Caring for your clothes in the right way can help you keep wearing and loving them for longer while reducing your wardrobe’s impact on the planet.
Here are our top ten tips to get you started;
1. Learn Your Labels
Take some time to familiarise yourself with the care symbols found on clothing labels. You may recognise the handwash and temperature symbols, but what does Line Dry or Do Not Dry Clean look like?
Remember that these labels are simply guidelines though. Many clothing manufacturers opt for Dry Clean or Handwash symbols to protect themselves, yet the garments can actually be washed safely in a machine at home. Check out this useful guide from appliance manufacturer AEG – part of its Care Label Project, which aims to readdress our laundry habits.
2. ‘Don’t Overwash’ – The AEG Care Label Project
Nowadays, many of us wash our clothes far more than is needed. Clothing care contributes to 25% of a garment’s carbon footprint. This creates unnecessary wear and tear on our wardrobe, and can waste energy and water too.
The new Don’t Overwash care label, part of AEG’s Care Label Project, advocates wearing your clothes for longer between washes. It can currently be found on several designer ranges – look out for a blog post coming soon to discover more.
3. Freshen Up
If a garment feels a little tired but isn’t yet ready for the laundry basket, try ironing or using a naturally scented spray to freshen it up. Wearing your clothes on rotation to let them breathe a little between wears can help too.
Similarly, small spills or stains can be addressed through spot cleaning, without having to wash the entire garment.
4. Cool it Down
Many of us automatically set our machine at 40 degrees, despite a 30 or even 20 setting being enough to clean most clothing items. About 90% of the energy consumed by a washing machine goes to heating water. Choosing a lower setting can help prevent damage to your garments, while reducing the environmental impact of your load.
Look out for eco-detergents, which are often specifically aimed at washing at lower temperatures. Plus keep an eye out for handwash or delicate machine settings, these are often more economical and certainly easier than washing by hand!
5. Protect, not neglect
Before putting items in the machine, close fastenings and button up shirts to prevent garments getting tangled during the wash cycle. Turning knitwear inside out before washing can prevent piling, while Bodas recommends popping underwired and padded bras into a mesh laundry bag to protect them.
6. Dry Naturally
Whenever possible avoid tumble drying to help clothes keep their shape and reduce the environmental impact of your laundry. Lay wool garments flat to dry so to prevent stretching, or try popping small delicate items into a salad spinner to remove any excess water.
7. Green Dry Clean
Although most items can be washed at home with care, sometimes a trip to the dry cleaners is necessary.
Most dry cleaners use chemicals that can be hazardous to people and planet, but luckily many green alternatives are opening up, introducing safer and more environmentally friendly methods to the market. In London, we recommend Blanc, but there are plenty in cities across the globe too.
8. Store Safely
Investing in proper storage can help extend the life of your favourite pieces. Knitwear should be folded to avoid stretching, while padded hangers can prevent misshapen garments.
As Instagram-worthy as they are, clothing rails are great for temporary storage, but we recommend a closed closet when storing items long-term to prevent damage created by sunlight or moths.
9. Ask About Aftercare
If in doubt about how to look after an item, ask the store if they can recommend a service or technique for keeping an item in good condition – particularly when it comes to footwear, bags and jewellery.
They may even provide an aftercare service that you can use. For example, Penrose Products will clean and maintain any bedding you buy from them through their fibre refresh scheme. Whether you’ve spilt something on it or simply want to refresh your purchase to its former glory.
10. Fix and Reinvent
All well-loved clothes go through a little wear and tear, and we all know how upsetting it is when your favourite piece suddenly develops a hole.
Learn the simple but time-honoured handcraft of darning knitwear or sewing on a button, the way your grandmother used to do! This can allow you to extend the life of your wardrobe – particularly if it’s a one-of-a-kind item that cannot be replaced.
Alternatively, find a nearby tailor who can help you out – and if you’re feeling creative, reinvent the design all together! You can tap into the embroidery patchwork trend by personalising your garment into a work of art (for some beading and embroidery inspiration, we recommend Rilievi, the world-renowned Italian embroidery house).