Steam often and take a good sponge: how to wash your clothes less | australian lifestyle

When the world seems to be getting out of hand, like it is right now, I find myself doing basic household chores to help me relax, like doing laundry.

The gentle hum of the washing machine and the promise of fresh T-shirts, underwear and towels sounds like a small but tangible victory.

Unfortunately, it’s not a particularly eco-friendly way to relax. Washing machines and dryers use large amounts of energy and water, which is made worse by how often most of us wash our clothes (too often).

Fortunately, there are alternatives to machine washing that will always keep clothes looking (and scent) beautiful. And since some of these techniques save time and energy bills, the little sense of victory remains.

Prevention is better than cure

“Thinking in terms of prevention is a good strategy,” says Kate Fletcher, professor at the Center for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion.

A few small, thoughtful changes can help reduce your wash load. Fletcher advises to always wear an apron while cooking; tuck pant legs into socks to keep hems free of mud when walking; and wear tank top or undershirt under shirts and blouses, so you only need to wash the bottom layer, not the outer garment.

Small changes – like always wearing an apron when cooking – can reduce your need to wash. Photograph: JGI / Jamie Grill / Getty Images / Tetra images RF

Thinking about what fibers you buy and wear can also help, says Fletcher. “Wool is the preferred fiber for treating stains and odors”, for example, because “it has a complex scaly structure which gives the fiber a natural resistance to stains”.

In contrast, synthetic fibers are known to retain odors, including body odor, especially if fabric softeners are used. Fletcher says you should avoid using fabric softener and wearing synthetic fiber clothing “if you want to wash less.”

Stop stains on the spot

Pretreatment and stain prevention can help reduce laundry, Fletcher explains. “For heavily stained areas, it is advisable to soak or clean the stain in particular. This helps prevent rewashing if a garment is not clean.

Orsola de Castro, founder of activist group Fashion Revolution, has an essential tip to avoid stains, even on the go. “I’m not going anywhere without a sponge,” she said. “Because you can get rid of a stain instantly almost in any case – even if it’s oil – if you have a good sponge with you.”

“If you act quickly, you can clean the stains using just your sponge and a little lukewarm water, with no detergent. She also recommends pressing hard with a dry sponge on a wet stain because it will “absorb most of the moisture from the stain, thus containing it.”

A clothes brush works wonders for moving dirt, especially wool and tweed.  Although you can use a special brush, an old toothbrush will also work.
A clothes brush works wonders for moving dirt, especially wool and tweed. Although you can use a special brush, an old toothbrush will also work. Photograph: Zinkevych / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Brushing can also help. Fletcher recommends using “a clothes brush to move dirt like mud”. You also don’t need a specialized article: “It could just be an old toothbrush. “

De Castro says brushing “works wonders on wool and tweeds. Due to the way the material is woven so tightly, the stains remain on the surface. “

Create airspace

Fletcher recommends examining each item before putting it in the laundry basket. “Ask yourself: does it really need to be cleaned or can it be worn again? “

If you don't want to put used clothes back in the closet, create a new space to put them away.
If you don’t want to put lightly worn clothes back in the wardrobe, create a new space to put them away. Photograph: Carol Yepes / Getty Images

Sometimes parts can be rested between uses, as some clothes washing reasons (like faint odors) wear off over time. Fletcher suggests to “air them out, hang them on a balcony or in a steamy shower room.”

While the steam from the shower works well, an electric steamer is even more efficient. De Castro says the steam “will immediately refresh a room and release most creases, making it more polished.” This is especially good for outerwear such as coats and jackets, suits and knitwear.

If you don’t want to store previously worn items with your clean clothes, Fletcher suggests creating a new place to keep them, like a hook on the back of your wardrobe or your bedroom door.

When it comes time to wash, Fletcher suggests “delaying” doing it “until you have enough for a full load.”

Know what you are washing

De Castro says we need more information about our clothes to make sure we don’t wash them too much, at the wrong temperature, or too often.

She says that when “we don’t know the properties of the materials we wash,” we often wash clothes unnecessarily, using too much water and detergent. Since different materials require different maintenance methods, detailed and accurate care labels are important, as is understanding the properties of each fiber.

But don’t blame yourself; the problem is structural, says De Castro. Globally, there is a lack of regulation regarding the labeling of clothing. “We need the regulations in food, beauty and pharmaceuticals when it comes to declaring and disclosing the ingredients that are in our clothes” so that we can take care of them properly, she says. .

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