Fast fashion is all about jumping on trends, buying “disposable” clothes you only wear a few times, and consuming far more than you need. The result of this trend isn’t good: it’s filling up our landfills, impacting the lives of garment workers and draining our bank accounts.

So what can we do about it? We can slow down: buy less, shop more thoughtfully and take care of the items we do own (and love!) to make them last longer. One way of doing that is by hand-washing with Soak to extend the life of your clothes. The gentle, effective, no-rinse formula is easy on fibres and keeps colours bright.

16 strategies for caring, repairing and living more sustainably

Tips for gentle washing

Hand-wash when you can. Most clothes benefit from gentler handling – it’s a good way to make even inexpensively-made items last longer, even if the label says they’re okay to go in the machine. It’s best to hand-wash delicates, wools and handmade items with a gentle detergent like Soak, in cool water and with minimum handling. Always check the label to be sure.

Keep the water cold. Did you know hot water weakens fibres? It can also leach out dyes and fade colours. Save the hot water for laundry that needs sanitizing – think socks, sheets and undies. And don’t forget, Soak can be used in the machine, too.

Treat stains ASAP so they don’t set. Dab some Soak on the stain and let it sit till you’re ready to wash it.

Use an Eco Wash Bag. If hand-washing isn’t an option, an Eco Wash Bag helps protect delicates in the machine: it prevents ripping, snags and other mishaps. (Bonus points: it’s made from recycled plastic bottles, so you’ll have multi-level sustainability going on.) 

Wash as needed. Most things can be washed after 2-3 wears (except underwear and socks, of course, which should be washed each time you wear them). Bras benefit from being washed every 1-2 wears – they'll last longer.

Air dry: For gentle drying that’s easy on fibres, lay flat (for delicates and wools) or line dry. Air drying reduces wear and tear and also keeps things like elastic performing longer.

Other care tips

Protect against moths. Moths looove food and perspiration stains. Pick up some cedar to stow in the closet to deter them from chowing down on your cashmere: it works great and smells lovely. And before you put your clothes away for the season, Soak everything before putting it away.

Embrace the sewing needle. Mending clothes is a great way to make them last. A hole in your favourite sweater or a dropped hem on a great pair of pants doesn’t mean it’s time to donate: fixing them is easy. (If you don’t know how, look no further than YouTube for thousands of how-to videos that’ll have you patching and stitching in no time.) And it doesn’t have to be perfect: visible mending is totally having a moment right now.

Dye it. Faded fabric doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to a piece you love. Try overdyeing (dyeing over an existing colour) to give it new life. 

Get to know your local tailor. If you’re really not a sewer, or you need repairs that are beyond your abilities, a good tailor can be your best friend. Taking something in, repairing it or even restyling it is generally cheaper – and always more sustainable – than buying something new. 

Tips for being a thoughtful consumer

Check the seams. For clothes that will last, look for well-made garments and quality fabrics. A high price doesn’t necessarily mean something is good quality. Check by turning the item inside out: look for shabby seams and threads that unravel when you pull them. Also, when you’re buying pants and skirts, look for decent seam allowances and hems large enough to let out so you can lengthen them if you need to.

Understand your fabrics. There are pros and cons to different fabric types. Synthetic fabrics can be more durable, whereas natural fibres like cotton or wool are more breathable, which means you don’t need to wash them as often. Check out this guide for the environmental pros and cons of different fabrics.

Shop secondhand. From vintage finds to thrift shop scores to clothing swaps with friends, this is a great way to dress sustainably – plus, there’s really no better way to showcase your unique sense of style. Clothing from before 1980 was generally made to a much higher standard (in other words, made to last). Beware of factory-made vintage fakes, though: they’ll have the style of yesteryear without the quality.

Only buy what you really need. Most of us wear only a small percentage of our wardrobes on a regular basis. Committing to having a capsule wardrobe of quality, versatile pieces is a good way to minimize purchases. If you need some help restraining yourself from buying, use the “one in, one out rule” – for every piece you bring in, one has to be sold or donated.

Stick to Soakworthy items. What makes an item Soakworthy isn’t how much you paid for it or how sustainably it was made: it’s how much you love it. If it’s a $20 dress that makes you feel like a million bucks every time you put it on, it’s worth all the “caring and repairing” in the world to keep it looking great as long as possible.

Upcycle. When clothes are beyond repair, turn them into something else: cut that soft cotton shirt into cleaning cloths, repurpose beautiful fabrics into a quilt or other fabric art, unravel that sweater and knit something new.