Caring for clothing items properly will extend their life.  This has important earth-friendly consequences. By cutting consumption of new clothing, we reduce our contribution to fashion’s carbon footprint and worldwide waste in landfills. But whether clothing is new or second-hand, an everyday item or a special heirloom, all clothing lasts much longer with some simple, basic maintenance. And, as an added bonus, saves money in the long run! 

Caring for Clothes:

1. Think twice about washing. Wash clothing only when necessary (many items can be worn multiple times before they need to be washed). Each washing shortens the life of a garment. Clothes will suffer less wear and tear from over washing.

Earth-friendly benefit: You’ll save water and energy.

2. Washing Tips: 

  • First, sort clothes and then observe care labels. Get to know the fabrics you wear.
  • When washing synthetics – remember they shed microplastics, so wash less frequently.  Use a guppy bag to capture the microplastics from your synthetics or a coraball.
  • For more fragile fabrics like silk and linen, wash on delicate cycle.
  • Wash with cold water and on shorter cycles to save energy. About 90% of the energy the washing machine uses goes towards heating the water. According to the Sierra Club, every household that switches to cold water washing could eliminate about 1,600 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.  Washing clothes on a hot cycle uses 75% more energy than cold water and warm water is also more likely to break down dyes and cause shrinkage. 
  • Wash shirts less often if you wear them with a layer between them and your skin.
  • Brush suits after every wear to eliminate dust and grime which can damage fabric.
  • Wash clothing, especially jeans inside out to keep color from fading.
  • Avoid dryer sheets which can be full of chemicals such as toluene styrene.
  • Use less detergent. You can use half the prescribed amount with ½ a cup of baking soda to get clothes just as clean.
  • To avoid using chlorine bleach, substitute one half-cup of vinegar to the final rinse. Vinegar is a natural brightener that won’t wear out the fibers of your clothing.

Earth-friendly benefit: Research suggests that extending the active life of clothing by just nine months can significantly reduce its environmental impact

3. Use earth-friendly detergents. Use laundry detergent without harmful, petrochemicals (petroleum-derived).  Switch to minimal packaging laundry products and cleaning solutions.

Earth-friendly benefit:  You’ll play a part in reducing toxins in the water and reducing your carbon footprint.

4. For stains, follow these eco-friendly guides:

5. Avoid ironing. Hanging clothes in the bathroom when you take a hot shower will help reshape them. 

6. Drip dry. Hang clothes to dry outdoors on a clothing line or a drying rack (or on a drying rack in the bathtub).

Earth-friendly benefit:  You will save energy and money while your clothes suffer less wear and tear from the dryer.  

7. Hang clothes properly. Hang on wooden hangers to avoid misshapen shoulders. Fold arms cross-wise over the shoulders. For woolens, avoid hanging and fold instead to avoid sagging.

8. Think twice about dry-cleaning. Traditional dry cleaning means soaking clothes in a petroleum-based solvent called Perchloroethylene (“PERC”) highly toxic to human health and to the environment. If it’s necessary to dry-clean your clothing, chose a dry cleaner that uses environmentally-friendly cleaning solutions. Bring your own reusable bag and return your hangers to further reduce your impact.

Earth-friendly benefit: You’ll play a part in keeping toxins from the environment and reduce plastic pollution.

9. Rotate your clothing. Change your clothing rotation to reduce wear and tear on individual pieces.

10. Reuse and repurpose worn or unwanted clothing. Use old t-shirts and other worn items as rags.

Earth-friendly benefit: You’ll divert waste from landfills and save paper.

11.  Repair shoes and use shoe trees. Shoe trees will prevent creases and cracking as well as help retain the shape of your shoes. Repairing heels and soles as soon as they are worn out will extend the life of shoes. 

12.  Store your clothing properly. At the end of the season, store clean clothes in a cool, dry environment to avoid bacteria and mold. Make sure to give proper aeration and provide adequate space between hangers to keep clothes fresh. Using wooden or fabric-padded hangers will avoid stretching the shoulders of garments. Fold heavy sweaters on a shelf to keep from stretching. When storing clothes, make sure to avoid direct sunlight to prevent fading. Clothes can also be stored in vacuum sealed bags for space efficiency, or garment-storage bags that can protect clothes but allow the fabric to breathe.

Bonus: You’ll keep the clothes you love longer!