10 Sustainable Clothing Care Tips: How to Make Your Clothes Last

Paulina Kulczycki

“Buy less, choose well, make it last” – these are the infamous words of Vivenne Westwood that have shaped the sustainable fashion world forever. According to this quote, the basic principle of sustainable consumption is to shop less but to choose sustainable, high-quality basics that can accompany us for several years. Sounds logical, right? But how can we contribute to making our clothes last? At SANVT, not only do we offer you sustainable and high-quality essentials, today, we also give you 10 sustainable clothing care tips!

Statistics show that 20% of an item of clothing’s environmental emissions are generated after its purchase. Thus, as consumers, we are not only responsible for what we buy, but also for how we care for and maintain our clothes. After all, we do have a big influence over the preservation of our clothes with the way we care for them, how often we wash them and how we store them. This article gives you the 10 most important sustainable clothing care tips, so that they really do last and remain sustainable and durable.

How to wash & care for clothes sustainably – 10 tips:

  • Wash less
  • Wash cold
  • Use eco-detergent without fabric softener
  • Follow the care instructions
  • Wash clothes inside out
  • Use microplastic laundry bags
  • Air dry
  • Steam instead of iron
  • Store clothes properly
  • Learn to repair clothes

1. Wash less

The first and most important tip for sustainable clothing care is to wash your clothes less. Because frequent washing washes out clothes over time. Plain and simple. Many people wear an item only once and have the reflex to throw it straight into the laundry basket afterwards. And with a few exceptions, such as underwear or sweaty t-shirts, this of course makes sense. But unless the clothes are dirty or musty, we may as well wear them a few more times before spinning them through another wash cycle. This will protect the fibres and colours of our clothes in the long run.

2. Wash cold

One of the reasons clothes are damaged by frequent washing is when washing in high temperatures. Warmer water is much harder on fabrics and can cause shrinkage, fading and loss of microfibres. Plus, heating water uses 90% of the energy needed to run a washing machine! Washing your clothes in cold water not only protects the materials, but also saves an incredible amount of energy. But will the clothes still be clean? Absolutely! In the past, washing was done in warm water to activate detergents. But nowadays, modern detergents work just as well in cold water.

3. Use eco-detergent and skip the fabric softener

Another tip for sustainable clothing care is to use only eco-detergents to protect not only our clothes but also our skin and the oceans. Conventional detergents often contain microplastics and environmentally harmful toxins that flow through our washing machines into the wastewater and ultimately the oceans of our planet, endangering marine life. Fabric softeners are also reputed to trap odours in clothes and contain harmful chemicals and skin irritants. So use only natural soaps and stay away from fabric softeners!

4. Pay attention to the care instructions

To care for your clothes properly, you first need to know what material you are dealing with. After all, different fabrics have different care instructions. So get into the habit of looking at the labels on your clothes before you buy and wash them. This will not only make you more mindful of what you consume and lead you to buy higher quality items, but will also ensure that your clothes are not damaged or shrunk by improper care and washing.

Need some help in caring for your clothes? Check out our care guide, for some tips.

5. Wash clothes inside out

A small but effective gesture to protect your clothes during the wash is to wash them inside out. This way, the fibre structure on the visible surface is rinsed more gently. You should also make sure that the washing machine is never too full. This can cause friction during washing, which can further damage the fibres of the clothes.

6. Use microplastic laundry bags

Of course, we recommend buying clothes made of organic natural fibres first and foremost, as they are far more environmentally friendly and sustainable than synthetic fabrics. However, if you have sportswear or swimwear made from synthetic fibre – such as recycled polyester or nylon – then we strongly recommend that you use a laundry bag. This will catch the microplastics from the clothes and prevent them from being washed into the oceans. An efficient product we can recommend is the Guppyfriend wash bag.

7. Air dry

There’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly washed, air-dried laundry when you take it off the clothesline. And air drying not only smells good, it is also better for the clothes and the environment. Drying in a tumble dryer consumes a lot of energy and, like frequent washing at high temperatures, can damage certain fibres. Instead, it is sufficient to shake out the freshly washed clothes and either hang them outside on a clothesline, on a clothes rack or on hangers to air dry. Again, it is advised to pay attention to the labels and care instructions, as some garments, such as wool jumpers, are better dried flat.

8. Steam instead of iron

We’ll be completely honest with you: we personally never iron our clothes. In most cases, we think well-shaken, air-dried clothes will do the trick. However, if you are one of those people who wants their clothes to be completely wrinkle-free, then we recommend steaming your clothes instead of ironing them. Steaming is much gentler on your clothes as the heat from the machine does not come into direct contact with the fabric. This is especially true for more delicate fabrics like (ethical) silk. Only in an absolute emergency, when the wrinkles cannot be removed with steam alone, should you reach for the classic iron.

9. Store clothes properly

Beyond washing, drying and ironing, storing clothes properly is crucial to their lifespan. Proper protection from clothes moths and mould is especially important to keep our clothes sustainable and long-lasting. We recommend storing clothes in a cool and dry place to protect them from moisture, sunlight and heat. Also, make sure (especially if you’re saving on washes) that clothes are clean before you put them away. Dirt and surface abrasion can attract moths, which can ruin your clothes. In principle, knitwear should always be stored with lavender or mothballs to protect it preventively. It is also important not to overflow your wardrobe, as clothes need room to breathe – this prevents creasing and colour loss from clothes rubbing together.

10. Learn to repair clothes

The last tip for sustainable clothing care is to learn how to repair small damages. Knowing how to sew up a hole or sew a button back on will help immensely in keeping your clothes in wearable conditions. Refreshing garments, such as removing pilling from a wool jumper or waterproofing and oiling cracked vintage leather, can also help extend the life of your clothes.

Tips for sustainable clothing care: Conclusion

With these 10 simple tips for sustainable clothing care, you can keep your clothes looking good and wearable for years to come. “Buy less, choose well, make it last” should no longer be a problem!

And if you’re still wondering what the benefits of slow fashion are, you can read more about it here.