter wash cycles; air drying instead of using the tumble dryer. Not only do shorter, cooler cycles use less energy, but they’re better for your clothes as they put the fabric under less strain. Similarly, eco laundry products are likely to contain fewer chemicals, which won’t degrade the fabric. Washing your clothes inside out is another easy protective measure, as the inside of the garment will take all the wear and tear from the machine cycle, preserving any detailing or colours on the outside. 

Research suggests that a more thoughtful laundry regime can help clothes last up to four times as long, which in turn could save the planet over 230kg of CO2. Consider how often you really need to wash each item of clothing. Jeans, for example, can last at least five wears before needing a wash, unless you’ve fallen in a puddle or had an unfortunate accident with a chocolate cake. In fact, denim legend, Levi Strauss, reckons you don’t need to wash them at all. He says freezing them will do the job, but we think that you probably should give them a wash now and then – just far less than you currently do.

Method 3: Learn to make repairs

Don't be quick to get rid of something just because it’s damaged. Home repairs can be as simple as learning to darn a sock or patch up old shirts and trousers, or as innovative as taking on the Japanese “sashiko” (little stabs) stitching method, which reinforces worn out or torn garments with patches to make them stronger and warmer. Another easy fix for old clothes is an electric depiller that removes bobbles, and getting certain fabrics treated for water-resistance and safeguarding against stains. 

If home fixes aren’t for you, then get to know your local tailor, and invest in brands that offer repair services like Nudie Jeans, which offers lifetime repairs and recycle old jeans you no longer want.

Method 4: Try to avoid dry cleaning

Whilst there’s been an increase in ‘eco’ dry cleaners popping up in major cities, most are still using trusty old perchloroethylene (also known as perc). This chemical is bad for both humans and the environment, and whilst innovative new eco cleaners are leaning on water and CO2 as their main solvent, they’re still not as environmentally friendly as you, steaming or spot cleaning your own stains with a soft brush or lint roller. 

Investing in a travel-sized steamer comes with the multiple benefits of decreasing, deodourising, and lightly cleaning items that you might otherwise send to the nearest cleaner without a second thought for the planet – it’s bound to save you money, too. And when the time comes that your suit really does need a dry clean, don’t be afraid you ask your local green cleaner what chemicals they’re using, just to be sure.


Words: Ella White
Illustration: Haley Tippmann