how to care about clothes naturally while protecting the planet
To make our wardrobe last longer, we also need to take care of it. For this purpose, it is worth choosing things from good quality materials, but it is also worth knowing how to a care about a given fabric or fiber. If you have to buy something brand new, you can make an impactful choice by buying good quality clothes, preferably from local designers. At the beginning, we would like to sensitize you to polyester – with each wash thousands of plastic microfibers are released from it, which is toxic to us and to the entire environment.
Where to start?
Just go offer a glimpse at how dangerous our clothes can be, we would like to bring your attention to polyester. Each time we wash, thousands of toxic plastic microfibers are released into water systems.
We suggest when purchasing clothes to start with reading the tags. Check its composition to make sure that the pleasant touch of the material will last after the first wash. You don’t have to buy expensive silks right away – it’s about choosing fibers that are durable and relatively easy to maintain. This does not mean, however, that you do not need to care for them. Nylon shouldn’t be ironed, silk only steam-ironing, and linen is best ironed when the fabric is still wet. Unfortunately, the most durable materials usually contain an admixture of synthetic fibers (the ones that are a derivative of plastic do not require ironing, and the admixture of elastane causes the clothes to quickly return to their original shape).
However, properly treated clothes made of natural materials can last for decades. There is a lot of talk today about plastic pollution. Microplastics not only affect our body by being absorbed through the skin, they are released into water during washing, which travels through rivers and eventually to the seas and ocean. . Caring for our planet includes choosing materials made of natural fibers.
Now is an excellent time to learn how to skillfully do laundry and care for clothes. Therefore, we present to you methods of keeping your wardrobe clean without any damage. Invest your time at home so that your favorite items of clothing serve you for years.
First of all, wash less – as they say “frequent washing shortens life”. Each wash weakens the fabric, so the more you wash the faster the clothes lose quality. Before starting the next batch of laundry, think about whether there are things that could be refreshed simply by airing or brushing.
- Empty the pockets before each wash, close the zippers and other fasteners to avoid damage due to hooking the slider elements together. Loosely tie the strings (e.g. for a bow) to prevent tangling.
- Sort clothes according to colors and type of fabric. This will help avoid surprises associated with changing the shades of your favorite things.
- Wash only when clothes are dirty, sweaty, stained; it’s best to do it immediately, because some materials may change color when exposed to long-lasting staining (sweat can discolor dark clothes and turn yellow).
- Turn dark jeans and clothing with prints inside out.
- Use laundry bags for washing underwear and socks.
KEEP COLOR FOR LONGER
- To protect your clothes from losing colour, add a teaspoon of vinegar to each wash. This method is known to everyone who has tried their hand at home dyeing fabric at least once.
- Keep an eye on the amount of detergents added, it happens that with a wrong ratio of laundry powder (even natural) there is a trace of the detergent on the fabric, which, if not rinsed, can cause skin irritation, drying or an allergic reaction. Therefore, to prevent detergents from staying on clothes, add 250 ml of spirit vinegar to the final rinse phase.
- Instead of a commercial chlorine bleach, make your own detergent. Chemical bleach will most likely create toxic substances when in contact with vinegar. It’s easy to replace toxic detergents with natural homemade ones. Here you have another Ethy Guide: ECO CLEANING with all the recipes and interesting facts about natural DIY cleaning products. This way you will contribute to the protection of the surrounding Nature while taking care of your health.
ECOLOGICAL DRY CLEANING
- Give a coat or jacket as well as some heavy wool clothes to ecological dry cleaning. Most of these clothes are taped with fleece, which is a special stiffening fabric aimed to make the structure of clothes stronger. Fleece doesn’t like steaming and may simply peel off as a result of moisture.
- Clothes such as overcoats or woolen coats should never be washed in water as they can change the shape and texture of the fibers.
- Find some ecological dry cleaners on Ethy Maps.
In the case of stains, time is what counts the most. The sooner you start to help remove the stain, the better are the chances of success. Remember, however, that the lack of a quick reaction is not the end of the world (or clothing). A persistent, indelible stain can always be hidden by sewing a different fabric or patch to the place of destruction.
Before you treat your stain with anything, do a test on a small non visible piece of fabric to check the effect of using the mixture.
NATURAL WASHING SOAP
The composition is surprisingly simple: soda ash and borax in a 1: 1 ratio. Optionally – half this amount in soap flakes. Add about 10 drops of essential oil per 500 grams. Add the essential oils to soda drop by drop. Combine with borax and soap, mix again. Store in a tightly closed box. Add 60 grams of the mixture to each wash. While borax, soda and soap are powerful cleansers, essential oils provide a fresh fragrance.
UNIVERSAL NATURAL STAIN REMOVER
Mieszanka ta działa na prawie wszystkie plamy – pod warunkiem, że Twój czas reakcji będzie wystarczająco szybki. W 125 ml wody rozpuść łyżkę gliceryny i łyżkę naturalnego płynu do naczyń – taką miksturę przechowuj w butelce z dozownikiem i używaj jej prosto na plamy, przed włożeniem do pralki.
To remove traces and unpleasant smell of sweat, simply add 30 grams of baking soda and 30 grams of borax directly to the laundry.
