This post on how often do you wear your clothes before washing them is paid-for content, in association with BAM, and contains affiliate links.
Whilst making new clothing is undoubtedly resource-intensive, did you know that it has been estimated that 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions created during the life of a typical cotton t-shirt are made at home? It’s true, the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions from a cotton t-shirt doesn’t come from growing the cotton, transporting it, or manufacturing it. These instead come from washing and drying our clothes. This really makes you think, doesn’t it?
As well as the environmental impacts of laundry, overwashing also shortens the lifespan of our clothes. Washing can be damaging to our clothes, even on gentle cycles. From fading and fibre erosion to shrinkage, overwashing and overdrying can reduce the lifespan of our garments. This means we have to buy more clothes more often, using yet more resources. It makes sense to only wash our clothes when we really need to. But how do we balance that fine line between acceptable to wear and unacceptable to wear? Let me share with you my experiences and tips.
BAM’s Dare To Wear Longer Campaign
I’ve been writing about looking after your clothes for years. This guide to how often you should wash your clothes is really helpful, for example. I refer back to it time and time again, and I thought I had it all together when it came to washing habits. But then ethical clothing retailer BAM* challenged me, through their Dare to Wear Longer Campaign, to see how long I could wear an item of clothing before needing to wash it. Why? To highlight the environmental impact of washing our clothing after every wear and challenge the assumption that we need to.
Let’s just say, I was on board, but also nervous. Would I be a stinky, dirty mess by the end of the challenge? I kept a daily diary, so let’s find out!
First, let me tell you a bit about BAM. BAM is an ethical clothing company that is investing in greening its supply chain and treating its workers fairly. In the last two years, BAM says they have “traced our suppliers’ suppliers’ suppliers’ suppliers’ supplier to systematically identify all our growers, factories, plants, and manufacturers“.
By understanding and knowing their entire supply chain, has allowed BAM to green their operations. Now they only work with responsible producers. For example, they only work with bamboo fibre producers who use safe and responsible chemistry and waste treatment practices, and who are committed to investing in the technology needed to further improve their practices, processes, and chemistry where necessary.
By knowing all of their suppliers, they are also able to ensure that their suppliers are paying their staff above the national minimum wage and offering good working conditions throughout the entire supply chain.
You can read more about BAM’s work on sustainability in their 2021 sustainability report*. This sets their current impact, their immediate plans, and their ultimate goals for the next ten years.
The Dare to Wear Challenge
BAM sent me their long sleeve bamboo top* in black to wear for the duration of this challenge. A wardrobe staple, I felt confident this would go with anything in my wardrobe. Ready to see how I got on? Here’s how it went:
I went about my business today in my lovely BAM top. I was doing really well until dinner time. I seem to have inherited a family trait that makes it almost impossible to eat a meal without some kind of spillage. My sister and my dad both have the same condition! So, inevitably, straight off the bat I ended up with a bit of bolognese sauce on my top. Rather than putting the whole top in the washing machine, after dinner, I immediately spot cleaned the bit where the sauce was and before the food had a chance to set. I then hung the top up on the washing line for a little while to dry, and this had the added bonus of refreshing the top with fresh air.
In the morning, the top looked clean. I then gave my top the sniff test, and it smelled fresh, so it was good to go for day two. I was working from home today, so apart from a lunchtime stroll, didn’t do anything that was particularly strenuous. By some miracle, I also made it through the day without spilling any food on me.
By the end of the day, the top looked visibly clean. Just to be sure it would be fresh for the morning, I gave it a spray with my homemade clothes refresher. I make this using vodka and essential oils, and it really does neutralise any odours. The smell of vodka dissipates as soon as it dries, so you don’t walk around smelling like a pub. You can make this using witch hazel too if you don’t like the idea of using vodka.
We had a mini-heatwave. Seizing the opportunity, I cast aside jeans and long-sleeved tops and wore a dress. In mid-September in Scotland, you can never tell if this is the last time you’ll be able to wear dresses and bare legs until next year, so the challenge went out of the window today. In the true spirit of the challenge, and even though the weather made for an excellent laundry day, I didn’t wash the top. Instead, I left it hanging up to air in my bedroom like my grandmother always did with her clothes.
The weather went back to normal service, so the top went back on today – still smelling and looking fresh (I got my partner to double-check!). I was working again today, so nothing exciting to report. My partner and I don’t work for the same company, but we do work from home together. During our lunch break, my partner and I took a mildly strenuous walk – we try to aim for 10,000 steps in a day. We don’t always manage it but it’s good to have a target. Afterward, I wasn’t sweaty, but I was conscious I had been wearing the top for three days. As such, I bust out my clothes steamer in the evening and gave the top a good steam. I then hung it up to air in the bedroom overnight.
I’m really not used to wearing a top for four days without washing, so I admit, I had doubts about pulling the top on this morning. However the steamer had really worked wonders, and there weren’t any odours. I did a sniff test, and again, I got my poor partner to do a sniff test too. The things you do for love!
I was all fired up today and was sure I was going to get to the end of day four. That was until I realised I had judged the weather all wrong. I thought the day was going to pan out to be a cold one. It had certainly started off that way. However, by lunchtime, when I was out and about, things started heating up and fast. Oh, September, you trickster! This meant, as I was walking to pick up my kids from school I absolutely melted in the heat. As I walked home with them, carrying multiple backpacks, sweat trickled down my back, and I knew that no amount of airing, spraying, or steaming was going to save things. By the end of the day, the top was in the wash – challenge over!
What I Learned During The Dare to Wear Challenge
BAM’s Dare to Wear challenge really opened up my eyes to how often I wear my clothes before washing. Although I thought I was mindful of how often I wash my clothes, I realised that I have probably been sometimes overwashing my clothes. Whilst I might not always stretch a top to four days without washing, simple things like airing your clothes between wears, and spot treating any food spillages or marks can all go a long way in maintaining the freshness of your clothes in-between wears.
Top Tips To Prolong The Freshness of Your Clothes Inbetween Washes
If you are looking to prolong the freshness of your clothes, so that you can wear your clothes for longer before washing them then I’ve got some great tips:
- Pick natural fibres over synthetic fibres. These are more breathable, and allow sweat to evaporate, keeping the bacteria responsible for creating bad smells away from your skin.
- Hang your clothes outside for a little while if you can to air them. If not, pop them on a hanger and hang them up near an open window.
- Another good spot to hang clothes is in the bathroom whilst you shower. This allows the steam to refresh your clothes and take out any wrinkles.
- Spot clean small stains rather than popping the whole item in the washing machine.
- Do the sniff test – if it doesn’t smell then you’re good to go.
- Wear a t-shirt under woolly jumpers or similar. This helps to prolong the life of your knitwear.
- If you have one, then a clothes steamer can really help to remove odours and keep your clothes looking good for longer.
- A homemade fabric refresher spray, made with vodka or witch hazel, really helps to get rid of odours.
How often do you wear your clothes before washing them? Would you take the dare to wear challenge? If so, let me know how you get on!