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How to Clean Your Clothes Sustainably

Posted: Sep 30 2019

how to wash your clothes sustainably

For the past month, we've been diving into the best, most sustainable, simple, and cost effective ways to clean your clothes as part of our #WardrobeAdviceWednesday posts on Instagram. Here are all of our laundry tips in one place.

And if you want to see our #WardrobeAdviceWednesday posts every week, make sure to follow us here.

How to Clean your Clothes Sustainably

Wash less

The majority of a typical clothing item’s environmental impact comes not from how it’s made but rather from what happens to it after it’s purchased. Crazy, right? But that’s good news- it means it’s one of the things that is in your control!

Washing, drying, ironing, and dry cleaning all use up *a lot* of resources. A typical washer uses 41 gallons of water per load and a dryer accounts for an average of 6% of a home’s total energy use!

The less you mindlessly throw something in the laundry just because you wore it once, the smaller your environmental footprint can be. If something isn’t super smelly or stained, it probably doesn’t need to be washed yet.

The more wears you can get out of your clothes between cleaning and the fewer loads of laundry you do, the less energy and water you’ll consume, and your clothes will likely last longer, too! It’s a win/win.


Wash cold

Did you know that 75-90% of the energy your washer uses is spent on actually heating the water? That's a lot of energy, and guess what? You don't *need* to wash on hot to clean things! 

Cold water can actually be more effective at treating stains, not shrinking or fading your clothes, getting out wrinkles, and is better for delicates. 

Hot water is still best for anything you want to sanitize like bedding and towels, but cold is great for most loads! 


Trap microfibers

When you throw your clothes in the wash, especially synthetics, they shed thousands of tiny microfibers. This might not seem like a big deal because you can’t always even see them, but considering they’re often made of plastic and flow through to our soil and oceans, it’s far from ideal. 

You wouldn’t eat plastic, right? Well, you may be eating fish that eat these microplastics. That can’t be good! 

Besides washing your clothes less and doing fewer loads of laundry, another thing you can do is catch these microplastics in the wash before they can escape to be consumed by sea animals. 

There are two different products that you can use at home that are designed to combat this problem- the Cora Ball and the Guppyfriend. You can add the ball into your laundry, or in the case of the Guppyfriend, which is a mesh bag, you can wash your synthetics inside it. 


Use wool dryer balls

Wool dryer balls are just what they sound like. They're balls made of 100% wool, and you can throw them in your dryer with your wet clothes. 

They have quite a few benefits! They bounce around, separate wet fabric, and absorb moisture, so using a few of them in a load significantly reduces drying time. Less drying time equals less energy used (and a lower bill!) 

They also soften fabric, but unlike traditional fabric softeners, they won't coat your clothes in gross chemicals which aren't good for fabric or for you. 

They're all natural, sustainable, and should last at least a few years. They even help de-static your clothes and remove lint and pet hair. 

Just search for wool dryer balls on your preferred shopping platform and get started spending less time waiting for your clothes to dry!


Dry Clean less often

Dry cleaning is actually pretty gross. Most dry cleaners still use perc, a neurotoxin (!) with pretty scary health risks and environmental problems when handled incorrectly. There are some better chemical alternatives, but honestly they each have their own issues.

It’s probably not realistic for you to stop dry cleaning altogether, but the less you do, the better for your clothes, and maybe even your health.

So, to extend the time between dry cleaning, stock up on a good, natural stain remover, and when your garment just has a little bit of odor? Here’s what we recommend: spritz it with vodka!

Pour some vodka (any kind will do) in a spray bottle, and mist over the smelly bits. The alcohol will eliminate the odor. If you’re feeling fancy, drop in your favorite essential oils, too!

Now you're equipped with five ways to reduce your impact and make your clothes last longer. Happy cleaning!

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