Should we stop washing our clothing completely?

Noor Veenhoven

Should we stop washing our clothing completely?

On 6 July, the ethical fashion designer Stella McCartney said in an interview with the Observer that she never washes her suits or takes them to dry cleaning. She added that you should wash as little as possible. We do agree with her on this, because the impact of washing your clothes is huge. But do we have to stop washing our clothes altogether?

It has become a bit of a habit, at the end of the day before you go to bed, you undress and throw all your clothes directly into the laundry basket. Unfortunately, this is not really a sustainable habit ... 1/3 of the environmental impact of your clothing comes from washing and maintaining it. And this was already known before we learned how big the problem is with microplastics. Every time you wash, up to 700,000 microplastics are released into the environment, which is harmful to fish and other ocean life, and eventually to ourselves. It is therefore better to wash your clothes as little as possible. Washing your clothes after wearing them once is really unnecessary!

Why do we think we have to wash our clothing so often?

It is absolutely unnecessary to wash your clothes after wearing them once, except your underwear of course. But why do we all think this is necessary? The answer is simple: Smart marketing from detergent companies. Mac Bishop, the founder of a clothing brand whose clothes you hardly need to wash, experienced it when he worked for the Unilever marketing team: “The only way to grow as a laundry detergent brand is to make customers feel like they need to keep washing their clothes more and more."


How often do you really have to wash your clothes?

You have to wash your underwear every day, but after that you can quickly stick to Stella McCartney's rule of thumb: "if you don’t absolutely have to clean anything, don’t clean it" She adds that you don't have to wash your bras every day either, and that it is actually better if you do not throw them into the washing machine but wash it by hand.

For most clothes it is very bad if you throw them in the washing machine. The fabrics deform, the colours changes, and the clothes wear out rapidly. Levi's CEO even says he hasn't washed his own jeans for 10 years. It is quite bad for your denims if you wash them, especially for the colour, but also because it then wears out much faster. In addition, it is not necessary to wash them, and if you get a stain, you can of course treat it locally without throwing it in the washing machine.

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The same goes for woollen sweaters, you shouldn't throw them in the washing machine anyway, because then your beautiful woollen sweater will suddenly be a few sizes too small! In addition, wool is an antibacterial material and therefore remains free of odours for a long time. If you wash stains out locally, there is almost no reason to wash the garment completely. This applies to a lot of clothing and there are also a few tricks to keep your clothing fresh for longer.

Tips to keep your clothes fresh without washing

Do you think that after a week of wearing your jeans, your jeans start to smell a bit unclean? Put them into a plastic bag and into the freezer. After a night in the freezer, all odours are gone! The smell comes from bacteria that end up in your clothing through sweat. If you freeze your clothes, they will all die and the pair of jeans will smell fresh again. Sweat itself is clean so you don't have to worry about that. This is also a good tip for your sportswear.

Another good tip to make your clothing smell fresher is to hang it outside for a few hours, or let it steam in the bathroom when you are showering. The odours go out and if you make sure there are no stains in it, then you have no reason to wash it.

hang out your clothing

Our conclusion is: You can really wash your clothing a lot less! It can make a huge difference to your environmental impact, it saves time, money and your clothes last longer. Who also dares to join he No Wash camp?

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