Many people try to be a part of the responsible fashion movement but did you know that you can also be responsible when it comes to your laundry too? Surprising to some, washing machines and consumer care of garments play an integral step in the path to pollution.
How and how often you wash your clothes may seem unconnected to current real-world issues like plastic pollution but these things take a surprising toll on our planet! Here are our ten top tips on how to wash your clothes the eco way and lighten your load on the environment.
1. Buy clothes that won’t shed plastic microfibres
Synthetic high-performance fabrics, such as nylon, polyester, rayon, acrylic or spandex, are known to shed a lot of microplastic fibres, making them a major pollutant as compared to cotton fabrics. Every time you wash your garments in the washing machine, millions of pieces of tiny fibres are released, of which around half a million tonnes every year contribute to ocean pollution – 16 times more than plastic microbeads from cosmetics.
Microplastics in the ocean cause concern due to their negative environmental and health impacts. It has been estimated that, on the current track, there could be more plastics than fish in the ocean (by weight) by 2050. These small plastic particles are also digested by aquatic organisms throughout the food chain, which causes starvation and stunted growth in some species. Those who eat fish consume thousands of microplastic particles through their diet every year.
Organic cotton and handspun fabrics shed natural fibres, reducing your personal impact on the planet. We stock a variety of 100% organic cotton, Tencel, hemp fabric clothing, bamboo socks and fair trade wool garments on our website. Treat yourself and the environment by beginning to purchase ethically today!
2. Wash your clothes inside a washing bag or pillowcase
Introducing Guppyfriend washing bags, an innovative way to reduce the number of microfibres going into the water system everytime you do laundry! These bags filter out the tiniest microfibres released from textiles during washing. The self-cleaning fabric bag is made of a specially designed micro-filter material. Simply collect the fibres and dispose of them properly.
If you're not willing to splash out a bit of money, you can always use a pillowcase instead. Not only will this stop microfibres going out into the water system but it will also protect your clothes too, making them last longer! This is especially great for delicates.
3. Use natural detergents
There are plenty of eco-friendly brands you can choose from when it comes to laundry detergent. Ensure your detergent is free of artificial fragrances, chlorine bleach, dyes, and optical brighteners! There are so many ethical detergent brands you can choose from including Ecover, Seventh Generation, Ecozone, The Bio-D Company and Sonett. Or go completely natural with SoapNuts. Local alternatives for filling up on supplies are Real Food Store and Nourish where you can fill up your containers without wasting plastic.
4. Wash less
Perhaps an obvious piece of advice but a point that is still important to make. The best place to start when it comes to taking a more ethical approach to laundry is just by doing it less! Many of us fall into the routine of washing our clothes far more than is necessary. Each time you put a load of laundry on you use loads of water and energy. However, washing your clothes lots is detrimental in other ways too. Most clothing ends up in landfill long before it should, simply because over-washing has caused irreparable colour fading, shrinkage or misshaping.
One good way to start washing your clothes less is to buy clothes which naturally clean themselves. For example, our black Yorkton jacket from LangerChen features a boiled wool surface which is naturally dirt-repellent and regenerates well in fresh, humid environment. However, even if the clothes in your wardrobe aren't specially designed this way, outerwear and jeans can still go more than a week between washings without getting noticeably soiled.
5. Avoid using a tumble dryer or dry cleaner
When you live in the UK and the weather isn't always on your side, it can be hard to avoid using a tumble dryer. It's quick, easy and means you don't have to wait around for your clothes to dry. But we recommend drying your clothes the old-fashioned way when you can! Not only does it help the environment but drying your clothes on a clothesline will also save you a lot of money. However, if you do desperately need to use the tumble dryer, ensure you clean the lint trap before starting your dry cycle. Dryer lint build-up can restrict airflow and cause poor dryer performance. With a dirty lint trap, your clothes will take longer to dry — and use more energy.
Using a dry cleaner may be less common but for those who do use a dry cleaner, perhaps think twice about dry cleaning! The usual process involves soaking clothes in a harsh perchloroethylene solvent, which is harmful to both humans and the environment. Plus, your clothes will often be returned to you wrapped in plastic. If you want to eliminate dry cleaning from your life, start by buying clothes that don't require it. Always read labels before making purchases; many delicates and other garments, for example, those made from wool, can be safely and easily hand washed. All of our Sancho's stock can be hand washed so you'll never have to worry about dry cleaning!
6. Wash in cold water (under 30 degrees)
This is probably the easiest, cheapest, and laziest way to become more sustainable when it comes to your laundry. It's as easy as tapping 'cold' on your washer! There are so many benefits to this, not only for the environment but in other ways too. Firstly, it reduces your energy use as about 75% of the energy used to wash a typical load of laundry comes from heating the water. Secondly, you can save vast amounts of money a year on your energy bill! Last, but by no means least, it lengthens the life of your garments by preventing fading and shrinkage (and microfibre shedding!). All modern washers and detergents are actually formulated to work best with cold water. All of the clothing we stock at Sancho's is made to wash well with cold water!
7. Only wash full loads
Save yourself time and money, whilst also saving the planet, by only doing a full washer's worth of laundry. By simply reducing the number of loads you wash each week, you will save loads of energy. Top tip: Do not go the other way and overload the machine, which can make it harder to get clothes clean. Aim for the drum being 3/4 full of clothes!
8. Turn your clothing inside out
This should be something you do when you wash your clothes anyway! But if it's not, it's time to start doing it. Washing everything inside out helps keep the outside of your clothing newer and helps reduce fading and the fabric wearing out. This means that your garments will last longer so you won't have to buy as many new pieces!
9. Skip ironing
Perhaps easier said than done (who wants a crinkled shirt?!) or perhaps this tip will send glee to the face of the reader who finds ironing a massive chore. Well, for the latter of you, here's one more excuse to skip ironing in the morning! Ironing uses up electricity and is tough on fabrics, meaning they'll have a longer lifespan if you don't iron them. If you’re worried about looking rumpled, hang up clothes the minute you take them out of the washer. Put on a timer to make sure you get them out straight away, and then the weight of the water will help pull out most wrinkles! If there are still wrinkles left in any of your garments, hang them up in the bathroom when you shower to get rid of them.
10. Upgrade to an energy efficient washing machine (and dryer, if you must own one!)