The most sustainable wardrobe is the one you already have. By wearing what you already own, and making that clothing last, you’re making an eco-friendly choice.
Of course when it comes to children’s clothing you may find that the kids grow out of clothes before they wear out–and that’s a good thing! Well-made, sustainable clothes can (and should!) be passed down (or, ahem, rented) for years.
Here are some tips to help make clothing last, and make sure it remains appealing for future wearers:
Wash and dry less often. The more rarely your clothes face heat, tumbling, getting stretched and pulled and baked–the better. In the winter session especially, when there are more layers being worn, items like sweaters, jeans, sweatsuits, etc. can likely be worn a few times before they need to face your laundry basket.
Spot treat when needed. The other night my son changed into a fresh first threads sweatshirt, sat at the dinner table, and immediately dropped a glob of tomato sauce right down the front of his shirt. Did the shirt need to be washed? No, but it did need to be treated immediately (or pretty immediately, my kid’s a hungry fellow, so best to first feed the beast!) Water is a natural solvent, so start with that if you find yourself in a similar situation. Experts say to soak from the back of the stain to push the stain out rather have it pass through the fabric. Use a bit of the laundry detergent you would use for a full wash and scrub with a cloth or old toothbrush, or, if you use laundry strips (as we do), you can apply a paste of salt and lemon juice, or baking soda and lemon juice.
If you do need to wash, consider using cold water and hanging to dry. As anyone with kids knows–“stuff” happens. And food. And paint. And general messiness. Layer on daycare grime or the general feeling of ickiness when thinking about school clothes being worn all day during a pandemic–we get it. That gear gets grubby. But using cold water and avoiding the dryer is planet- and clothing-friendly. Studies have also shown that UV rays from direct sunlight are a powerful disinfectant–so if you have the outdoor space to do so, sunshine-dried clothes are a great option.
To help colours last, turn your clothes inside out while drying. The sun is a powerful force, and fabrics can fade fast while in direct sunlight. The same is true when the clothing takes a tumble in your washer or dryer.
These are a few tips to get you started–what do you do to extend the life of your kids’ clothes?
The Conscious Closet, by Elizabeth L. Cline