We all know that hand-washing is all the rage right now (thanks, COVID), but let’s talk about the cooler, better dressed version: hand-washing your clothes. Hand-washing increases the longevity of fabrics by preserving fibers and detailing and can completely cut down your carbon footprint. So why aren’t we doing it more?
It’s no surprise that doing your laundry uses a ton of resources (water, energy, and heat) that can harm the environment and your wallet. Some of the older machines use up to 40 gallons of water per load and can tack on extra costs to your utility bill, making your carbon footprint sky rocket after just one wash. Although it may be seen as a taxing chore, there are so many ways to greenify your water and energy use -- hand-washing being one of the best.
Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergents
Of course, it may not always be possible to hand-wash all clothes, but it can be a great complement to your laundry routine. If you must wash, consider some easy, eco-friendly switch-ups to your detergent.
Detergents can be full of harmful chemicals that get washed away into oceans and water streams every time after doing laundry. Energy Star found that the average household does almost 400 loads of laundry each year, consuming around 13,500 gallons of water. That’s a ton of chemicals being washed away with it. Hand-washing with eco-friendly detergents are some the best ways to cut back on water waste and to prevent chemicals from getting into waterways. Some of our favorite eco-friendly detergents are Blueland's plastic free laundry tablets for the washer and Delicate Wash from The Laundress for hand-washing.
How To Hand-Wash Your Clothes
What Can I Wash?
First things first: Some fabrics are better suited for hand-washing than others. For example, your delicates and wool items can and should be hand-washed. Heavier items like bath towels and bedding would be better for a deep-clean in the washer.
The Good Ole’ Sniff Test
Rule of thumb: if it’s a tad bit smelly or has a few stains, it’s time for a wash. Otherwise, wear on. Most clothes, like jeans for example, don’t need to get washed very often unless they’re actually stained/dirty. This limits what you actually wash and helps you minimize your laundry load.
Soak ‘Em Up
Just like you would for a regular load, it’s important to separate clothes by color. Then, fill two tubs (one for washing and one for rinsing) with cold water, as hot water can damage some fabrics. Using your handy-dandy eco-friendly liquid detergent, squeeze a few drops into the washing bin. Soak, massage and gently agitate each item - making sure to follow the care label instructions. Then add to the rinse bucket and again - let soak.
Pre-treating is the best way to tackle any stain before washing your clothes. This approach is more effective than washing an item multiple times to get the desired result. Each stain is a different battle, and we often refer to The Laundress’ Stain Guide to help with specific stains on different fabrics.
Let It Hang
Hang drying on racks is by far the best option to sustainably drying clothes - those pesky dryers emit carbon dioxide and can damage clothes unknowingly. Racks don’t need to take over your entire place either - there are plenty of space-saving racks out there that are thin, foldable, dual purpose and are still able to hold a breath of clothing items (such as this one!).
If you must use the dryer, consider using a micro-fiber catching laundry bag for clothes made of polyester - it reduces fiber-shedding and protects our waterways from being contaminated with micro-plastics. Also, instead of one-time use, flammable and chemical-drenched dryer sheets -- look into reusable climate beneficial wool dryer balls. Cut drying time and sustainably made? Sign us up.
That wasn’t too bad, was it? By hand-washing certain clothing you can lengthen your wear time, save some cash, and better yet, vastly reduce your carbon footprint. Let’s get to washing.
P.S. - Do you have a favorite garment hand-washing hack? We’d love to hear it! DM us on Instagram at @unseamthelabel.