How to make your clothes more sustainable

A rack of clothes

Clothes may not seem like the more wasteful item we own. After all, we wear them for a reasonable amount of times before we throw them away. But are there more sustainable approaches to clothing? Can we select more environmentally friendly materials?

Used clothes

If you source them from the right place, used clothing can be a great problem solver. They are more sustainable because they have already been used by someone. Charity shops are great for this because they are very strict about what they sell and how they clean it before sale. Manufacturing clothes takes a lot from the environment, so going with second-hand clothes can help to balance this out.

Washing clothes

Here are a few tips for making your clothing care more sustainable:

1) Don’t wash your clothes every time you wear them

Modern materials are very clever and you don’t need to wash them every time you wear them, unless there’s a stain or something specific that needs cleaning.

2) Line dry as much as possible

Dryers use a huge amount of electricity and don’t always create the nicest smelling clothes. So where possible, line dry your clothes and let the fresh air do the work for you. One tip is to use a little less detergent, to make sure they are well rinsed before hanging them to dry.

3) Avoid dry cleaning

The worst way of cleaning clothes is dry cleaning, which uses lots of harsh chemicals and resources. Most clothes don’t need dry cleaning, so avoid it as much as possible. And when choosing clothes, aim for ones that don’t need it.

If you do have dry-clean-only clothes, see if you can use a spot treatment on any stains when they happen, to reduce the number of times that you dry clean the item. A gentle hand wash with some liquid soap often doe sthe trick.

4) Use a water-saving washing machine

When you are looking for a new washing machine, hunt down the ones that save the most resources – either power, water (or both). Front-loading washing machines are less water heavy and are gentler on the clothing. The fewer the washes, the longer the clothes last.

Clothing materials

The other area you can consider is the actual material in the clothing. Some materials are more sustainable than others. Here’s a few ideas:

1) Look at hemp

Hemp is one of the top sustainable materials because it doesn’t need a pesticide to grow or chemicals to process it into clothing. It is a highly renewable material and tops most lists of environmentally-friendly fabrics.

2) Ethically-produced clothing

Vegan, artisan, locally produced or organic are all examples of ethically-produced clothing. They are very sustainable and avoid pollution and animal testing. Often these clothes are well made and can last a long time too.

3) Read up on cotton

Cotton is everywhere, but not all cotton is equal. Look at the information on the cotton and watch for ethically-produced cotton that avoids chemicals and pesticides in its production.


These ideas show you can be fashion conscious and remain sustainable. You can choose clothing that has the right materials, you can wash them in sustainable ways and even using second-hand clothes, whilst still maintaining your look!