Another way is to make a solution from soda, water and hydrogen peroxide (in a 1: 1: 1 ratio). It should be applied directly to the stains and wait 45 minutes. Then wash the blouse in lukewarm water (with the addition of a natural washing agent).
For the most persistent stains, create a paste made of vinegar and baking soda. Mix them in a 2: 3 ratio. Apply on stains and leave for an hour. After this time, wash the fabric. The advantage of using vinegar is that the fabric will absorb perspiration more slowly when you use it again.
There are three easy ways:
- Soak the fabric in water with a bag of citric acid for an hour, and if the spots are still visible – you can soak it for up to 6 hours. Then wash the fabric in the washing machine.
- Soak the fabric in water with vinegar in a 2: 1 ratio if the stains are fresh and 1: 1 if the stains are dry. Leave for 1-2 hours. Then wash the fabric in the washing machine.
- Wipe fresh stains on both sides with lemon juice or lemon oil. Rinse under running water.
Soak the stain in cold water as soon as possible. Because the blood contains protein, high temperatures cause dirt to penetrate deeply into the fabric fibers. After soaking, wash the stain with natural soap or natural washing liquid and rinse. Repeat until the stain begins to fade, then put your clothes in the washing machine.
Clean grass soiled with 70% alcohol or diluted ammonia. After applying to the stain, leave it for a few minutes and then rinse with cold water.
Another way is to wipe stains with one of these substances: hydrogen peroxide (cotton will react particularly well), citric acid, lemon juice or lemon oil.
Make a solution with 1/2 l of water and 1 tablespoon of borax. Apply the solution with a natural sponge to the stain, rinse after a few minutes, then wash in the washing machine. If you do not have borax at home, you can replace it with vinegar, in this case, make a solution to the ratio of 1 cup of water for 2 tablespoons of food vinegar.
COFFEE AND TEA STAINS
Soak the material in warm water and pour some baking soda directly onto the stain. Gently rub the powder into the material. Make yourself a new coffee or tea, drink it and don’t stress! The idea is for the soda to remain on the stain for as long as possible before washing the clothes.
RED WINE STAINS
Removing wine stains should be done using the least invasive products.
Apply potato flour to the stain, sprinkle it with lemon juice and leave for about 10 minutes and then wash by hand. The classic and fastest way is to sprinkle stains with fine-grained salt. Rubbed gently into the material will begin to absorb the red dye. After a few minutes, rinse the clothes and wash them by hand.
Before removing wine stains, be sure to perform a color test on an non-visisable scrap of material, the product used to remove the stain may affect the discoloration of the fabric.
Sprinkle a grease stain with potato flour and leave it for a few minutes, then clean gently with a brush and rinse clothing in warm water.
If the stained fabric is made of cotton, apply a small amount of natural toothpaste to the brush, rub the stain and wash.
STAINS ON A COLLAR
For grease stains on the collar, it’s best to create a paste from natural dishwashing liquid and baking soda. Spread the paste on the stain, leave it for an hour, then put it in the washing machine.
Remove as much wax as possible with a blunt knife. Then cover the place with the remains of wax with paper (we recommend using brown, from a shopping bag) and press it with a slightly hot iron. Under the influence of temperature, the dissolved wax will melt into the paper. Repeat this process, applying fresh paper until the wax is completely removed from the fabric.
REMOVING CHEWING GUM
Use an ice cube to freeze the gum. Scratch it off, then rub apple cider vinegar into those areas of the fabric that are still sticking. An alternative is to put clothes packed in a box or bag for 30 minutes in the freezer.
MINIMIZE THE QUANTITY OF MICROPLASTIC
Avoid washing polyester clothes (especially fleece) with thicker and heavier items (e.g. jeans). Their mutual friction in the washing machine will release more microfibers into the water. You can also buy a Guppyfriend TM bag that catches microfibers from the washed materials before they get into the water.
GET TO KNOW THE FABRICS
Delicate fabrics are clothes made of natural silk or wool, without accessories. We also include underwear and swimwear in the delicate category. The best for them will be hand washing in cold water with the addition of ecological detergent or soap, e.g. with lavender oil.
Leave the clothes in a bowl or sink for an hour (unless they are woolen – wool does not like to get wet!). Mix the laundry several times.. Then rinse them, squeeze out the water and hang clothes on the dryer (wool dry flat).
Swimsuits rinse well or soak in water after each use. Saltwater and chlorine damage the fibers and reduce fabric elasticity. The habit of rinsing or soaking will prolong the life of your swimsuits.
Manufacturers often instruct on the label to dry clean silk. However, it can be washed by hand, although cleaning only fragments can leave a water stain, sobe sure to rinse the entire fabric. Remember not to squeeze silk clothes, hang them on a hanger and let the water drip evenly. Take stained silk to an organic dry-cleaner’s. By using stain removers, you risk permanently discoloring the material. It may happen that the laundry staff will be helpless – we then recommended to agree to water laundering (in most cases you can save your clothes).
Always hang silk clothes on hangers.
Silk is best ironed with a steam iron as directed. If the creases are persistent, try increasing the temperature – do it slowly, checking the reaction of the material.
