Sustainable usage of clothes can start in many places, and it does not have to be in stores! It can start in your own home, whenever you take your clothes off in the evening. There you clearly have a choice: Should you throw it in the laundry basket, or should it go back in the closet?
Too often we throw our clothes to wash without considering whether it is actually dirty or needs to be washed. About 40% of the clothes’ overall environmental impact is thought to lie with the consumer, and here is washing by far the largest of the causes due to water consumption. And although there are some clothes that have to be washed every time you have used it, there are also many items that do not have to be washed every time.
Smell your clothes and take a proper look at it. The laundry basket should always be the last resort.
We have gathered some advice regarding washing of clothes, both general and specific types of clothes that save both water, soap, your time and potentially also saves you some money while living sustainable at the same time. Sounds too good to be true? Read on!
General rules for sustainable laundry
To increase the amount of time between every time you have to do laundry, it is a good tip to hang your clothes on a chair or a hanger near a window and let it get some fresh air. In particular clothing of natural materials really likes a good amount of fresh air!
Always wait with washing until you have a full machine worth of clothes. If you live alone and have very little clothing, it can of course be difficult, but one of the best tips is to wash a full load instead of a half. You save water, and it is equally a lot better for your clothes. Imagine 10 blouses thrown around in the drum and constantly hitting against metal edges compared to 20 blouses instead, and how often they hit the other fabric rather than metal. The cleanliness of the clothes will end up the same in both cases, but you take better care of the clothes in a full machine – and use less water. Win win!
The golden rule: Air rather than wash your clothes. Your clothes love fresh air! Don’t trust us? Trust the science behind.
Wool and knit: How often you should wash it
How often should you wash wool and knit? Never, or once per season.
Wool is self-cleaning due to its natural content of lanolin. It is a substance which naturally destroys bacteria and odor. Knit of 100% wool need, in principle, never to be washed because of this ability. However, if you have clothes of mixed wool, it could be necessary to wash it once per season.
Wool loves cold weather and fresh air. Make sure to hang your wool out during the night, or during the day on your balcony or in your garden. If you live in a cold place on earth, even better! Your wool will like a little but of wind and frost. Often, the odors disappear quite quickly, and the clothes will feel like new. If the odors do not disappear, put your clothes in a bag and throw it in the freezer overnight. It might sound weird, but it works!
Time to wash? Stain removal is also an option with your knit and wool clothes, but here you have to be careful not to destroy the wool under the stain. If it’s time for a wash, it is recommended to use the washing machine wool program and a special wool soap, preferably with added lanolin. Your knit should dry flat on a towel.
Cotton jeans and pure wool sweaters should never be put in the washing machine. You can wear it over and over again if you just air it!
Jeans: How often you should wash your denim
How often should you wash your jeans? Never, only when they are really dirty.
Jeans are made of cotton, which absorbs a lot of water when washing. At the same time you wash a little bit of color out every time your jeans come in the machine.
Jeans can easily be used 10 times or more before they are washed. Many think that skinny jeans should be washed once in a while to shrink a bit and be “skinny” again. But a pair of boyfriend jeans definitely do not need it.
The organic jeans brand Nudie Jeans recommend that you use their jeans for 6 months without washing them! Although it may be a little extreme for most people, it’s an exciting thought.
Time to wash? If your jeans get spots, try to eliminate them with water and a little soap. If you think they smell a bit, you can hang them outside or put them in the freezer overnight.
Shirts: How often you should wash your shirts
All shirts should be put on a hanger and aired overnight, and therefore do not need to be washed as often. Depending on the material, many shirts can be worn 2-3 times before they have to be washed. Silk shirts that are a little more demanding to wash, can definitely be used more than 3 times before washing, if only you make sure to air them properly. With cotton and synthetics, you will have to decide for yourself when it is time!
With shirts, always remember: The freezer is your friend. If the clothes are clean, but smells a little, throw it in the freezer overnight – the bad odors will be killed by the cold.
Do you have any questions or tips to sustainable laundry? Make sure to leave a comment below!