The Care Cycle: How to Wash Green
Small steps you can take to reduce your impact on the environment—and extend the life of your clothes.
Our philosophy has always been to design timeless pieces, in fabrics that are easy to wear and easy to care for. When it comes to making clothes sustainably, we consider the entire life of a garment, from raw materials and manufacturing to your closet—and beyond.
You might be surprised to learn that the care cycle accounts for thirty percent of a garment’s total carbon footprint. According to the 2020 Fashion on Climate report by McKinsey & Company, if consumers modified their behavior only slightly—skipping one in six washing loads, washing half of their loads in cooler water, and replacing one in six dryer cycles with open-air drying—emissions could be reduced by 186 million tons.
Small choices really do add up. That’s why we put together this eco-friendly laundry guide—to help you lighten your load on the planet. Many of these steps will also extend the life of your clothes, so you can keep the ones you love even longer. Because the more you wear a single item, the fewer pieces you’ll need—and the less resources you’ll consume (a win-win-win).
Taking a greener approach to washing your clothes doesn't have to be an inconvenience. It starts, simply enough, with doing laundry less frequently.
Wait, don’t wash that.
Or before you do, at least ask yourself if it’s necessary. Washing your clothes degrades the fibers over time—so the longer you wait between washes, the longer they’ll last.
Do fewer, fuller loads.
Washing less frequently means lowering your energy use—and reducing emissions. So you can skip laundry day and feel good about reducing your impact on the planet.
Refresh instead of washing.
Spritz clothes with an eco-friendly fabric spray and spot treat instead of washing
Okay, at some point, you’re going to have to wash your clothes. The good news is that when you do, there are ways to reduce your impact that require very little effort.
When it’s time to wash, use cold water.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that ninety percent of the energy used by a washing machine goes toward heating water. Washing your clothes with cold water keeps them looking great for longer—and cuts down on carbon emissions.
Hang your clothes up to dry.
You can also reduce your energy consumption by line drying. If you choose to use a dryer, the Energy Department suggests doing a full load and using dryer balls to reduce drying time.
Switch to a natural laundry detergent.
Conventional detergents are made using toxic chemicals that can contaminate water sources, harming the environment and animals. We recommend Tangent GC’s hypoallergenic detergent.
Manage the microplastics.
Synthetic materials are a major source of plastic pollution in the ocean. Next time you wash, throw any garments made from synthetic fibers into a Guppyfriend(R) bag—and help keep microplastics out of our waterways. To learn more, visit guppyfriend.us.
You might be wondering what to do about clothes that come with a pesky “dry clean only” label. While dry cleaning may be the safest way to keep a particular garment in perfect condition—that doesn’t mean it’s your only option.
Hand wash instead of dry clean.
Dry cleaners use PERC (tetrachloroethene), a toxic chemical that’s harmful to people and the planet. Many garments labeled “dry clean only” can also be safely washed by hand (see How to Hand Wash a Sweater).
Try wet cleaning.
Environmentally friendly alternatives to dry cleaning do exist. We recommend water-and CO2-based cleaning methods (also known as “wet cleaning”) because they do not rely on toxic chemicals. Make sure to ask your cleaner which services they offer.
Choose washable fabrics.
You can avoid the issue of dry cleaning altogether by choosing fabrics designed to withstand the wear and tear of the wash cycle. Visit Our Fabric Guide to explore our easy-care fabrics, such as washable silk, ponte, velvet and more.