When you buy an item of clothing, the idea is typically to keep it looking new for as long as you can. (This clearly doesn’t apply to things like sweatshirts and sleeping T-shirts, which only get better with age and multiple trips to the washing machine.) But washing your clothes is necessary, and most of us aren’t in the position to constantly take our clothes to the dry cleaner like people in ‘90s sitcoms. We know repeated washing isn’t great for longevity, so how can you keep your clothes clean and looking relatively new? According to a new study, it comes down to the time and temperature settings on your washing machine.
How to keep clothes looking new
This study, published in the journal “Dyes & Pigments,” was done with scientists from the University of Leeds in the UK, and Proctor and Gamble (who owns major laundry detergent brands like Tide, Gain, Downy and Cheer). Now, anytime a corporation or professional organisation funds and/or participates in a study, it’s right to be sceptical. In this case, the focus was on how washing machines causes fabrics to spray microfibers, which results in your clothes starting to look a little worse for wear. The aim was to figure out which wash cycle did the least amount of damage.
Turns out, it’s the gentlest, shortest and coldest wash cycle. (Which you probably guessed on your own.) And wouldn’t you know, P&G has been a leader in cold-water detergents since introducing its first in 2005. But there’s nothing preventing you from using this knowledge and buying another brand.
If you don’t have in-unit laundry, you may find it difficult to find a clean pair of underwear between laundromat visits.Read more
Another piece of the microfiber puzzle is that hundreds of thousands are released in every load of laundry, which then go down the drain. After that, a lot of these tiny fibres make their way to beaches and oceans where they can do some damage on the local ecosystem, especially when when they’re swallowed by sea creatures and other marine life. Also, being able to keep your clothes longer means that you won’t need to throw the older ones out (where they end up in a landfill) and buy more stuff as replacements.
Ultimately, the researchers found that washing clothes using a faster, cooler cycle reduced the amount of microfibers released into the environment by up to 52%, and decreased the amount of dye released by up to 74%.