We can all build a sustainable closet by purchasing sustainable brands and collections, as well as by giving a second chance to pre-owned items. That’s it no?! No. Ultimately, having a sustainable wardrobe means making the most out of what you have.
Therefore, if you can, it is important to take good care of the clothes you own to make them last longer. Extending the average lifespan of your garments (2.2 years) by just three months of use per item can reduce carbon, water, and waste footprints by 5–10%, according to Wrap.
Ready to incorporate some fresh and good habits in your life? Here is how you can keep your clothes looking great for as long as possible.
1. Go for quality over quantity
Invest in clothing that holds better quality. Higher quality pieces often last longer because they are constructed with stronger materials and are made to stand the test of time. Therefore they can withstand multiple washes and wear.
Ask yourself: what are your wardrobe staples that complement your style? Will it match with other items in your wardrobe? Try to invest in higher-quality wardrobe staples because it may be worthwhile to spend a little more money on them. However, note that higher prices do not always guarantee high quality.
There are some factors to look out for to spot well-made clothing. You can look for high-quality stitching and fabrics. Natural fabrics such as organic cotton and linen are great. You may want to check out brands such as Beaumont Organic and Neu Nomads. For a wider selection, search for your organic cotton and linen products here.
Not keen on spending more money on quality pieces? Go second hand! Although this takes more effort to find the perfect fit, you can find second hand or vintage pieces that are timeless and also well made. Search for second-hand options here.
2. Protect your clothes!
We don’t mean that you have to wear protective shields over your outfit or anything like that! However, we should all be protecting them from damage and stains. For example, when you are wearing a nicer-looking outfit because you have a dinner party at your house, wear an apron while cooking in the kitchen. An apron can protect your outfit from the majority of stains and spills that are bound to happen when in the kitchen! This is not foolproof but you get the idea.
If you do happen to get stains, do make sure to get rid of them as soon as you can with a stain remover pen or a DIY concoction of vinegar and baking soda. The longer you leave the stain, the harder it is to remove. After the stain is gone, toss it in the washing machine.
3. Do you really need to wash it?
Sweaty, smelly and dirty…yes! Just kidding, but no really: washing your garments less often can maintain them in good condition. Jeans and sweaters, for example, don’t need to be washed after every wear! Jeans were made for that! Items such as t-shirts and gym wear should be washed after every wear because they are in closer contact with your skin; absorbing more dirt and sweat.
Machine washing can be harsh on your clothes and can sometimes damage them. Think about what your clothes go through every time you toss them in the washing machine. It is likely to lose its original colours, fall apart, and then shrink when it is placed in the dryer. Unless they smell or are visibly dirty, you don’t need to wash your clothes after every wear.
You may think that the largest proportion of energy waste from doing your laundry is from the dryer. However, your washing machine is the biggest contributor to water waste. On an average cycle, washing machines use approximately 50 litres of water per wash (cited in The Telegraph). Not to mention the release of toxic chemicals from detergents and softeners causing microplastic pollution that is harmful to marine life.
Clothes need to be washed to take care of them, or else we won’t end up wearing them. The best way to minimise the environmental footprint of your laundry is by washing some of your garments less often.
4. If possible, air-dry your clothes
The excessive use of the dryer can cause fabrics to shrink and elastics to break down. Therefore, air-drying your clothes in a clothing line or a rack is a lot more gentle than tossing it in the dryer because it prevents static cling on fabrics.
Also, if you dry your clothes the right way, you may not need to iron them! After taking your laundry out of the washing machine, it is often all bunched up. So, the first thing you need to do is shake out the clothes first and then get them into the shape you want to wear them in. This way, you will minimise the look of wrinkles in your clothing. In addition to keeping your garments looking great, you can also save energy (and will be kind to your electricity bill too).
5. Store your clothes properly
Avoid keeping your garments in places such as your bathroom or basement where bacteria are more likely to grow and damage them. It is best to store them in a clean, dry, and cool environment that has no contact with direct sunlight to keep them in good condition. This way you can give your clothing some ‘breathing space’ to prevent wrinkling and fading that would otherwise reduce their lifespan.
Also, the way you are organising your garments can impact their longevity. Here are some things you can do:
- Fold your heavy sweaters: Why? Hanging your heavy sweaters instead of folding them can stretch the fabric significantly. You would be left with a flimsy and sagging sweater that you may not want to wear anymore.
- Use wooden hangers: Wooden hangers are a little more expensive but are definitely worth it because they can take care of your clothes better. Plastic hangers can stretch out the shoulders and necklines of your garments.
6. Make repairs and alterations
The emergence of fast fashion has given society less incentive to repair and mend because fast fashion has made garments so affordable. Fashion collections once had just two seasons, autumn/winter and spring/summer. Nowadays, there are many more up-and-coming trends that consumers may try to keep up with.
There are thousands of Youtube tutorials out there that can help you learn some basic mending techniques. Have a loose button or a loose thread? You’ll know how to fix it instead of buying new clothes. If you are unsure, you can go to a trustworthy tailor.