Doing laundry - the mundane task we’ve been doing our entire life - why bother talking about it? In this age of growing concern for our environment we thought we’d talk about the good practices that will help you prolong the life of your garments. Buying from a sustainable source in the beginning is good but caring for it such that it lasts is however a much greater way to contribute to reducing waste than one might appreciate. We hope the below tips will provide some helpful guidance so you could wear your garments you love for many years to come.
General Good Practices
1) Wash with similar colours
This couldn’t have been more obvious. It’s easy for us to neglect this with our modern-day busy lifestyle, but washing your plain white shirts with other colours will give it a slight tint of yellowness even though the colours don’t necessarily bleed in the washing cycle. Compromise is key here, even separating your wash into lights and darks can be an act of self-care. For the most part, striped clothing is flexible, but for the first few washes, try and stick it in the darks-wash, particularly for reds that are prone to run.
Air drying is always the best option for us. It will save you money on electricity bills, keep your clothes from shrinking and most importantly, prolong the texture of your clothes’ material. For wool and knitted items, air dry them flat on a drying rack so the water weight of your wet clothes won’t pull the interconnected knitting loops out of shape. If you are using a dryer, try and separate the loads by texture and fabric so that they will dry at a similar rate. And make sure your dryer isn’t overloaded so it can perform more efficiently.
3) Pretreat your stains
If you want your clothes to come out stain-free, pretreatment is key. There are natural alternatives too to remove the stains. For example, with greasy stain, a vegan soap stick or oil-based soap will help. For acidic stains, like fruit juice or red wine, add some more acid, white vinegar can work miracles. Or try sodium percarbonate, which is an oxygen brightener. For eco-friendly solution that is good for both your skin and the environment, try those earth friendly detergents on the market, which normally don’t add optical brighteners or fragrances and it has worked pretty well for us.
4) Hand wash selectively
The label might say hand wash only, but a mesh bag works great even for delicates. Just make sure you wash on a gentle cycle in cold water. And if you do need to hand wash, remember to let the water do the work for you, pre-soaking your clothes can help tame the most stubborn stain so hand washing doesn’t have to feel like a workout for you.
Dry Cleaning - Do you really need to dry clean everything?
If the washing label says so, comply! We once made a mistake thinking a gentle cycle with a washing net will do just fine - and that nice expensive dress has been sitting in the wardrobe ever since. However if your garments don’t come with a washing label, you can follow this guide below:
- Silk - Natural, delicate and expensive. If you want your pieces to keep that soft lustre, then dry cleaning is the optimum way to protect them.
- Linen - This luxury material used to wrap pharaohs millenia ago definitely needs extra care, especially the embellished ones. Dry cleaning will help to prolong the natural sheen on the material. Embellished linen needs dry cleaning. Linen is prone to crease too, so dry cleaning will definitely save you time and emotional energy to let professionals press it.
- Rayon - This material prone to shrinking is not something to be attempted at home. The dyes may bleed and the garment might lose its shape & become misaligned.
- Wool - If the label says so, dry clean it. Wool is another material prone to shrinking if washed the wrong way.
- Lined Items - For fully lined items, it’s easy for the outer shell to separate from its lining in the wash sometimes, making it misshaped. So dry cleaning is still your best bet as they could professionally press back both layers together.
- Leather - Minimal stains & spots can be easily cleaned at home. But if you want to avoid cracking & damages, best to take it to the professionals.
Cotton, Synthetics (polyester, nylon, and spandex), Denim
These textiles are easy to wash at home. When in doubt, wash on a low heat & gentle cycle to avoid shrinking, misshaping, & fading.
Alternative to Dry Cleaning - Wet Cleaning
Dry cleaning is basically a cleaning process using chemical solvents that contains little to no water. These solvents can be toxic and dry cleaning machine filters are actually classified as hazardous waste. There are concerns of the chemicals staying on your clothes and are being absorbed into your skin too.
Fortunately, there is an eco-friendly alternative - Wet Cleaning. It uses computer-controlled wet cleaning machines, special dryers, safe detergents and non-toxic spot removers to do its job. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) considers this the most sustainable professional garment cleaning method. This method can be used on all types of textiles, including goose down jackets, fine silk dresses, cashmere sweaters & etc.
1) Read the labels
The key to a greener environment is choosing the right detergent. Don’t easily trust products marketed as ‘green’, there is often very little legislation around using such words. Instead, check the ingredients and packings yourselves. Educate yourself on which ingredient isn’t harmful and doesn’t pollute the earth as much during production. Here is a short read from Natural Living Family to guide you.
2) Packaging Choices
Although powdered detergents with their cardboard packaging might seem environmentally friendly, they tend to release more microplastics than the other varieties. Look for FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification on the cardboard packaging, companies who are true to their core values will go all out with their practices down to their packagings. Liquid detergents are heavy to ship so go for concentrated formula available and follow the recommended dosage. For plastic bottles, refill at a bulk store if it’s available in your location.
3) Wash on Cold
It’s estimated that 75-90% of the energy used for a wash goes into heating the water. With new detergents designed to work at lower heats, washing cold it’s easier than ever. It also reduces wrinkling, saving additional energy costs for ironing. Washing cold helps reduce microfibers too as textiles break down more easily above 30 ℃. It also helps with stains - blood and sweat for example, can set into the fabric if you use hot water.
4) Avoid Microfibres
Microfibres are caused when we wash synthetic petroleum-based fabrics, like polyester or rayon. These textiles break down into plastic fibres too tiny to be caught by our washing machines or treatment plants, so they make their way into our water system. The Chief Scientist for The Ocean Conservancy estimates that there are 1.4 million trillion microfibers already in our water, and it’s growing fast. This is a big issue, because the fibres act like sponges, soaking up pesticides and industrial chemicals, ending up being eaten by fish, and ultimately by humans. We are very split with this issue as part of our materials are sourced from deadstock which comes in any type of fiber mix. There isn’t one definite solution to this global issue, taking care of our waste is just as important as avoiding making waste in the beginning. Good thing is there are solutions to battle this:
Wear only natural fibres! Fortunately we also use mostly natural fibers like pineapple, lemongrass & etc in our collection. Choosing a completely natural fabric, is the best way to avoid microplastics. When these totally natural-fibre products are washed, the fibres they lose are biodegradable.
There are numerous options to capture those microplastics, such as PlanetCare filter which attaches a nanomembrane to your existing washing machine; or Cora Ball, a ball that collects the fibres; or use the Guppy bag, a laundry bag that captures microplastics from your wash.
5) Bleaching isn’t entirely bad
Bleach sounds scary, but household bleach is actually just a solution of sodium hypochlorite, so it mostly breaks down into salt and water before leaving your plumbing. Thus you shouldn’t feel guilty using it sparingly. But still try to avoid detergents with built-in bleach because they contain activators and stabilizers alongside the bleach, which prevent it from breaking down in the water. Over bleaching your white garments made from natural fibre will however turn it yellow.
There you have it, all the need-to-knows for your next washing to prolong the lifetime of your garments and the planet. It doesn’t have to be arduous, every little action, from seeking out your local wet cleaners, to double checking the ingredients of your detergent, can help protect your precious clothes and the planet.