Stella McCartney just made a strong case for not washing your clothes

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Hollie Richardson
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Fashion designer Stella McCartney

Sustainable high-end fashion royalty Stella McCartney has shared her “rule of thumb” when it comes to washing clothes, and it’s a lesson for us all. 

Stella McCartney is a trail-blazer in sustainable high-end fashion.

As a staunch animal rights activists, the designer has never used fur or leather in her collections.

She’s also developed a trainer made without any toxic glues. In fact, singer Taylor Swift recently wore a pair for a live performance, before announcing that the two women are collaborating on a new collection (which we’re pretty excited about).

And last year, she called for a total change in the “wasteful, harmful” fashion industry

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McCartney has now made a good eco-friendly argument for not putting her clothes in the washing machine until it’s absolutely necessary. And it’s something we could all learn from. 

“Basically, in life, rule of thumb: if you don’t absolutely have to clean anything, don’t clean it,” she told The Observer over the weekend.

“I wouldn’t change my bra every day and I don’t just chuck stuff into a washing machine because it’s been worn. I am incredibly hygienic myself, but I’m not a fan of dry cleaning or any cleaning, really.”

Her comments highlight the carbon footprint that a washing machine creates with each wash. 

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So, why is using your washing machine bad for the environment? And what can you do to limit the damage?

According to Fashion Revolution, an organisation that aims to change the way clothes are sourced, produced and consumed, up to 25% of a garment’s carbon footprint comes from the way we wash and care for it. Overwashing actually often leads to colour fading, shrinkage and misshaping, which results in around nine out of 10 pieces ending up in landfill before they should do.

The easy solution is to wash our clothes less, right?

Eco friendly washing tips could reduce your carbon footprint.
Eco friendly washing tips could reduce your carbon footprint. 

Underwear, gym wear and swimwear obviously should be washed after one wear, but you can leave tops and dresses between one to two wears. Sleepwear and bras can usually last for up for four wears. And jeans, coats and jackets can survive without a wash for at least five washes (or many, many more, depending on the item). It goes without saying that it’s best to wait for your laundry basket to fill to the top before throwing it all in the machine for a wash.

It’s also important to choose eco-friendly washing detergents that use natural surfactants. “The main ingredient used in the industry is called LAS, which is Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonate,’ Ecover’s New Product Development Manager Alastair Lidstone told The Ecologist. “The problem with that ingredient is it’s not anaerobically biodegradable. After use it washes down the drain into a sewage place or a river, and if oxygen is not present, it does not biodegrade.”

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If minimal clothes washing is good enough for fashion royalty McCartney and helps reduce our carbon footprint, it’s definitely worth being aware of with the next wash load. 

Images: Getty


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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…