Why does frequent washing hurt nature and how to reduce it?

Why does frequent washing hurt nature and how to reduce it?

Outdoor clothing is made for outdoor activities and it is natural that our body produces sweat during activity. Not to mention the water, mud, dust and dirt that clothing is exposed to while wandering the mountains. It is therefore natural that an active hiker needs to turn on the washing machine quite often.

However, frequent washing is a silent harm that hurts nature more than is apparent at first glance. Every time you wash, water is wasted, significant energy is consumed, clothes wear out and water pollution occurs. It is estimated that washing and drying is responsible for up to 2/3 of the total environmental impact of a single item of clothing. And that's no small amount.

Fortunately, there are several ways, methods and techniques to minimize the need to wash outdoor clothing, and it all starts with the selection of outdoor gear.

How frequent washing harms nature?

Frequent washing has a much greater impact on the environment than many of us even know.

1. Significant water consumption

Traditional washing machines use a lot of water and although washing machine manufacturers are continually trying to reduce water consumption per wash, the most efficient way is still to wash as little as possible. According to statistics, the average water consumption per wash is 70 litres, while older top-loading washing machine models in particular can use up to 150 litres of water per wash. When you add up how many times a year we switch on the washing machine, the total amount of water used can be shockingly high.

2. Significant energy consumption

Washing machines need quite a lot of electricity to function. This is needed both to heat the water and to run the washing machine motor or dryer. Higher energy consumption contributes negatively to greenhouse gases, which in turn have a negative impact on our climate.

3. Use of harmful chemicals

Most standard detergents contain a number of chemicals, such as phosphates. These chemicals end up in wastewater, polluting aquatic ecosystems and threatening aquatic life. In addition, the production of these detergents itself contributes to pollution and waste.

By washing less frequently, we reduce the need to use these products.

4. Microplastic pollution

Most outdoor clothing contains synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon or elastane, which shed microfibres during the washing process. These microfibres are tiny plastic particles that are too small to be caught by filters, so they find their way into our rivers, lakes and oceans after washing.

These microfibres are harmful not only to aquatic animals but also to the people who consume them.

So by washing less frequently, we will also reduce the amount of these microfibres that make their way into the water.

5. Wear and tear on clothing

At ZAJO, we follow the motto that even the most environmentally friendly piece of clothing is waste if it is not worn or cannot fulfil its purpose. And that the most environmentally friendly product is one that can be used for many years without the need to replace it with something else.

However, frequent washing exposes the materials to mechanical stress that leads to degradation, colour fading and shortened life. By reducing the amount of washing, we extend the life of outdoor clothing, eliminating the need to find a new piece of clothing, while the production of each piece of clothing naturally carries with it a certain environmental burden, from the production of the materials, to the production of the clothing itself, to its transport. Translated with 

How to reduce the amount of washing needed?

1. Ventilate clothes or equipment in the fresh air after each use

We strongly recommend that you air out every piece of clothing, as well as equipment such as sleeping bags or tents, after use. This will rid the materials of moisture, most often caused by perspiration or rain, and will prevent bacteria and mould from spreading effectively in the structure of the material. In addition, clothing made from selected materials such as merino wool can be completely odour-free, so that it can be used for several days without interruption and without the need for washing.

But it's not just about the smell; bacteria and moulds multiply and weaken the structure of the material, which shortens its life and reduces its functionality.

2. Clean spot stains by hand

When hiking, our clothes naturally encounter dust, mud and dirt. However, such stains on clothing do not automatically need to be dealt with by washing; especially with outdoor materials, cleaning stains locally is often very simple and effective. Just follow the instructions for the product

By cleaning stains by hand, we not only save valuable resources that would have been spent on laundering, but we also protect the material itself from the need for laundering, which could reduce its functionality and shorten its lifespan.

3. If you already do laundry, wash clothes in laundry bags

Of course, try as we might, we need to wash. However, even when doing laundry alone, we can reduce its environmental impact. In relation to the microplastics mentioned earlier, there are laundry bags that are able to trap these microparticles, which means they don't end up in our rivers, lakes and oceans.

4. Reach for materials that can be worn for several days in a row

The world of materials has two silent heroes that significantly help reduce the need for laundry. The first is merino wool, which is a natural material from merino sheep, the second is Polygiene StayFresh™ technology, which is a special silver chloride-based material treatment.

Merino wool

Merino wool is naturally antimicrobial, which means it prevents the growth of bacteria and other microbes. As a result, merino wool clothing can be worn for several days in a row without washing. This feature is especially great for multi-day hikes, as it eliminates the need to wear a different shirt or underwear for each day.

Of course, it is essential to note that merino wool also has its limits and is not completely resistant to odour. If you wear it for a few days without washing it, at some point the smell will inevitably come. Compared to other fabrics, however, this moment comes considerably later.

Of course, the number of days you can wear merino wool clothing without washing depends on a number of factors - the climate you are in, the intensity of your activity or the amount of sweat your body produces during that time. Due to the number of factors, it is difficult to estimate the number of days that merino can be worn without regret, but generally we range from 3 to 5 wears.

We have been working with merino wool at ZAJO for a long time and it is particularly excellent as a material for base layers of clothing, which paradoxically need to be washed most often. In addition to merino wool t-shirts, you will also find underwear, socks and several accessories here.

Polygiene StayFresh™

Polygiene StayFresh™ is a special material treatment that contains silver chloride, a form of salt with antimicrobial properties. This treatment is applied at the very end in the production of the materials and, as demonstrated not only by laboratory tests but also by years of experience with this treatment, it can very effectively eliminate odours otherwise caused by the proliferation and accumulation of bacteria in the fabric.

Because clothes with Polygiene StayFresh™ treatment do not accumulate bacteria and mould, they do not need to be washed as often, saving water, energy, time and money.

In addition, since the build-up of bacteria and mould hurts the overall durability of the products, clothes treated with this technology last longer and therefore do not need to be replaced as often.

We have tested the Polygiene StayFresh™ technology on our Unitube multifunctional scarves, where it has proved extremely successful, so we plan to gradually apply it to more and more products, starting with our upcoming new light and airy Terra sweatshirts.

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