Every time we wash our clothes at home, the environment suffers but we don’t even realise it. Every step of a garment’s life can impact the fashion life of a garment, from manufacturing, to distribution to washing the clothes at home. So, what can you do at home to help?
One issue that we don’t speak about enough is dry cleaning. When you take your clothes to the dry cleaners, they use a dry-cleaning solvent that is called perchloroethylene, that have been linked to very serious health and environmental problems; it has also be classed as a ‘probable carcinogen’. This isn’t the only method of dry cleaning that can be hazardous, DF-2000 is also used a lot and claims to be eco-friendly, however DF-2000 has previously been listed as a neurotoxin that can irritate the workers skin and eyes, that has also contributed to high smog levels in certain areas as well as global warming. However, there have been recent developments to make going to the dry cleaners a much cleaner trip. Wet cleaning is a new process that can clean a ‘dry clean only’ garment, but this environmentally friendly method is water based. Currently this process would work safely on garments made out of 100% wool, cashmere, silk, rayon, acetate is just a few of the fabrics that will be able to be wet cleaned. The wet cleaning process came from ’Miele’ in Germany, since it was invented it has become popular in North America and Europe.
CO2 cleaning is also a new method that is taking off. By using liquid carbon dioxide to dry clean clothes, this method means that you don’t need to use harmful chemicals like perchloroethylene. The liquid carbon dioxide is combined with recyclable cleaning agents in a machine that looks like a basket. Using a patented detergent system enhances the ability liquid carbon dioxide has, and how strong it is when removing dirt from garments.
GreenEarth Cleaning has also become popular, despite being developed back in 2000, it is still relatively unheard of. To do this, the process involves using a silicone solvent, essentially pure liquefied sand and it’s gentle on clothes so it doesn’t irritate the skin. Instead of chemically interacting with clothes, it carries detergent to the clothing and rinses away any dirt being suspended or any oil that is trapped by detergent. Fabrics like wool don’t come out with the colour looking ‘washed out’ or dry or like they’re full of static, and more delicate materials, such as silk or acetates are treated more gently. Instead, the colours remain bright and intact because there are fewer chemical reactions, in some cases there are none, in the solution. For some people say their garments feel much gentler feel and, in some cases, there is less wrinkling. However, if you can only use conventional dry cleaning, get rid of the plastic bag and hang the clothes up outside.
These are just three ways to wash a garment sustainably, in a few years these might become more readily available.