This piece was written by Francesca Willow and originally appeared on Ethical Unicorn.
A key part of creating an ethical wardrobe is how and where you buy your clothes. The other is caring for what you already have. Fast fashion asks you to add to your wardrobe, not knowing how to care for your clothes means you need to.
Sustainable Clothing Care Tips
Today I’m going to be sharing with you a comprehensive list of the best tips, tricks and ideas for making your clothes last longer, giving your closet longevity and that ethical edge. You don’t need to feel guilty for past fast fashion purchases, just make them worth their while as part of your new ethical lifestyle.
This is a bit of a mega post as I’ve collected advice from all across the internet, but I’ve split it into sections to help ya out!
– Your clothes come with tags for a reason, and following those instructions properly can make your clothes go much further. If you have specific things you want to avoid (you have no time for hand washing for example) then make these tags part of your shopping routine going forward; you’re better off spending your money on clothes you know you can care for properly instead of ignoring care instructions and ruining them.
– Don’t wash your jeans. This is something that surprisingly few people know about, but it’s been discussed by many a publication AND the CEO of Levi’s, so you should probably listen. Now this applies to good quality denim jeans rather than hybrid fabric mixes, but if you’ve invested in a really good (raw) pair of jeans you want to leave them for at least 6 months before washing them.
Spot clean them, hang them outside on a sunny/windy day or turn them inside out and shake, as washing them will break down the denim fibres and can cause shrinkage and damage.
– When it is time to clean go for natural products and specialist when needed; bleach and regular detergents contain harsh chemicals that are not the best for your clothes or you. For those aforementioned jeans or delicates such as cashmere go for Mr Black or Tangent GC (Mr Black also have a denim care spray for those months of not washing!).
For regular laundry look for brands such as The Simply Co (USA) or Bio-D (UK). Bio-D have their own eco-friendly, chlorine free ‘bleach’ if you need some whitening too.
– Don’t dry clean. Dry cleaning is toxic, you can read my post on eco-friendly dry cleaners here, or you can wash some dry clean items at home.
Some other general laundry tips:
- Wash dark clothes inside-out to hold their colour.
- Wash metal separately. Buttons and zips can become hot in the dryer, which can lead to scorching and melting on your other clothes. Wash clothing with metal components separately and never with delicate clothes.
- Wash your clothes less. The washing process is pretty tough on clothes, unless they’re visibly dirty you don’t need to wash your clothes after every time you wear them. See if you can extend washing to every other wear, or even few wears.
– Check your settings. The heat from dryers can scorch clothes and cause shrinking and fading. A lot of dryers let you change temperature, timing and dryness. If you can, try lowering the heat so your clothes still come out a little damp. If not, dry for a little less time then hang your clothes to avoid shrinking. If you can and have the time, go fully for hang drying (in London this is basically a given anyway because who has a dryer here).
– Too much heat can ruin fabrics, as well as causing accidental burning or yellowing. Go for a heat level that suits your fabric. Most irons have different levels for fabrics on their heat dial, but as a general rule:
- Linen: 230° C/446° F
- Cotton: 204° C/400° F
- Viscose/Rayon: 190° C/374° F
- Wool: 148° C/298° F
- Acrylic: 135° C/275° F
- Polyester: 148° C/298° F
- Silk: 148° C/298° F
- Acetate: 143° C/290° F
- Lycra/Spandex: 135° C/275° F
- Nylon: 135° C/275° F
– Fold heavy jumpers on shelves. Hanging heavier items such as wool can stretch them as they hang, stack them folded on a shelf to save space and keep their shape.
– Do up your buttons and zips. This stops items catching on each other while they’re store together, fasten up to help your items keep their shape and to avoid damaging your other clothes.
– Don’t overpack your wardrobe. Squishing everything together can result in wrinkling and fading fabrics, try and give your clothes some breathing room.
– Store in cool, dry places. Try and avoid humidity or moisture when you store clothes in order to avoid mould.
– Rotate your clothes. By rotating in your wardrobe you avoid wearing and washing certain clothes more than others. Put clean clothes to the back so the next items you grab will have been there longer. Eventually you’ll get back to the beginning, but your clothes will have had a little more space between wears/washes.
Read even more tips on Ethical Unicorn.
Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.