SlowCo’s guide to caring for your clothes

SlowCo’s guide to caring for your clothes

We unpack why caring for your clothes in the right way is one of the most effective tools to reduce your carbon footprint.

It’s no longer a secret that the fashion industry is one of the largest polluters in the world. At the same time, we buy more clothes than ever with the average consumer purchasing 60% more garments than they used to just 15 years ago! And the worst thing about it? We throw them away after just a few wears, resulting in more than 90% of clothing getting chucked long before they need to with the majority ending up in landfills or incinerated. This is partly due to the influence that fast fashion has on our consumer behaviour, fuelling overconsumption and overproduction, partly because of the poor quality of the clothes we buy, and partly because of wrong laundry habits that break them. 

So, what can we, as consumers, do about the negative impacts clothing has on the environment? Well, that’s where taking good care of them comes in. And did you know that 25% of the carbon footprint of your clothes comes from the way we wash and care for them? 

As Vivienne Westwood once said, it’s time to ‘buy less, choose well and make it last’.

Buy less 

Before we depict how to care for your clothes in the right way, we need to rethink our purchasing habits. Think about it this way: even the most eco-friendly and responsibly-made garment use resources like raw materials, energy, and water to make it into your wardrobe. So, the first step is to simply buy less and wear your clothes for longer.

Choose well

When it comes to buying new clothing, invest in timeless, high-quality pieces that are made to stand the test of time. Where possible, support sustainable fashion brands that already factor in the environmental and social impact of their manufacturing processes. 

Where possible opt for garments crafted from biodegradable materials over synthetic ones to avoid microfiber shedding. Not only are textiles made of natural fibers like linen, hemp, organic cotton, or wool less damaging to the environment but they’re also less prone to bacteria growth and therefore better for your skin.

Synthetic clothes made of polyester, nylon/polyamide, acrylic, spandex, or lycra are essentially made of plastic. Every time you wash them, they shed tiny plastic particles called microfibres that are being released into our waterways where they create huge damage to our ecosystems. Therefore, try avoiding synthetic textiles where possible, and where not possible, wash them using a GUPPYFRIEND™ washing bag to prevent microplastic pollution. 

Make it last

Buying fewer, responsibly made clothing is just the first step to reducing the impact that our wardrobe has on the environment. What comes next is to extend our clothing’s lifespan by taking good care of it by following these simple steps: 

Don’t be a serial washer

Washing your clothes too often not only damages them but is also energy- and water-intensive. Therefore, always try to remove stains manually first, using natural stain removers like lemon or baking soda. You want to get rid of nasty smells? Pop your clothes into the freezer for 24 hours or air them. As a basic rule of thumb, wash your clothes after 3-4 wears - denim, wool, and silk don’t need to be washed that often while your gym clothes or intimates should be washed after each wear. 

Wash gently

Pay attention to care labels, but keep in mind that they usually indicate the highest temperature that your clothes can be washed at without compromising their quality. Most laundry detergents and modern washing machines clean your laundry just as well in lower temperatures while saving up on energy*. Use an eco-friendly, plant-based washing detergent and select a gentle wash cycle (400-800 RPM) when machine-washing natural fibers like linen or cotton to prevent its fibers from breaking.

*90% of the energy used for washing clothes goes into heating the water! 

Air-dry your clothing

Avoid tumble-drying and let your clothes air-dry. This will save you energy while making your clothes last longer. Another way to cut down on energy is to restrain from ironing wherever possible. Instead, remove your clothes from the washing machine as soon as the wash cycle has finished and hang dry them to minimise creasing. Or try this trick: hang your clothes in your bathroom while taking a shower as the steam will help smoothen minor creases and folds.

Mend your clothes

Don’t further add to fashion’s waste problem but mend your garments when they’re damaged instead of throwing them away. Learn basic mending skills or ask your local tailor for help - trust us, it will cost you less than buying new clothes all the time.

Last but not least, it’s important to keep the afterlife of your clothes in mind too: should you decide to get rid of your unwanted clothes for good, make sure that you do it in the most eco-friendly way possible. Organizing a clothing swap event with friends can be a fun and sustainable way to declutter your wardrobe and get your hands on some new treasures - for free! Or gift them to family members or friends. When donating your unwanted clothes to a charity shop, make sure that they actually need them as these shops often receive more garments than they can possibly sell.