COP26: Why dirty laundry has never been so important

COP26: Why dirty laundry has never been so important

As the COP26 summit on climate change has ended, it is evident that we all will need to make both small and substantial changes in our everyday lives to keep the world’s climate from spiralling into intolerable heat and severe weather disruption.

Here I expand on my blog (24 September) ‘Fashion’s nemesis: To wash or not that is the question?’

Caring for clothes to care for the climate

Leading on from my previous blog my purpose here is to draw your attention to ways we can better care for our clothing to assist the reduction of the vast amounts of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, and microfibres into the ocean, through washing.

Judging from various reports we should be wearing our clothes for longer periods and only consider washing or cleaning them when they become smelly or dirty. The Sunday Times (19 September 2021) offered this assessment of the frequency of wear before washing.

  • Underwear and workout clothes – wear once
  • Bras 7 times
  • Tops 4 – 5 times
  • Dresses 4 – 6 times
  • Pyjamas 7 times
  • Wool jumpers 10 -15 times
  • Jeans 15 – 30 times

Ways we can take positive action

Orsola de Castro a recognised opinion leader in sustainable fashion and author of Loved Clothes Last has suggestions to help. Several methods are suggested for cleaning our clothes other than washing:

  1. Steaming your knitwear in a warm bathroom will refresh it and dispel odours.
  2. Spot cleaning can save on washing a whole garment. Just gently remove spot/s with a damp cloth, adding a tiny bit of washing up liquid if greasy.
  3. Put jeans in the freezer overnight. The low temperature will see off any odour-causing bacteria and refresh the garment.
  4. Brushing more resilient fabrics such as tweed can also work wonders. If dirt is allowed to dry, it can then be brushed away.
  5. Handwashing underwear can help by reducing the shedding of microfibres it sustains when bouncing around in the washing machine.

Of note, Professor Berners-Lee reminds us that tumble dryers produce about three times as much carbon dioxide as washing machines.

As well as microfibres, detergents go into the sewerage system and there is a cost of cleaning up the effluent.


We tend to be aware of the harm caused by using plastic bags because they are visible, but because we do not see microfibres in the water we tend not to think about it.

Whilst no one recommends wearing smelly or dirty clothes it is worth asking yourself: Does your clothing go in the wash unnecessarily often?

That’s why at COP26: dirty laundry has never been so important.

Tra for now


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Image by Tania Dimas from Pixabay