It’s time to think about the lifecycle of our clothes—where they came from and the way that we care for them. Love your clothes and the people who made them, and you’ll love the way they make you feel! Did you know that the way we care for our clothes has as much impact on the environment as the actual production of them?
The fast fashion industry encourages us to wear things a few times, or even just once, and then move onto the next new trend. The first step in reversing this mentality is to check garment labels. In addition to paying a fair, living wage and ensuring their workers’ health and safety, fair trade clothing workshops all over the world are dedicated to quality, economic development, social responsibility, and environmental management.
Something as simple as wearing garments for two years instead of one will reduce emissions over the years by 24%—buying second-hand helps this too! Well-made clothing that is properly cared for can last for years to come, so shop for your conscious closet at Fair Trade Winds in Ballard—a local favorite for ethical, fair trade apparel.
Here are five tips to help you take better care of the clothes you love:
1. Don’t Overwash
90% of all clothing is discarded far earlier than necessary, often due to lack of care that causes fading, shrinkage, or misshaping. It’s okay to not wash your clothes after every use! While the technology of washing machines and dryers has dramatically changed since our parents did our laundry for us, the care labels on our clothes, and our washing-habits have not. Over-washing and drying causes extra wear and tear. Maybe you can just spot-clean that little stain on your jeans, or air out that comfy sweater you only wore for a few hours.
2. Wash at a Lower Temperature
As much as 60% of the washing energy can be saved by washing at a lower temperature. Many clothing tags advise us to clean our clothes at a higher temperature than is needed. If a garment says to wash on hot (50°C) or warm (40°C), that is typically the highest safe level for that particular fabric. With modern washing machines, you can easily get your laundry clean on cool or even cold. If you’ve been washing on warm this whole time, give cool or cold a try and see if your clothes seem as clean. Washing on a lower temperature also causes less strain on the fabric, making your clothes last longer.
3. Use Dryer Balls
If you haven’t tried using felt dryer balls in your dryer yet, you’re in for a game-changer! Pop at least two into each load and they’ll keep your clothes from getting stuck together, so they’ll dry more than 25% faster—and they last for thousands of washes. Compare that to the one-and-done use of dryer sheets! If you like a little fragrance in your freshly dried clothes, you can add a few drops of essential oils, like lavender, citrus, or cedar. Pro tip: to help with static control, slide a safety pin onto each ball to help ground the electricity!
4. Fold ’Em, Don’t Hang ’Em
It’s best to fold your t-shirts and knits. Don’t cram too many in a drawer or shelf; give them some room to breathe so they are less likely to wrinkle and crease. Hanging your t-shirts can give them hanger marks at the shoulders and it stretches them, and they can grow an inch just from gravity’s effect on the cotton. If you’re going to hang clothing, invest in some quality wooden hangers that fit your clothes. The hangers should be no wider than the shoulder-width of your garment or they will cause some stretching.
5. Avoid Dry Cleaning
Dry clean your clothes only if you have to. Dry cleaning involves chemicals that are bad for fabrics, the environment, and your skin. Many garments that say “Dry Clean Only” (like silk blouses and wool coats) can actually be washed in modern at-home machines. Simply avoid hot temperatures and vigorous drying cycles; instead use the delicate cycle and line dry for extra sensitive pieces. If an item has very delicate materials, such as cashmere, sequins, or beading, you may still need to dry-clean. In this case be sure to look for a local dry cleaners that is more eco-friendly and doesn’t use harsh chemicals. Same thing goes for garments that say “Hand Wash Only”—often you can wash them on gentle, cool cycles.
When you choose fair trade fashion, you make a positive impact on the lives of the people who make your clothes, their communities, and care for the environment. Your closet and the Earth will thank you!