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Wash less, wash better: It's time to rethink what our mums told us about washing clothes

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Georgina Wilson-Powell

20 April 2017

Guys, we hate to break it to you but it’s time to ditch the dry cleaners and the daily wash. Ethical fashion designers are coming together to challenge the ways we wash and our beliefs of how clothes should be washed. Our clothing labels were designed in the 1950s, isn’t it time we took a new look at how we do our washing?

It’s not just about washing at a lower temperature, it’s about how we care for our clothes to make them last longer and thinking about how much we need to wash them at all.

Get ready to be liberated from your washing machine and those old-fashioned clothing labels no one understands. When we’re thinking about slow fashion and creating a more ethical fashion industry, it’s easy to forget that the process doesn’t end when the clothes are hanging in our wardrobe. 25% of fashion’s carbon footprint comes from us washing the stuff we already have.

We consume 400% more fast fashion that we did in the 1990s - and over 80% of it ends up dumped in landfills

An average washing machine stuck on two or three times a week will produce around 51kg of CO2 a year. And don’t get us started on dry cleaning. We know it’s easy and it feels ever so slightly glamorous and the on-demand economy practically demands that we outsource every domestic function, but stop and think for a second, asides from the chemicals and energy used - do you really need to wash something every time you wear it?

Overwashing fast fashion clothes means they don’t last as long - and as fast as collections are walking the catwalks, last season's clothes are being sported by landfills. We consume 400% more fast fashion that we did in the 1990s - and over 80% of it ends up dumped in landfills.

These ethical designers have come together to rewrite the rules

New campaign, Don’t Overwash, has brought together amazing sustainable fashion designers from all over Europe to create clothes that need less looking after and that challenge the idea that delicate clothes need to be dry cleaned. Most clothes that need dry cleaning can be washed in cold water - the Dry Cleaning label is often there to protect manufacturers who don’t want to spend the time creating clothes that will last.

We speak to the designers involved to get their common sense top tips for ethical, eco-friendly washing. And let’s face it, the less domestic chores a week the better. We can’t be the only ones who feel vindicated in hardly ever washing our jeans?

Blackhorse Lane Atelier 1 Pebble Magazine

Blackhorse Lane jeans are made in North London and named after London postcodes

Han Ates, Blackhorse Lane Jeans, UK

Blackhorse Lane Atelier makes organic jeans in north London in an ethical factory and runs educational programmes on how clothes are made.

What’s the most eco-friendly way to wash jeans?

Try and wait six months before machine washing your jeans. This will create creases in the jeans that will become beautiful fades over time. If not possible, soaking in a bucket or in the bath will partially clean the jeans with minimal impact to fading.

Remember, indigo will bleed, so never wash with light coloured items. You can roll your washed jeans in a dark towel to remove excess water, then hang dry.

(Read our interview with Han Ates about Blackhorse Lane Jeans here).

Stine Ladefoged Care Label Project Pebble Magazine

Forget what you were told about knitwear being difficult to wash

Stine Ladefoged, Denmark

Stine Stine Ladefoged makes sculptural and Scandi inspired knitwear that has a sustainable soul.

Why is wool the best fabric to work with as a sustainable fashion designer?

Wool is amazing. Wool is grown not made, every year the sheep grow a new fleece. Wool also uses less energy than man-made fibres during manufacture. Wool can be machine-washed, but it retains a small amount of natural oil which resists dirt and grease so you don't need to wash it as often.

Doriane Van Overeem Care Label Project Pebble Magazine

Don't fall for Dry Clean only

Doriane van Overeem, Belgium

Doriane van Overeem is one of Belgium's most exciting new designers. She creates high end ready to wear pieces - think grunge chic that combat mass production and fast fashion.

Why do others designers put Dry Clean Only on clothes?

Because it's the easy way to label clothes and avoid testing materials. This project proves that care labels’ instructions are old fashioned and should be updated now we have appropriate washing machines.

How would you recommend washing delicate fabrics?

Simply wash in a short cold washing cycle. It's untrue that it's better to wash them by hand because there is a greater risk of deforming and damaging the fabric.

Tim Labenda Dress Care Label Project Pebble Magazine

Wool is to some extent self cleaning. That's one less job to do

Tim Labenda, Germany

German designer Tim Labenda is a name to remember. He's loved by German Vogue and believes in using high quality textiles and there's a lot of emphasis on hand-crafting.  He's just won the regional womenswear final of the International Woolmark Prize.

What's the best way to to wash wool?

I personally think the best way to wash wool is to not over wash it. Usually it’s totally enough to hang it out and steam it or air to get rid of the smell.

Tom Cridland Care Label Pebble Magazine

Invest in key pieces that will last and avoid the landfill

Tom Cridland, UK

Young British menswear designer Tom Cridland has made a name for himself for making high quality essentials that are guaranteed to last for 30 years.

What’s the best way to make your clothes last longer?

An important part of making your clothes last longer is your choice of clothing in the first place. I always advocate buying less but buying better. Our 30 Year Collection, for example, is extremely durable, unlike the equivalent sweatshirts, t-shirts and other wardrobe staples found at fast fashion retailers. If you choose to invest in clothing of this quality you’ll look smarter, save money in terms of cost per wear and not contribute to the vast amount of fast fashion clothing that ends up in landfill every year after it gets quickly worn out. The Care Label Project is an extremely admirable endeavour that supports our philosophy, as washing clothing properly and not too often is crucial to making it last.

Read our interview with Tom Cridland here.