Written by Ali
As more and more people are supporting sustainable fashion and sewing their own clothing, we need to think more about how we wash our fabrics and what we are washing them in. We are all thinking more about the end life-cycle of our garments, why not our washing detergent life-cycle too.
Eco-friendly fabrics are made from natural fibres, hence they need to be washed with detergents that are kind on both the fabrics and the environment.
A lot of generic washing detergents contain harsh chemicals that can damage your fabrics and harm the environment in the process.
The below steps are our simple guide to washing your eco-friendly fabrics like a pro!
Linen / Cotton / Organic Cotton / Hemp / Linen-Cotton Blends
As these fabrics are made from natural fibres (check out our quick cheat sheet here to see how your eco-friendly fabrics are made), harsh detergents and not-so-ideal washing conditions can cause damage to the fabric fibres and significantly reduce their life-span. By taking a little extra care with your washing you can prolong their life span and keep their colours.
Colours + Sunlight
If you are using fabrics that have been dyed with Oeko-Tex Certified dyes, your fabrics will fade in colour slightly over time. Oeko-Tex dyes do not use harsh or harmful chemicals to bind the dyes to the fabric, so it is inevitable that the dyes will eventually start to fade a little. You can reduce colour fading by drying your fabrics + clothing in a shady spot or in dappled sunlight. Also try turning your clothes inside out when drying so any potential fading will happen to the inside of your clothing (plus show off all those french seams!).
It is well known that washing fabrics + clothing in cold water is both better for the environment, your electricity bills and for your clothing. Hot water can cause your clothes to shrink and colours to fade. It can also be very damaging to the fabrics fibres and make them brittle over time. Liquid detergents do not need hot water to dissolve, check that what you are using is cold or warm water wash appropriate (most detergents are these days).
We have been supporting Dirt laundry detergents since they launched a few years ago. They are an Australian owned company with everything also being made in Australia, using 100% biodegradable and plant based cleaning ingredients. They contain no dyes or synthetic fragrances, no nasty sulphates and no SLS, plus they are not tested on animals.
Our favourite part about their range is their Refill + Return program. They have designed a closed-loop system so that you never have to purchase and dispose of single-use plastic bottles again. They have seriously thought about every aspect of their business being sustainable, from the ingredients, packaging and shipping - we love to support sustainable businesses, especially Australian made, and we encourage you to do the same!
We pre-wash all our fabrics and wash our clothing (which is all basically linen), in their Laundry Detergent. We also use the Stain Remover for any tough stains that you can’t get out in a normal wash cycle (coffee). It is super gentle on the fabric fibres yet still removes the stains - amazing!
In the last couple of years I have got into the habit of hanging wet clothes on clothes hangers before hanging on the line - mainly collared shirts and dresses etc. If this is you too make sure that the hangers you are using are clean and smooth - you don’t want any fibres catching and pulling and you don’t want to stretch out any necklines on tee’s. We also use stainless steel pegs - these can be left out on the line and will not rust or fall apart! Plastic and timber pegs can both deteriorate in the sun and end up having rough surfaces which are never good for your clothes. Where stainless steel pegs are a bit of an investment, they do have a much longer life span and are more economical in the long run (mine have been going for about 3 years and still look brand new!) You can add these in gradually whenever you need to replace broken plastic or timber ones.
Natural Wools + Delicates
For all your handmade knits and jumpers, this is where your hand washing comes into play. Does it take a little longer than popping them in your machine? Yes it does, however build up a little pile and do them all at once, it is only a 5-10 minute exercise!
Wools + delegates need to be hand-washed to keep their shape.
Fill your laundry tub or a bucket up with warm water (approx. 40 degrees), add in your detergent and then your wools. If you are washing a few at a time, start with your whites and neutral colours first then move onto colours + blacks. You may need to change your water in between if any colour runs off the wools. After you’ve given them all a good wash, rinse with clean water and gently wring out excess water.
When selecting a wool + delicate detergent make sure to check the ingredients list, the last thing you want after spending your $ on natural wool and time on making beautiful clothing is to have it ruined by harmful chemicals.
Again we use Dirt detergents here also - specifically the Wool + Delicate Wash.
The best part about washing our delicates with Dirt products is that we can empty the grey-water onto the garden afterwards. Because their ingredients are all plant based and bio-degradable it is safe to water your plants with - win win!
Drying + Sunlight
Wools keep their shape best when dried flat and in the shade / dappled sunlight (under a tree). If you dry them on a hanger they will stretch out of shape due to the weight of wet wool. The best way to dry wool is to lye flat on an airer or on the top of your washing line. Lay a towel down first, then lye your wool clothing on top - this will stop any lines being made when the wool dries.
We hope this has helped encourage you to think more about the end life-cycle of your washing detergents. Every small environmental step you can take to be more eco-friendly and sustainable is a win in our books!
The below images are some snippets from our weekly washing routine!