Dear Agony Aunt, I have a laundry problem…
In this recurring series, our resident Agony Aunt (& cofounder + creative director), Orsola de Castro, answers your burning questions on all things Fashion Revolution. To submit a letter, email your frantic fashion queries to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line, “DEAR AGONY AUNT”.
Dear Agony Aunt,
I know that I need to wash clothes less frequently to reduce my impact. And I do care about my footprint, I promise. But honestly, I’m a bit of a mess. Sometimes I try on six outfits before I leave the house, and by the time I get around to picking up all of the clothes on my floor, it’s anyone’s guess what’s dirty and what’s unworn – so it all goes in the washing basket. What’s the rule of thumb for washing stuff? How many times can I wear jeans before they need a clean? And what about pajamas? And t-shirts?
Dear Pretty Messy,
Oh I do identify with that. I also live my clothing life skipping in between a chairdrobe, a floordrobe and my wardrobe! But the truth is that if your home and your self are reasonably groomed, falling from your body to the floor and back again should not mean that clothes get dirty.
There is a big difference between dirty and slightly dusty, and I can tell you after years of practice that clothes that live on the floor will just need a light shake before being ready for service.
The thing is, the act of picking up your clothes from the floor and shoving them in the washing machine WITHOUT thoroughly inspecting for real dirt such as proper stains and actually smelly B.O., isn’t just lazy – it’s bad for the planet. We know the environmental toll that washing our clothes too frequently has on our environment. And that toll is becoming increasingly measurable: from microplastics that are shed each time we wash polyester, to residues of toxic dyes and the harsh impact of detergents, washing may clean your clothes, but it contaminates everybody else’s life via our public waterways.
Furthermore, clothes that are too frequently washed are also likely to age prematurely, and that will make you less inclined to want to keep them.
So, how often should you wash? As little as possible is the answer, but there is no fixed recipe, you will find your rhythm, once you make a start.
And, there are lots of ways to make your clothes last longer in between washes, such as sponging, steaming, and spot cleaning (you can read our Fanzine “Loved Clothes Last” to find out more about these wash-saving techniques).
As Joan Crawford said “Care for your clothes, like the good friends they are.”
As for our floordrobe, I can pass on some experienced advice indeed: just fold.