Laundry Care Regimes: Do the Practices of Keeping Clothes Clean Have Different Environmental Impacts Based on the Fibre Content?

Kirsi Laitala, Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Roy Kettlewell & Stephen Wiedemann

Abstract

Clothing maintenance is necessary for keeping clothing and textiles functional and socially acceptable, but it has environmental consequences due to the use of energy, water and chemicals. This article discusses whether clothes made of different materials are cleaned in different ways and have different environmental impacts. It fills a knowledge gap needed in environmental assessments that evaluate the impacts based on the function of a garment by giving detailed information on the use phase. The article is based on a quantitative wardrobe survey and qualitative laundry diary data from China, Germany, Japan, the UK and the USA.

The largest potential for environmental improvement exists in reducing laundering frequency and in the selection of washing and drying processes, and through a transition to fibres that are washed less frequently, such as wool. Adopting best practice garment care would give larger benefits in countries like the US where the consumption values were the highest, mainly due to extensive use of clothes dryers and less efficient washing machines combined with frequent cleaning. These variations should be considered in environmental assessments of clothing and when forming sustainability policies. The results indicate the benefits of focusing future environmental work on consumer habits and culture and not only technologies.

Click here to read the full article (oda.oslomet.no)

Clothing Lifespans: What Should Be Measured and How

Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Kirsi Laitala & Stephen Wiedemann

Abstract

Increasing the use of each product, most often called longer lifespans, is an effective environmental strategy. This article discusses how garment lifespans can be described in order to be measured and compared. It answers two sub-questions: (1) what to measure (units), and (2) how to measure (methods). We introduce and define terms related to clothing lifespans and contribute to discussions about an appropriate functional unit for garments in life cycle assessments (LCA) and other environmental accounting tools. We use a global wardrobe survey to exemplify the units and methods.

Clothing lifespans can be described and measured in years, the number of wears, cleaning cycles, and users. All have an independent value that show different and central aspects of clothing lifespans. A functional unit for LCAs should emphasise both the number of wears for all users as well as the service lifespan in years. Number of wears is the best measure for regular clothing, while number of years is most suited for occasion wear, because it is important to account for the need of more garments to cover all the relevant occasions during a specified time period. It is possible to study lifespan via carefully constructed surveys, providing key data relating to actual garment use.

Click here to read the full article (oda.oslomet.no)

Dressing a Demanding Body to Fit In: Clean and Decent with Ostomy or Chronic Skin Disease

Kirsi Laitala and Ingun Grimstad Klepp

Abstract

This article discusses what kind of strategies people with a stoma or various chronic skin conditions, such as psoriasis oratopic dermatitis, use to find clothes that fit and enable them to fit in. Based on qualitative interviews in Norway, we study how they manage to dress with a demanding body, a poor market and limited economic resources. This includes describing how purchases take place, which clothes fit, how much clothing is needed, and which laundry practices are used. Their main strategy was to reduce the requirements for their own appearance rather than to cleanliness and body odours. If they were unable to appear appropriately dressed, as a minimum odourless and stain-free, they reduced their participation in social life.

Click here to read the full article (cogitatiopress.com).

Microfibres from apparel and home textiles: Prospects for including microplastics in environmental sustainability assessment

Beverly Henry, Kirsi Laitala & Ingun Grimstad Klepp

Abstract

Textiles release fibres to the environment during production, use, and at end-of-life disposal. Approximately two-thirds of all textile items are now synthetic, dominated by petroleum-based organic polymers such as polyester,polyamide and acrylic. Plastic microfibres (b5 mm) and nanofibres (b100 nm) have been identified in ecosystems in all regions of the globe and have been estimated to comprise up to 35% of primary microplastics in marine environments, a major proportion of microplastics on coastal shorelines and to persist for decades in soils treated with sludge from waste water treatment plants.

In this paper we present a critical review of factors affecting the release from fabrics of microfibres, and of the risks for impacts on ecological systems and potentially on human health. This review is used as a basis for exploring the potential to include a metric for microplastic pollution in tools that have been developed to quantify the environmental performance of apparel and home textiles. We conclude that the simple metric of mass or number of microfibres released combined with data on their persistence in the environment, could provide a useful interim mid-point indicator in sustainability assessment tools to support monitoring and mitigation strategies for microplastic pollution. Identified priority research areas include: (1) Standardised analytical methods for textile microfibres and nanofibres; (2) Ecotoxicological studies using environmentally realistic concentrations; (3) Studies tracking the fate of microplastics in complex food webs; and (4) Refined indicators for microfibre impacts in apparel and home textile sustainability assessment tools.

