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Wash less, save more

AFP – Washing clothes has a considerable impact on the environment, and especially on the oceans. This is due to the release of microplastics from the synthetic fibres used in the fashion industry.

However, there are simple steps everyone can take to reduce the frequency of clothes washing, saving the planet and saving money at the same time.

In 2021, research conducted by the Ocean Wise organisation and the Fisheries and Oceans Canada governmental department, revealed the presence of large quantities of microplastics in the oceans, including the Arctic, the overwhelming majority (92.3 per cent) come from synthetic fibres, and more particularly polyester (73 per cent), resembling the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) found in textiles.

This is essentially due to the washing of clothes, as France’s Agency for Ecological Transition, ADEME, points out.

ADEME explained: “The biggest problem lies in all that is released by the washing of nylon, polyester, elastane or acrylic micro-particles. Emanating from our clothes, they are too small to be filtered by sewage treatment plants, and end up in the ocean. They are the main source of ocean pollution, ahead of plastic bags.”

PHOTO: ENVATO
PHOTO: ENVATO

And this is not without consequence, since an Australian study, dating from 2020, estimated the weight of microplastics on the seabed at 14 million tonnes.

This observation has prompted France – a pioneering country in this field – to introduce legislation stipulating that, by 2025, washing machines must be fitted with microplastic filters.

In the meantime, here are a few simple steps every household can take to reduce the quantity of microplastics released into wastewater and then into the oceans, affecting both marine and land-based ecosystems.

WEAR JEANS AT LEAST FOUR TIMES BEFORE WASHING

How often should you wash your jeans? The question is open to debate, but experts on the subject agree that denim pants certainly don’t need washing after every wear.

As we’ve seen, this habit harms the environment, particularly the oceans, and contributes to accelerated wear and tear.

In 2014, Chip Bergh, CEO of the Levi’s brand, said that he only washed his jeans when strictly necessary. “And, when my jeans really need a wash, I do it the old-fashioned way: I hand-wash them and hang-dry them,” he said.

While no one is suggesting that you should never wash your jeans again, a low-temperature wash after four to six wears is more than enough to keep this wardrobe staple fresh.

This is supported by the French brand 1083, which nevertheless leaves it up to its customers to determine the right frequency of washing to help extend the lifespan of their jeans.

The brand explains on its blog: “As for how often to wash jeans, that’s an open question.

What’s certain is that if you wash them often, they wear out faster. But if you never wash them at all, they’ll clog up and the grains of dirt will have an equally negative abrasive effect.

“On average, we usually talk about four consecutive wears for pants, but it’s up to you to gauge it!”

However, using a tumble dryer apparently has a “harsh” effect on the material.

To limit unpleasant odors, it’s advisable not to store your jeans in a closet after wearing them, but to leave them in the open air.

FAVOUR CERTAIN FABRICS

As for other garments, it all depends on the material they’re made from and their function.

Most undergarments should be washed after each use, with the exception of bras, which can be worn several times before being machine-washed.

As for jackets and coats, they don’t come into direct contact with the body, so it’s not necessary to wash them every month or week – far from it. Some experts suggest washing them two or three times a year.

But this change in behaviour can come into play long before washing – in other words, when buying clothes in the first place.

Some materials are effectively self-cleaning, preventing the proliferation of bacteria and odours – a plus point not to be overlooked when choosing a garment.

This is particularly true of wool, but also of hemp, linen, bamboo and coconut fibre. These materials have numerous advantages – both ecological and economic – and can make wardrobes a whole lot greener.

RISING TO THE CHALLENGE

Can you wear the same dress for 100 days? Apparently so, according to the Wool& brand, which has been running the “100 Day Dress Challenge” for several years now.

The idea is simple: just wear one of the brand’s wool dresses for 100 days to discover the performance of this fibre, whose resistance to odours means fewer machine washes.

To take part, all you have to do is sign up via a dedicated form, then wear the said dress for 100 days in a row, taking photos and posting them on social networks (so that the brand can check that the garment has genuinely been worn every day), before emailing them in at the end of the challenge.

If the challenge has been successfully completed, a gift card worth USD100 will be issued in return.

“Our 100 day challenge confirmed what the wool industry and outdoor enthusiasts alike had been claiming: wool is a performance fabric with remarkable odour-resistant properties,” explains Wool&.

The brand specifies that the challenge enables people to “learn how to get more wears out of a garment”, but also to become more aware of their real clothing needs, and the fact that – contrary to popular belief – clothes, whatever they may be, do not define an individual.

Without going overboard, it seems undeniable that reducing the frequency of washing can only be good news for the planet and for your wallet. 

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