Our clothes deserve love and care
We’d be the first to hold our hands up and admit to not taking great care of our clothes.
Sometimes, it’s just all too easy to take clothes off and dump them on the ‘clothes chair’ in the corner of your room, or even on the floor (whoops).
We have learned a lot over the last few months whilst researching for PANTEE, and facts like the following have really made us think twice about how we treat clothes:
- It can take 2,700 litres of water to produce one cotton t-shirt.
- The fashion industry’s long supply chains and high energy consumption means it contributes around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions
- Some of the most polluted rivers in the world are filled with chemicals from textile factories
- Up to 700,000 plastic microfibres may be released into the wastewater system every time you wash your clothes
The more we learn about the production process and lifecycle of clothes, the more we feel that they deserve a lot more respect than we have been giving them. We are so sorry, clothes.
“Extending the life of clothes by just nine extra months of active use would reduce carbon, water and waste footprints by around 20-30% each.”
This got us thinking about how we can extend the lifespan of our clothes, so we had a chat with fashion consultant Elizabeth Stiles to get her thoughts.
Shop quality over quantity
Making your clothes last a long time starts at the shopping stage. It’s always good to try and buy less good quality items, rather than a lot of low-quality clothes that won’t survive a few washes. It would be great if there was a one-size-fits-all solution to finding quality clothes, but sadly there is not.
“There is a lot of myths around buying high-quality clothes,” Elizabeth explained, “for example, just because something is more expensive doesn’t mean it is better quality. Or, just because something is softer, doesn’t mean it is better quality.”
The most important thing to consider when you buy new clothes is how many times do you think you’ll wear it. A lot of people swear by the 30-wears challenge – you should definitely check it out if you are interested in reducing the impact of your clothes.
Another easy tip is to shop in-store rather than online, and there are two good reasons for this:
- When you shop in-store you can try clothes on, see how they feel and can make more informed buying decisions.
- This second reason isn’t as obvious, but extremely important to know. When you shop online, you are more likely to return what you buy as it might not be exactly what you expected when it arrives.
Online sales account for the highest returns in the apparel world, ‘when you return clothes, the manufacturers don’t just dust them off and put them back up for sale, in far too many cases apparel returns find their way to landfills (Bold Metrics).
So, even though you get free delivery and free returns, it might not be the best idea if you are concerned about the impact of your clothes. Those brand new garments that aren’t quite right might end up just going to landfill.
Clothes care to help them last longer
There are so many things you can do to give your clothes the best care possible to help them last longer:
- Actually read the care label – seems like a no-brainer but we are so guilty of not doing this. Which? has an awesome guide on understanding care labels that can help you decode all the symbols. Also, Ecover is currently running a great campaign ‘Laundry Against Landfill’, so we’d recommend taking a look at that for a lot of tips on the best way to wash your clothes.
- As well as washing your clothes with more care, you can also try and wash your clothes less. Most clothes don’t need to be washed after each use and reducing the amount you wash them is a great way to reduce damage. Plus, as we mentioned earlier in this article, every time you wash your clothes up to 700,000 plastic microfibres may be released into the wastewater system.
- Steaming clothes or using a patch stain remover can work wonders for washing clothes less. Have you ever tried freshening up a dress or a jacket by hanging it up in steam from your shower? It works a treat!
- Our final tip is another simple one – only hang things that need hanging. Avoid hanging heavier knitted items as the weight of the materials can stretch the garment or cause it to lose its shape.
Hopefully, these tips will help you extend the active lifespan of your clothing and reduce its impact as a result. After all, by making small changes we really can create an impact.