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how to care for your clothes to extend their life

Photo by Andrej Lišakov

Author: Sarah Brown

Need an excuse for putting off that load of washing? Well it might actually be better for the environment (and your jeans). Bare Market blogger Sarah discusses caring for your clothing to make it last.


So you’re excited about sustainable fashion. Yay! And you’ve been really good about only buying what you need, buying predominantly second-hand clothing or investing in sustainable and local fashion brands. Good for you. But how do you take care of these items to ensure they last for as long as possible? Below are some tips on how you can care for your clothing (and accessories) in a sustainable way.

Only Wash Your Clothes If They Really Need It

This tip might sound gross, but think about it – if you’re washing your t-shirts every time you wear them, they’re going to wear out. Washing machines are tough on our clothes (even on the delicate cycle) and washing machines use a ton of water (between 27 and 40 gallons per load).

You might want to consider not washing your clothes after each wear. Seriously. Check if they really need it. Smell the pits of your shirt. If it smells, throw it in the wash. But if not, perhaps give it another wear. If there is a small stain on your jeans, try spot cleaning with a little soap and water. And washing jeans too frequently actually ruins them so there’s that incentive. Also, you could try hand washing if you only have a few items that need a wash - it uses way less water and is much gentler.

    Photo by Bruno Nascimento

    Use Less Synthetic Cleaning Agents

    Instead of using any old laundry detergent, consider using a less synthetic product, like the detergents carried by Bare market that avoid harsh chemicals like sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, nonylphenol ethoxylate and phospates. Look for a cleaning agent with only a few ingredients, or make your own. Castile soap, baking soda and washing soda are a great combo. You can even add some essential oils for fragrance if you like.

    When I hand wash, I just use a good old-fashioned bar of soap (which has multiple uses).

    Save The Microfibres, Save The Ocean

    Most activewear is made from polyester or polyester derivatives. Unfortunately, these are the clothing items that we usually need to wash most frequently, thanks to those sweaty workouts. With every wash, this fabric leaches microfibres into the water which get flushed down the drain and into the ocean at the end of each cycle.

    One way to avoid this is to either look into workout wear made from alternative fibres like cotton, or to invest in a Guppyfriend washing bag (#notsponsored), which collects clothing microfibres.

    Skip The Dryer

    North Americans seem to love their tumble dryers. It kinda wigs me out how frequently people use them instead of a drying rack. Where I come from (Australia, a faraway place) the majority of people I know only use their dryer if it’s truly necessary, i.e. when it has been raining for days on end. The proliferation of dryer-related products (what the hell are dryer sheets?!) seems totally bizarre to me.

    Give air drying a go! Yes, it can seem a bit tedious to hang out all the bits (I particularly hate the socks, my boyfriend wears so many socks …) but the clothing dries quickly and smells better, especially when hung out on a sunny day. There's no need to use crazy amounts of energy when mother nature can do the job.

    Even if you live in a small space and don’t have access to the outdoors, that’s ok! You can still hang your clothes up inside. Think of all the carbon emissions you’re saving, not to mention the savings on your energy bill.

    Photo by rawpixel

    Repair Your Clothing (And Shoes Too)

    I love clothing and shoe repairs. There I said it. It’s like the best, old-timey life hack. Back in the day before the advent of the excessive consumerist, fast fashion epoch in which we live, people used to buy clothing and repair it when it wore out so that it would last for many years. Weird, I know.

    But instead of throwing out a pair of jeans because the crotch has ripped and buying a new pair for $54.95, consider taking them to your local clothing alterations place. A lot of dry cleaners offer this service too. Not only is it cheaper than buying a whole new clothing item, but supporting small business, you are extending the life of that item and therefore keeping it out of landfill.

    Don’t even get me started on shoe repair. It’s my one true love. Have you seen the work these shoe artisans can do? It is truly amazing. Resoling your shoes can extend their life by a couple of years. Alternatively, check out whether your brand of shoe offers their own repairs. Birkenstock does.

    By investing in your clothing and shoes in this way, you’re extending their life span, supporting the local economy and threatened trades. It’s a win-win!


    About the Author: Originally from sunny Australia, Sarah came to Toronto to experience a Canadian winter (really!). She found Bare Market via Instagram and was instantly drawn to get involved. She loves farmers’ markets, sustainable fashion, all things package free and is way too excited about Toronto's compost bins!


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