The arguments against washing your clothes

Originally published at: The arguments against washing your clothes | Boing Boing



The truth is that drying your clothes (as in putting them in a tumble dryer) is what ruins clothing. I have 35-year-old T-shirts that are still in great condition; they’ve been washed frequently, but I always hang them up to dry.


Although I still tumble dry, my normal cycle for the dry cycle is “permanent press, low heat.”

Anything with microfibers (special rags) is wash cold and line dry.


This is interesting, but I also hate this form of environmentalism.
So we know microfibers are bad for the environment, but instead of passing laws to prevent their further production, or drastically limit it to specialty products that require them, let’s try to convince hundreds of millions of people to change their behavior.


Many years ago, I switched to washing cold, drying on the coolest setting, and never using fabric softener. My clothes last much longer since making those changes. Long enough that daily wear and tear or damage during work/projects cause failures before the old “thin fabric” failures happen.

I also started carrying my phone in my front pocket to save my rear jeans pockets.

@ClutchLinkey agreed on the environmental aspect. Years ago, I heard someone say that “if only we could convince everyone to make a little change…a little bit will change. For real progress, you have to change the industrial sources.” I’ve mangled the quote and made it less pithy, but the sentiment has stuck with me ever since.


As someone who sits down on the subway whenever I can manage to get a seat…this would present a distinct challenge. I do keep around a set of “outside clothes” that stay in a bin by the door and can be reused for a week or so if I’m only popping 'round the shops on foot. The converse “indoor/lounge” outfit is more or less on a “smell it” wash schedule.

My workstudy supervisor in college (environmental resources dept.) only washed her clothes by stomping on them in the shower, which I respect. Instant greywater recycling.


Yeah, just, like, wear cotton or other natural fibers, mainly.

Since I am home alone most time, there are several items that get worn multiple days. People pants for when I go out might go a month before I cycle them out, but they also don’t get worn that much.

I know people who go through multiple wardrobe change through the day, and wash after each wearing. It does seem a bit much…


I got my SO to stop the “every wear” laundry cycle, and we do a ton less laundry. We also dry on a medium setting that doesn’t cook the fibers. I’d almost rather line dry, but that’s a lot more like work, and there’s a lot of bird activity over our yard.


Umm, eventually the legs of your jeans will snap off and you’ll have shorts for the summer?


Dirt contains sharp little things that slice thru fibers. Keeping clothes clean is a good idea if you want them to last.

Keeping t-shirts out of the hot dryer is an XLNT strategy. I’d line dry them along with thin socks, bras, etc. The stuff from the line would go into the dryer on air only (I call it hair only b/c pets) for a half hour or so w/a dryer fabric softener sheet. They’d then be soft and hair-free.


I don’t use softener, wash on cool, and mostly line-dry.

That said, I always have in the back of my mind the idea that every item of clothing has an exact number of wash cycles before it has too many holes in it to wear anymore. I don’t know that exact number, but every time I wash it brings that item of clothing one step closer to death.

This leads me to washing some things less often (e.g. jeans), and just wearing some things less often (favorite t-shirts), and avoiding changing anything during the day unless I really have to.


Having sat in on a number of city council meetings where developers try to push their projects, I have noticed that at a macro level any residential water savings end up being used to justify further development. That has soured me on making small improvements to my water usage; it’s only going to increase the number of McMansions with huge yards of green turf, watered by our savings.

I spent nearly $1000 on a recirculating system for my tankless water heater to save the water waste of running the tap until the water is hot. I regret it, after realizing that any water savings are countered by energy waste from heating all the pipes in the house.

My new clothes washer uses less water in a year than I use for a single watering of my grass. It’s just not worth my worrying about a few extra loads. Much more important be more attentive around being precise with my grass watering.


Agreed. There are good reasons for washing on cold, line-drying or drying on low heat, not washing pants after every wear, minimalist wardrobes, etc. But this is more insistence that the individuals shoulder the unpleasant burdens* of mitigating the effects of the climate emergency while corporations get to carry on with their worst practises that got us here in the first place.

[* and unwashed clothes can get unpleasant, especially when an individual takes it as license to abandon personal hygiene as well.]


In my profession, this would be… just… HELL NO! Yuck! And probably a bit dangerous as well. blech…


Just get rid of the grass…


Exactly. I learned it a little differently. It was kind of about how, we can pour all these resources into trying to get people to “do the right thing” by choice, even though it’s harder, or we can just make it EASIER to do the “right” thing than the “wrong” or destructive thing. Like, in some towns around here recycling pickup is free, but for garbage you pay for special bags. Recycling rates go up.
There are some minor side effects at first, but it all shakes out.


That’s a very nice and more hopeful way of expressing the sentiment - thanks for that. It’s action-oriented. Sometimes “making it easier” will point to a local solution, sometimes the next way to make it easier means to take action earlier in the supply chain, but the principle points you in the right direction. Nice.


i’ll go a week without washing a pair of jeans, especially when the only ones around me are the cats and my husband. but a YEAR? if that’s what it takes to save the planet, then sorry kids, you’re fucked.


The nudists had the right idea all along. Too bad the decades of social conditioning has rendered me unable to be naked in public.


For indoors line drying, I use this clothes drying clip “rack” for almost all of my laundry (exception being sheets and towels)… it works exceedingly well, and just hangs out on my bathroom shower curtain rod. I have a fan pointing towards it when drying clothes. The metal ones, with that hook lock, can hold a shocking amount of wet fabric: