CircularityEnd-of-LifeLife Style

‘No wash’ and ‘Low wash’ movements getting popular in the West

  • Thrifty households across the United States are turning away from doing laundry
  • It is seen people wearing dirty clothes again and again in ‘no-wash’ and ‘low-wash’ movements
  • This has been fueled by concerns about water use and energy consumption

Wearing clothes without washing- this trend is gradually increasing in the western world under the name of no-wash and low wash movement. Some don’t wash their clothes with water day after day just for the sake of fashion, some have stopped using water for washing for the sake of the environment. Many people even do not bother about the bad smell of unwashed clothes.

The ‘no-wash’ and ‘low-wash’ laundry movements, which have swept across the US in recent weeks, see people re-wearing dirty clothes and underwear for days to cut costs. While most of us consider laundry a weekly necessity it seems that some thrifty families turn their backs on such mundane conventions.

New movements to reduce water and energy waste focus on limiting the number of washes – or cutting them out altogether. Motivated by concerns about water use and energy consumption, many believe that conventional washing with detergent is unnecessary to maintain clean, odor-free clothes.

Many conscious consumers also claim that it helps limit exposure to harmful chemicals often found in conventional detergents.

Rise of movements

The ‘no wash’ and ‘low wash’ movements are believed to have their roots in the coronavirus pandemic when many initially turned away from washing their hair in light of not going out in public. And it seems to have grown since then.

This trend now encompasses a whole host of other lifestyle choices, including dishes, personal hygiene and household cleanliness. Many have also credited their decision to break away from conventional norms to save a whole load of precious time.

The no-wash movement has caught the attention of fashion enthusiasts and environmentalists alike. This movement encourages individuals to refrain from washing their clothes to preserve their beauty and durability.

The Indigo Invitational

Figure: Indigo International
Figure: Indigo Invitational

‘The Indigo Invitational’ is a competition where people from all over the world participate and for that they have to wear denim jeans without washing them for a year. Bryan Szabo is the judge for this kind of unwashed jeans competition who said about himself that his habit of not washing his pants started in 2010.

The Indigo Invitational will complete three years next January. 9 out of 10 participants in the competition clean their trousers with water only the first time after wearing them 150 to 200 times.

Chip Bergh, CEO of famous jeans brand Levi’s, is a dedicated non-washer who hasn’t washed his jeans in over 10 years.

No wash and low wash for denim

A great way to create shiny designs on denim is to not wash them in water. Therefore, the ‘no-wash movement’ has gradually become popular in the world. Even big brands follow this strategy these days.

Raw denim wearers often clean their denim with other methods than water, i.e., they adopt methods like the use of ultraviolet rays or simply keeping them in the air.

One denim company, in particular, has even established a club called the “No Wash Club,” which celebrates the idea of keeping new jeans unwashed for an extended period of time.

Figure: No Wash Club

But not only jeans wearers, many other celebrities have expressed different views on washing. Designer Stella McCarthy told The Guardian in 2019, ‘If you don’t need to wash something very often, don’t wash it. I’m not in favor of throwing a garment in the washing machine just because it’s worn.’

Women’s clothing company Wooland currently presents a challenge to buyers when it comes to selling clothing. According to this challenge, the customer has to wear the same clothes for 100 consecutive days.

Alternative way of washing

There are many ways to clean clothes apart from washing them directly, such as: in case of stains, clean only the area where the dirt is, drying and hanging the clothes outside in the air or in the sun if they feel spongy, keeping the clothes fresh by keeping them in the fridge overnight if they smell bad. This will not only help the clothes last longer, but is also environmentally friendly.

Figure: TikTok content creator Stanley Dru gave his 95,000 followers a ‘no-wash’ tip for jeans, ‘freezing technique.’

TikTok content creator Stanley Dru gave his 95,000 followers a ‘no-wash’ tip for jeans, ‘freezing technique.’ He demonstrated the process and explained, “Fold [the jeans] up and pop them in a bag. Pop them in the freezer overnight. The cold will kill off any bacteria and leave your jeans fresh.”

Tiina Nyman also took to the video-sharing platform to reveal how to clean sweaters without putting them in the washing machine. She said the first step was steaming because it kills the bacteria and removes the odor from the fabric. The next step is spraying ‘laundry vinegar’, which she says is ‘effective at removing strong odors.’ Tiina claims the two-step combination keeps any garment ‘fresh as a wash’.

Sustainability issue

Long-term use of clothes not only saves us time and money, it also helps reduce our carbon footprint, which is good for the environment. Too frequent washing can damage the fibers or yarns of the fabric and shorten the life of the fabric. The more you wash clothes, the faster they will wear out. It not only discolors the fabric by bringing out the color but also destroys the elasticity of the fabric.

Mark Sumner, a lecturer in sustainable fashion at the University of Leeds, said: “One of the factors that can ruin the durability of clothes is washing them.”

 Figure: BBC/Alamy

The lecturer said that it can tear and wrinkle, lose color if the clothes are dusty. With colleague Mark Taylor, Sumner is researching how microfibers from household laundry detergents end up in the bodies of marine animals.

However, although Sumner supports washing less, he is not in favor of stopping washing clothes altogether. “We don’t want people to think they’re destroying the environment by washing clothes,” Sumner said. According to him, “it is rather a matter of creating a balance. Washing clothes is important for treatment and health.”

There is no average number of times a person washes their clothes in a given period of time. The number of washes will depend on water temperature, wash cycle, garment color and yarn, Sumner and Taylor said.

So the best way is to be flexible about it. “If your clothes don’t smell, there’s no need to bother washing them,” advises Sumner.

About 35% of the micro plastics polluting the world’s oceans come from washing our clothes. When washed, synthetic clothing sheds small pieces of plastic (usually smaller than 5 mm) known as microfibers, these pieces are a common type of micro plastic, and when released pose a serious threat to the marine environment.

The climate crisis may finally prompt us to consider the environmental impact of hot washes, water use and carbon-intensive detergents, while recent increases in energy prices have focused our minds on how much each load is costing us, said Denim fans, the first to popularize the no-wash trend for clothes.

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