This Valentines Day we’re all about spreading the love - and that includes to your clothes!
Showing your clothes a little love will breathe new life into them, make you (or your children) look fabulous and help cut down on emissions - but what are the most eco friendly ways to wash and care for your clothes?
Read on for our 10 top tips on the most eco-friendly ways to look after your clothes…
It’s all very well buying sustainable and organic clothing for you and your children, but loving the clothes you own has never been more important. The average life of a garment in the UK is shockingly just 2.2 years.
According to climate change action organisation WRAP, £140 million worth of clothing ends up in landfill each year.
What is the 30 wears rule?
Livia Firth, founder of sustainability consultancy Eco-Age advocates we stick to the ’30 wears’ rule for each piece of clothing we buy. As an adult, if you don’t think you will get thirty wears out of something you shouldn’t be buying it.
But what can we do to make sure our garments make it to thirty wears still looking awesome?
Care for your clothes
Often clothes become faded, shapeless and damaged beyond repair way before thirty wears. But did you know much of the wear and tear clothes suffer actually comes from the wash cycle?
Being washed too often and at the wrong temperature is damaging to the garment but also to the environment.
And when clothes do get damaged, not all of us know how to make the required repairs, letting a broken zip spell the end for a beloved dress.
We want to help you love your clothes and give them the long and happy life they deserve. So we’ve teamed up with The Clothes Doctor to give you tips and ideas on how to lavish your garments with love this Valentine's Day.
Based in Cornwall, The Clothes Doctor have developed their own eco-friendly range of detergents and also offer a mail-order repair service.
Here are our 10 top tips on the most eco friendly ways to wash and care for your clothes, and how to keep them looking their best for longer…
1. Wash clothes less
The biggest environmental impact of clothes in their ‘use phase’ is the energy used to wash and dry them. So, fewer washes is better for the planet and also better for your clothes.
“Washing garments too often can actually cause damage to the fibres and hence decrease the lifespan,” explains Chris Morton, head seamstress at Clothes Doctor. “This is especially true with dry cleaning, which uses harmful chemicals that flatten the natural fibre follicles in some fabrics.”
If clothes are only lightly worn, wear them again! This goes for adults - but equally for kids. You DO NOT need to be washing children’s school uniform EVERY day.
Along with the energy required to wash the clothes and the damage it does to the fibres, it’s also important to consider the sheer volume of microfibres that are shed with each wash, ending up polluting the environment.
Research suggests 35% of the microplastics entering the ocean do so through the washing of synthetic textiles such as polyester, nylon or acrylic.
How often should I wash my clothes?
In an interview with The Guardian, designer Stella McCartney said: "Rule of thumb: if you don't absolutely have to clean anything, don't clean it.
"I wouldn't change my bra every day and I don't just chuck stuff into a washing machine because it's been worn. I am incredibly hygienic myself, but I'm not a fan of dry cleaning or any cleaning, really."
Similarly, the Levi Strauss chief exec, Chip Bergh, claimed in 2014 he hadn't washed his jeans for ten years - and urged others to wash their jeans far less too.
On its website, the company advises its customers to wash jeans "as little as possible".
Find below a rough guide, courtesy of Which?, with suggestions on how often you should be washing clothes.
But remember to use a large dose of common sense - depending on what the fabric is made of, the level of activity you have been undertaking, as well as the weather.
And obviously, there's always the sniff test...
What is the most eco friendly way to wash and care for clothes?
For lightly soiled clothes try spot cleaning; sponging off that spot of soup instead of throwing your top in the wash. For coats and outerwear, dirt can simply be brushed off with a clothes brush.
You can freshen clothes by hanging them on the line outside; UV light can kill bacteria that make clothes smelly. Or spritzing with an eco-friendly or homemade spray can bring back the freshness.
2. Sort your clothes by cleaning technique, not by colour
We want the organic sustainably made kids clothes sold at My Little Green Wardrobe to pass through many families and sail past their thirty wears. But that means minimising the wear and tear that washing too often and in the wrong way can cause.
Our habit of chucking everything on a forty degree wash is bad for the environment and bad for our clothes. If we change the way we think about when and how our clothes are washed, we can care for our clothes in a more eco friendly way and minimise the impact our garments have on the planet.
Instead of sorting clothes into lights and darks, try a new approach...
How To Sort Washing In a Planet-Friendly Way:
|1) Refresh pile (light marks, slight odours, creased, tired looking)|
2) Machine wash pile (heavily soiled, well worn or smelly items that are machine washable)
3) Hand wash pile (silk, knitwear)
Just spot-cleaning and brushing down the clothes in your refresh pile will make a big impact on your energy consumption and the life of your clothes.
Hand washing doesn’t have to be as arduous as you think. The Clothes Doctor has an easy guide. Even some garments marked ‘dry clean only’ can be hand-washed at home.
3. Wash at 30
Most detergents have been developed to work well at lower temperatures and synthetic fabrics can even be washed as low as twenty degrees.
4. Treat Stains ASAP
We all know baby and kids' clothes are prone to stains from trips and spills - and it can be super frustrating to put clothes on a laundry cycle only to find it hasn’t actually done the job of cleaning the item.
