A significant amount of the water and energy usage attributed to your clothing is consumed at the ‘care’ stage of the clothing’s lifecycle. This is not about the production of the fibre or the manufacture of the item, but about how the consumer, you, washes, dries and looks after your clothing. Everything you do from how often you wash your clothes, what temperature you wash at and whether you tumble dry or air dry your clothes, affects the amount of water and energy used.
And with an increasing interest in the pre-loved/ second hand market, how well you care for your clothes can also affect the resale value and opportunities. And, of course, the better we care for our clothes, the longer they will last, whether we keep them longer ourselves or pass them onto someone else. Data from WRAP shows that making clothes last just three months longer can cut the water, energy and waste impact in the clothing supply chain by 3%.
So how do we balance sustainability and good care of our clothes?
Washing our clothes can damage the material, the use of energy, water and chemicals for washing also impact the environment. To reduce your impact, consider:
- Washing clothes less often (does it really need washing? Or can you air the item to freshen it? Can you brush off a bit of dry mud, or spot wash a mark instead?)
- Wash at the lowest temperature necessary – 30 degrees is fine for most items
- Air or line dry where you can – tumble drying not only uses huge amounts of energy, it can also damage and shrink fabrics
Good stain removal can also help to prolong the lifespan of your clothes and maintain the value if you want to resell. Here are our top tips for stain removal:
- Soak in cold water as soon as possible – this helps to lift stains, especially mud, blood and poo (sorry!). Once the stain has dried, it will be harder to get out.
- Green fairy liquid is great at getting many stains out, especially grease-based ones. Just rub a little bit into the stain and rinse with cold water until the stain has gone.
- Nature’s stain remover is sunshine! While this can be tricky in the British winter, sunshine can be a super stain remover, especially for tomato and fruit-based stains, sweat and poo (sorry, again!). Just hang out your item in the sunshine and let the magic happen.
- If all these fail, a traditional stain remover bar might help shift a stubborn stain.
Remove as much of the stain as possible before you wash it and keep the item damp if possible, as drying can set the stain. But if you wash it once and notice the mark is still there, repeat the process a few times or try one of the alternative options.
Looking after your clothes well can help them last longer, which reduces their overall environmental impact, and it helps retain their value for passing on, which again extends the lifespan of the clothes and reduces the need to buy new.
What are your top tips for stain removal and care? Let us know!
With huge thanks to Rachel Kennedy for her advice on the stain removal tips.
Thanks for the tips! Milk is useful for tackling stains due to hairdye; ideally when still wet!