Written by Hanna Cody
Responsibly caring for clothing is an often underestimated, yet essential part of keeping fashion sustainable. While individual consumers control little of the garment-making process, we can make a difference in how we care for the items - new, secondhand, or others - already in our closet. Sustainable laundering practices are important both because they directly mitigate some of the immediate environmental impacts resulting from laundering itself and can also help extend a garments’ useful life, thus reducing each item’s footprint long-term.
Avoiding over-washing is the first step in any sustainable laundering routine. Considering that approximately 23% of a garments’ water consumption is accrued as a result of laundering, minimizing the number of times that a garment is washed can make a substantial difference. Wearing a pair of jeans ten times before washing, for example, is estimated to lower its associated water usage by approximately 77%.
Energy and downstream pollution can also be mitigated through smart, sustainable clothing care choices. Hang drying, handwashing, or opting for cold water and shorter wash cycles all cut down on overall energy consumption and carbon emissions. Using reusable dryer balls limits waste when machine drying is needed.
Even the most passionate eco-friendly advocate may have an item made from petroleum-based fibers like polyester or Spandex. When washed, materials like these produce plastic microfibers which often maneuver their way through washing machine filters and into natural waterways and food chains. Solutions like the Guppyfriend bag, Cora ball, or microfiber filter prevent this by capturing fibers before they have a chance to make it out of your home and into the environment.
While many sustainable laundering benefits are immediate, these switches have the added benefit of reducing textile waste by helping clothes last longer. As organizations like Wrap attest, adding just nine months to a garment’s useful life can make a big difference for the planet and your wallet.
Hanna Cody is a New York-based sustainable fashion enthusiast, writer, and founder of the blog, The Mindful Argonaut.