New Clothing Care Label Wants You to Stop Overwashing

©. Care Label Project

The Care Label Project will add a label to thousands of clothes in hopes that people will adopt laundry habits that are better for both fabric and the Earth.

Did you know that 25 percent of clothing’s carbon footprint comes from the way it’s cared for? Decisions about washing, removing stains, ironing, and drying have a profound impact on how well and how long an item lasts. Unfortunately, much clothing is shoddily made these days and not made to last, but the problem is exacerbated by people not knowing how to care properly for their clothes. Items fade, shrink, and get misshapen when treated poorly and then are destined for the trash can.

The Care Label Project hopes to change this. Calling itself an anti-fast fashion initiative, the project has created a new care label that will be added to more than 18,000 garments, and hopefully more as other designers join the movement. The new label says “Don’t Overwash” and will encourage people to rethink the way they do laundry.

“The Care Label Project is a call to action to break outdated care habits, change the mindset of fast fashion, and contribute to a society where clothes get treated with the respect they deserve,” says Ian Banes.

A 2016 study by Ipsos MORI found that 70 percent of people inherit their laundry care habits from their parents, and that 50 percent turn to labels for help. Unfortunately, one in three finds those labels confusing.

The “Don’t Overwash” label is tied to a Modern Care Guide, created as part of the project. The Guide provides some interesting insights, primarily that

“care labels are only suggestions, and it is established within the fashion industry to understate a fabric’s durability to avoid upsetting customers who accidentally ruin their clothing due to the care label’s suggestions.”

So, an interpretation of the Don't Overwash label should translate into the following changes in habit:

  • You don't need to dry clean just because a label says so. Often it can be done by hand at a low temperature.
  • Wash your clothes at 20 to 30 degrees below the specified maximum on the label.
  • Don't wash so often. You can delay washing by airing them out or steaming.
  • Be forewarned, however. The project was initiated by appliance maker AEG, which obviously wants to sell its washing machines and dryers. (Other less biased supporters are also involved, such as Fashion Revolution, Not Just a Label, and slow fashion designers, which gives it more legitimacy.) As a result, the Guide isn’t entirely to TreeHugger’s liking, i.e. encouraging people to tumble-dry certain clothes that they would normally air-dry.

    Aside from that, though, the project’s message not to overwash our clothing is important and valuable for all. To learn more or join the fun, visit Care Label Project.