According to a survey, around a third of Brits (29%) admitted to throwing an item of clothing away simply because of a stain. When it comes to baby and children's clothes, you can expect this number to be even higher.
To really prolong the life of clothes one of the most important things you can do is treat stains as quickly as possible.
Follow this advice on how to treat tricky stains...
4 simple steps for removing stains from baby/kids' clothes
|1. Tackle the stain as soon as you can before it sets into the fabric.|
|2. Turn the garment inside out and use warm water to try to flush out the stain from the reverse side of the fabric. Don't let the stain dry and don't apply any heat, which can 'bake' in the stain.|
|3. Apply stain remover directly to the affected area and leave in warm water for 15 minutes. You also can try soaking in warm water with lemon juice, white vinegar or baking soda.|
|4. If the area is still stained, repeat step three and once it has disappeared wash your child's clothes as normal.|
Make sure poppers and zips are done up before items go in the machine to help them keep their shape. Using a laundry bag (like those recommended for lingerie) stops tiny socks from getting lost and the velcro on bibs from damaging other clothes.
5. Wash inside out & line dry
By washing clothes inside out it protects the finish of the fabric and any delicate detailing it might have, as well as protecting from sun fading when it’s dried on the line.
Needless to say, tumble-drying should really never be used unless absolutely necessary.
Line drying is by far the gentlest option for your clothes and the planet.
There are fewer things more depressing than your favourite jumper being covered in bobbles (aka pills). Pills are small balls of fibre caused by the friction of fabric rubbing against another surface.
That’s why the worst affected bits of your garment is usually where it’s been brushing against another surface eg. the arm of your jumper against the body.
The most sustainable kids' clothes are pre-loved but babygrows and kids' jumpers in particular can be badly pilled.
How can I get bobbles off jumpers?
Fear not: de-pilling can be really quick and satisfying. Just a few minutes with a cashmere comb or an electric de-pilling machine and your garment can be bobble-free and look like new.
You can cut down on pills by washing garments inside out and on a delicate cycle.
7. Repair don’t Replace
In her book Loved Clothes Last, Orsola de Castro, co-founder of Fashion Revolution, describes mending clothes as a "revolutionary act".
Repairing garments designed to be disposable challenges the system of mass production and over-consumption: "We will repair our broken clothes and the broken systems alike," she says.
She also points out that garments we have spent time or money mending, and therefore individually customising, will ultimately be so much more valued and treasured by us.
Every repair tells a story from the tapestry of our lives.
Most of us didn’t grow up in homes where ‘make do and mend’ was the norm. But luckily there are lots of free tutorials online like those by The Clothes Doctor, to teach us how to carry out simple mending at home; from replacing a zip to darning a hole in a jumper.
Or if you’re feeling out of your depth or just don’t have the time for mending, most dry cleaners offer repair services too.
8. Make a virtue of your repair…visible mending!
It’s heartbreaking when your favourite top or pair of jeans gets a hole in. If it’s not something that can be fixed like new, why not give visible mending a go?
Visible mending is where the repair is deliberately made visible; using brightly coloured threads or fabrics to make the mend into a feature - see above photo. And it can be easier to do a visible mend than inexpertly attempt an invisible repair.
A lot of visible mending is centred around embroidery and darning with some really simple approaches that anyone could try.
You could use coloured fabric and embroidery thread to mend a hole in your jeans. If you are into crafting you could try darning with contrasting threads or needle felting to repair holes in knitwear or use crochet to fill a hole in jeans.
9. Visible mending made easy
For those of us without the time or aptitude for fancy needlework, an iron-on patch is a great visible mending option - particularly to extend the life of children’s clothes. There is virtually an infinite array of patches to be found online; from cartoon characters to miniature works of art.
The organic baby and children’s brand Frugi make their own patches (pictured) offering a cute and easy way to keep their outfits in action.
You can even try making your own patches using old clothes and iron on bonding (basically double sided tape for clothes!). Its a great way to reuse kids clothes character t-shirts while keeping garments in action! This works really well with holes in the knees of jeans.
10. Add some colour!
Hand-me-down baby and kids' clothes are not only sustainable but economical. But although a crisp bright white is an adorable colour on a baby, off white-grey? Not so much.
Natural fibres like cotton and even cotton blends take colour really well. Brands like Dylon do a wide range of dye pods you just chuck in the washing machine.
Why not make those grey baby onesies the pastel shade of your choice?
Similarly, if you're not into stonewashed jeans, you can fix that by dyeing your denim.
Head of Wardrobe Final Thought
I hope these ideas have inspired you to show your clothes some love and maybe breathe new life into the garments close to your heart this Valentine's Day.
Loving your clothes really is akin to loving the planet: how you look after the things you already own plays a vital role for the future of our planet - and for our children.
At My Little Green Wardrobe we only stock brands which take great care in the production of their clothes.
The garments are made from higher quality materials that are built to last and maintain their shape.
And remember, don't beat yourself up about not doing all these steps - as ever it's about progress, not perfection - every small act adds up over time.