All types of wool should be hand washed in lukewarm water with a natural wool liquid soap, unless your washing machine has a special wool program.
Woolen clothes should be dried unfolded, maintaining their natural shape.
Cotton can be washed in a washing machine, but only with similar colors, because it is easy for darker colors to bleed to lighter colored materials.
The temperature should be adjusted to the type of cotton, preferably not exceeding 40 degrees.
Uneven cotton, some cotton products are impregnated, and therefore stiff, and should be sent to an organic dry cleaner to prevent creases that cannot be ironed.
Wash with the addition of natural softening liquids and hang on the dryer, taking two lines. Instead of softeners you can use baking soda.
Unstained linen is a very graceful fabric that is easy to stain. It is good to wash it with the addition of a natural softener.
However, you need to remember that there are different types of linen, so you should not iron it while it is still damp.
You can wash your jeans in a washing machine, but only with other denim clothes, because dyes easily bleed onto other fabrics (denim fabrics are dyed in such a way that each time they give off some of their colors).
Spinning is better set at the lowest speed so that no discoloration occurs on the bent material surfaces.
To eliminate bad smells without washing, hang jeans or denim jackets in your bathroom for the time when you’re taking a shower or a bath. The little steam from the shower will help keep freshness. Another option is wrap denims in a paper bag and freeze in your freezer for two days.
SYNTHETIC FIBERS (materials such as acrylic, nylon, polyester, polyamide)
Clothes made of synthetic materials that do not require ironing (e.g. nylon) should be washed by hand or in a washing machine, at a low temperature, with spinning at the lowest speed to avoid permanent creases.
Such washing should be hung on a hanger to dry in it’s natural shape.
AIRING INSTEAD OF WASHING
Odor that remains on fabrics can be eliminated by airing. It’s best to hang clothes outside, a ventilated room will also work well. In winter, however, you can take your clothes out in the cold, this practice is recommended by many fabric manufacturers and aims to freeze bacteria and germs that accumulate in our clothes and bedding.
Airing the materials also removes from them residues of any chemicals used in the organic dry cleaning. After picking up your jacket or coat from the laundry room, it is a good idea not to hide them in the closet at once, but hang them for a week in a ventilated place.
The steam straightens fabric folds. If you do not have time to iron or when the clothes are not very creased, hang them on a hanger in the bathroom while showering.
For the sake of your clothes and to reduce the carbon footprint, avoid the dryer. Drying cotton in this way damages the fibers and leads to cracks in the fabric, which reduces its durability by 25%. A side effect is also the pilling of clothes.
After removing from the washing machine and before hanging, shake off every piece of clothing to straighten the fabric. This treatment can even eliminate the need for ironing!
Things that may stretch (e.g. woolen sweaters) should be dried spread out – preferably on a soft towel, which varies depending on the degree of moisture.
If you like it when your bedding, napkins and tablecloths are smooth, use a natural mixture to spray the fabric. Dissolve half a teaspoon of cornstarch in 250 ml of water and pour into an atomizer bottle. Use this mix when ironing. Maybe you know this way from your childhood – it’s starching (just remember not to starch cotton t-shirts – it’s a method that you use for clothes or bedding)!
Give your clothes a “breathe” without squeezing them on one shelf. Many clothes are better to hang on hangers than to fold. If you fold them, try to do it along the seams – this will avoid unwanted creases.
REPAIR, DO NOT THROW AWAY
If you are unable to repair clothes yourself or you do not have enough time for it, it is worth taking them to tailor (and shoes for shoemakers). Remember that if you can’t fix something, you can redo it – the patch does not have to be made of a plaid shirt, you can make an aesthetic detail from a delicate fabric, which will give your clothes a unique character.
By repairing clothes, you prolong their lives, save money, time, energy and resources on our planet.
WHAT TO DO WITH CLOTHES THAT YOU DO NOT WEAR ANYMORE?
If they are in good condition:
– Try to find a new home for them among family or friends.
– Organize a SWAP or check if there are any gearing up in your area. On the Ethy Instagram and Facebook we mention such actions in different cities!
– Maybe there is a Single Mother’s House in your area? Or a family who needs something new? A foundation that collects clothes for the homeless? A lot of charity super actions are being created on the internet, e.g. collection of warm things for refugees. Look for some charity shops on Ethy Maps.
– Helping Through Clothes http://www.pomaganieprzezubranie.pl is a portal where you can order a courier who will come and take unwanted items. For each kilogram, he will transfer the percentage of profit of their sales to the foundation of your choice.
If they are not wearable:
There are several possibilities: first of all, do not throw away your clothes – it’s a pity if they are wasted. There are better solutions, e.g.
– Use old items as cleaning cloths. You will extend their lives for several years.
– Announce somewhere that you have to give away worn clothes and materials – there are many people who know how to give them a second life and a new destiny.
– Return clothes to containers or to recycle. You will find a collection point in every major store.
– You can unravel unwanted sweaters to get new wool.
text: Julia Kaleta, Julia Mafalda
graphics: Aleksandra Perec / Lepszy rydz niż nic