Washing clothes only when truly necessary will preserve energy and allow your garments to last longer. Make sure to only wash with full loads. This can save more than 3400 gallons of water each year.2 90% of the energy used to wash clothes comes from heating up the water.2 Using cold water is a simple, yet effective, way of reducing energy usage and preventing pollution. Hot water can cause shrinkage and fading of your clothes, shortening their life span.
You should consider using a natural laundry detergent for two reasons; it is healthier for you and it is safer for the environment. Many laundry detergents leave behind harmful chemicals on clothes, which in turn can irritate your skin and get inhaled into your lungs. These same chemicals are harmful to the environment and animal life. Choosing a natural laundry detergent is an easy fix to this issue.
Your dryer consumes a lot of energy, so air drying clothes can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. The dryer is also bad news for your clothes. It can cause shrinkage and other forms of strain that will shorten the garments life cycle. If you do need to use the dryer, consider skipping the dryer sheets. The continued production and disposal of these are not very sustainable.
Every time you wash clothes that are made with synthetic fibers, it is estimated that more than 700,000 tiny plastic fibers could be released into waste water.3 These fibers eventually end up in our rivers, lakes, and oceans. A washing bag that capture these tiny fibers is a great solution for limiting the release of microfibers. One provider of these bags is Guppyfriend. Make sure you don't rinse out the fiber residue, but dump it into a garbage can.
This is an important one! When you no longer need/want your clothes, please repurpose or recycle them. If the clothes are in good condition you can donate them, sell them, or give them to a friend. If your clothes are not in good condition, consider recycling them. Use a recycling locator to find a drop-off place near you. You can also use a mail-in system where you send the clothes to a recycling center by mail. By repurposing and recycling clothing you help decrease the large number of textile waste in landfills.
1 WRAP Valuing our clothes 2017.
2 EPA Earth Month Tip: Wash your clothes in cold water 2014.
3 ScienceDaily Washing clothes releases thousands of microplastic particles into environment 2016.