Click here to read the full article (oda.oslomet.no)

Use phase of apparel: A Literature review for Life Cycle Assessment with focus on wool.

Kirsi Laitala, Ingun Grimstad Klepp & Beverley Henry

Summary

This report presents a literature review of clothing use phase. The purpose is to support improved methodological development for accounting for the use phase in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of apparel. All relevant textile fibres are included in the review. However, the main focus is on wool. We ask whether the use of wool has different environmental impacts than clothes in other fibres. The report builds on a review of literature from the past 20 years. The review showed that clothing made from different materials are used, and reused in different ways. Wool is washed differently as it has about ten degrees lower washing temperature than the average laundry in Europe. Wool is also more likely to be either dry-cleaned or washed by hand than other textiles. Moreover, when dried, it is less likely to be tumble-dried.

When comparing the number of days between the washes of different types of clothes, we found that respondents were likely to use their woollen products about twice as long between washes compared to their equivalent cotton products. We also found that woollen products had a longer average lifespan and were more likely to be reused or recycled. There is a lot of research-based information available concerning the use and re-use of clothing, and we believe there are sufficient results available on which to base LCA studies. Furthermore, we believe that environmental tools that compare different fibres but exclude use phase provide misleading results. Including the use phase in fibre ranking benchmark tools will improve the rigour and accuracy of these tools for all fibres, compared to reporting results for fibre production only. However, we have also shown that there are several methodological, conceptual and empirical knowledge gaps in existing literature.

Click here to read the full report (researchgate.net)

Global laundering practices: Alternatives to machine washing

Kirsi Laitala, Ingun Grimstad Klepp & Beverly Henry

Abstract

This article discusses laundering practices around the world including alternative methods such as washing by hand, airing, steaming, and dry-cleaning. These methods, which have received little attention in research, are often more suited to products made of wool, silk or other materials able to be cleaned using gentler techniques than more commonly used fibers such as cotton and synthetics. The material is based on extensive literature review from the past 20 years and reanalysis of previously unpublished survey data. The results show that washing by hand is common and that is the main laundering method in most rural areas of developing countries, but also significant for smaller portion of laundry in developed countries. Dry cleaning is less common, and mainly used for specific clothing items. Simple method such as airing can reduce the washing frequency, and thus reduce the environmental impacts resulting from the cleaning of clothes.

Click here to read the full article (oda.oslomet.no)

Sustainable clothing design: use matters

Kirsi Laitala and Casper Boks

Abstract

Many life cycle assessment studies document that the use period is the most resource-demanding phase during the clothing life cycle. In this paper, we discuss how design can help to reduce the environmental impacts of clothing. Motives behind clothing disposal, acquisition practices and maintenance habits are analysed based on two surveys, qualitative interviews of households, and examination of disposed clothing. The main reasons for clothing disposal were changes in garments, followed by size and fit issues, taste-related unsuitability, situational reasons, functional shortcomings and fashion or style changes. Several design solutions can enable the users to keep and use the clothes longer, and reduce the need for laundering, thus potentially decreasing the total environmental effects of clothing consumption.

Click here to read the full article (inderscienceonline.com).

Potential for environmental improvements in laundering

Kirsi Laitala, Casper Boks & Ingun Grimstad Klepp

Sammendrag

Life cycle assessment studies on clothes, detergents and washing machines show that the use period is usually the most energy-demanding period during these products’ life cycle, even higher than production or transportation phases. Laundering practices are constantly changing and influenced by social, cultural and moral norms. Even though the technologies in clothes cleaning have improved greatly, the length of time that consumers use for washing clothes has not been reduced. We own more clothing and wash it more frequently. This increased amount of washing counteracts the technological improvements in laundry.

This paper discussed the options of changing consumer habits in clothing maintenance to a more environmentally friendly direction and attempts to evaluate which changes would be the most feasible and efficient. Laboratory trial results on washing were compared with earlier research on consumers’ washing habits. Laboratory-based tests measuring cleaning effect, energy and water consumption were performed in order to evaluate the consequences of changing the washing temperature, filling grade, detergent dosage or drying method. The cleaning effect tests showed that today’s detergents are suitable for low temperature washing, and by selecting an efficient detergent, the cleaning result can be better at 30°C than with a less efficient detergent at 40°C. When washing only slightly soiled textiles or small loads of laundry, the detergent amount can be reduced. Many textiles changed more in colour or strength if they were washed at higher temperature(60°C) than at lower temperature (40°C or below). Tumble-dried textiles shrank more than line dried. These facts can be used to motivate consumers to change behaviour in order to reduce the environmental impacts of textile maintenance.

Click here to read the full article (wiley.com)