Fashion’s nemesis: To wash or not that is the question?

Fashion’s nemesis: To wash or not that is the question?

A recent article in The Sunday Times, (19th September 2021, ‘Why dirty is the new black (and green)’ by Eccles, Consumer Affairs Editor) caught my eye. It suggested that while many shoppers are turning their backs on fast fashion and buying less clothing the important matter of the environmental impact of our frequent clothes washing habits continues to take its toll.

The environmental impact of washing clothes

Needless loads of laundry create huge amounts of CO2 and microfibres that wash into the oceans. We may pay less attention to these environmental issues as we cannot see them, unlike the use, for instance, of plastic bags.  

A report by the Society of Chemical Industry Society of Chemical Industry – About us states that washing clothes has a huge environmental impact and is urging people to do their laundry less frequently. The impact of doing laundry less frequently is reducing the number of microfibres being washed into the environment, using less energy and water, thus producing fewer greenhouse gases.

Is washing really essential?

Guidance from the charity Fashion Revolution suggests that we tend to pick clothes off the floor and pop them into the washing machine without seriously considering the need for them to be washed and the myriad ways in which they could be cleaned.

Prior to the invention of the washing machine mainly women had the laborious task of washing and scrubbing clothes by hand. This fuelled the need to find ways to wear clothes for longer and to find conservative ways to clean them. Some of these ways were; spot cleaning, steaming, sponge cleaning and brushing. Methods that are all still valid today.

What can be done

Firth, a co-founder of the sustainability consultancy Eco-Age, thinks that clothes should only be washed when they smell. When washing lower temperatures should be used with short cycles, and handwashing should be valued.

Interesting research has shown that an estimated 70% of the carbon emissions created during the life of a cotton T-shirt were down to washing and drying, with only 30% coming from its production.

It seems if we all washed our clothes slightly less frequently it would make a substantial impact as clothes would last longer. This is an important consideration, according to the charity Clothes Aid, when the UK sends an estimated 350,000 tonnes of wearable clothing, worth some £140 million, to landfill each year.

Fashion’s nemesis: To wash or not that is the question? What do you think?

Tra for now


P.S. Why not have a browse in our Magi Rose shop?