Stop washing your clothes?

Interesting to see a couple of mailshots from some of our favourite brands recently, extolling the environmental benefits of not washing your clothes…

Clearly, plenty to take issue with here, but also some important points buried deep beneath that fast growing pile of stinky laundry.

Forum for the Future released an easy-to-digest report way back in 2007 called “Fashioning Sustainability”. It was one of the first to highlight just how big an environmental load is caused by washing and drying your clothes.

According to them:

“Washing, drying and ironing often accounts for the most significant use of energy in the clothing lifecycle. Depending on which materials the clothes are made from, as much as 80% of the carbon ‘footprint’ of clothing can be caused in its washing and care, contributing to climate change.

“This problem is made worse by the way we care for our clothes after we buy them. Most washes are used to freshen rather than clean clothing. “

If we are the kind of consumers who think about these things then naturally we have been vaguely concerned about the origin of the materials, their processing, the shipping and transport that gets them from source to finishing to factories to the shops. And driving home from the shops… That’s a lot of energy used and a lot of greenhouse gases emitted.

It turns out that the biggest culprit by far is us – and specifically how we wash and dry those clothes. Not to mention buying too many! Or chucking them out too early…

There’s a very readable blog post from our friends at Alpkit here:

Naturally, they propose some fabric and finish solutions that they offer, all designed to help with defeating the microbes that cause odour. Silver treatments to fabric is a good one.

(Tim: Incidentally, my personal record for weartesting a silver-treated garment was 240 hours wear in 10 days… Well it was in the high mountains in winter and opportunities for getting undressed let alone washing were a bit limited… Apparently still odour free after all this – if mountaineers can even tell, of course…)

And merino. Or indeed all sheep’s wool. Naturally anti-microbial. You can wear it repeatedly without the build-up of stink that can happen extremely quickly with a lot of other performance wear.

Lastly, Hiut Denim have their “No Wash Club”

But then, they’re talking about selvedge denim. And denim aficionados know that the true way to treat selvedge jeans is to rarely if ever wash them.

So it conforms to your unique body shape.

So it picks up wear marks and a patina specifically from the way you live your life.

But what about the smell, you say?

Well apparently, just put your prized jeans in the freezer – it kills the odour-causing germs.

Perhaps that’s the answer then… store our clothes in the freezer rather than washing them – to save energy. No, wait…

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