How to Hand Wash Silk

When I started researching more ethical clothing brands, I noticed that many of them used fabrics that I always thought of as a fussy. Over the last few years, especially with athletic clothing, I’ve starting amassing more and more items that can’t go in the dryer, so I figured silk might be worth a try since I’m already dealing with so many “fussy” pieces, and especially since it’s a natural textile.

Hand washing was totally new to me though, since I’ve always been a lazy washer and would toss things in the washer anyway… but investing in a high-quality garment is pretty good motivation to take care of it as you should. And actually, hand washing is not that hard. Here’s how I do it:

First I got some Delicate Wash detergent from the Laundress, because it’s specifically designed to be good on silk. I use it for hand washing and in washing a load of delicates that are OK to go in the machine washer. Just a few drops is all you need.

For the actual washing, I place a plastic container in my bathtub and fill it halfway with cold water. Add a couple drops of the detergent, and drop in the silk shirt. Silk should not be soaked for more than a couple minutes, so I swish it around, then run the faucet over it to wash out the detergent and go on to the next shirt. I started washing my Osei Duro shirt first because it’s light, and kept the water for my Everlane shirt, which is a darker dye and does run a bit while being washed (but looks the same afterward). When rinsed, let it drip out excess water but do not wring out.

Lay out a clean towel and place the shirt flat on top. Roll the towel (like you’re rolling a sleeping bag) to get the excess water out. Repeat if necessary.

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Lay flat to air dry.

The whole process takes … about 15 minutes? I definitely put it off and these 2 shirts have been languishing in my delicates laundry bag for about 2 weeks because I am lazy, but it is really simple.

Budgeting and Shopping for Deals on Ethical Clothing

My senior year of college, I got a part-time job at Athleta, which then became my only job after I graduated and couldn’t find a full time job for the next 8 months.  At that point, I was making slightly more than minimum wage and just covering my basic expenses, it felt like saving money was so far away. If I had leftover money, I spent it, often at Athleta (I had a 50% discount). At the time I thought that I had this limited time to buy nice clothing at an extreme discount so I was lucky to use it. I would use these things forever! I was wrong. Five years later, I don’t have a lot of those things anymore and I feel dumb for having bought stuff that I didn’t wear a lot after my brief retail salesperson career and not saved that money for something actually useful or paid down debt faster.

I know that I am an emotional shopper. I buy things when I’ve had a bad day, or when I’ve had a really good day! It’s a way to treat myself. But, I recognize that the more I do this, the less it’s an actual treat. And I know that–at least at this point–moving into a strict budget with no room for buying things that I want instead of need would also make me miserable and probably wouldn’t work in the long run. So, where’s the balance? And, if you’re eschewing brands that make $6 t-shirts in sweatshops, can you still be a savvy budget shopper?

Here are a few things I’ve learned so far:  Continue reading “Budgeting and Shopping for Deals on Ethical Clothing”

Sustainability Blindspots

Fashion was always a sustainability blindspot for me, and it’s still something I’m working on being more mindful about. But there are lots of other areas where–despite my religious recycling and knowledge of the hard effects of climate change– I could do better.

One of those areas is convenience items. What am I really talking about? PLASTICS.

My office has a break room, but until a couple months ago, did not have sink. For the three years I’ve worked there, I have most days brought my lunch in an effort to be more healthy, more financially responsible, and have less of an environmental impact. However! For lots of the things I brought for lunch, I needed silverware. And then I would use our office supply of plastic forks and spoons, which I would use and then throw away. So bad. So shameful.

Finally, in December, I bought a To-Go Ware set of reusable bamboo utensils. And with our sink, I can wash everything after they’re used and keep the set at my desk!

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These utensils are definitely larger and thicker than your average utensils (and definitely larger/thicker than plastic disposable silverware!) so it definitely felt a little different and odd when I first started using them, but after a few meals I got used to them and I actually appreciate that they kind of force you to take smaller bites and eat slower. As a human-hoover accustomed to eating quickly and running off to the next thing, I definitely need that encouragement to slow down.

Plastics are everywhere, and unfortunately, they last … practically forever. They are cheap to purchase, but the cost to the environment is high. Using plastic forks at the office was free to me, but over time that is a huge amount of plastic that is used, plus a sizable cost of purchasing plastic utensils for the office every month. Buying a $13 set of utensils one time makes long-term financial and environmental sense.

Where can you reduce your plastic impact? This chapter from The World Without Us,  by Alan Weisman, offers a disturbing look into the long-term impact of plastics on our environment. From Chapter 9, Polymers are Forever:

In 1975, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences had estimated that all oceangoing vessels together dumped 8 million pounds of plastic annually. More recent research showed the world’s merchant fleet alone shamelessly tossing around 639,000 plastic containers every day. But littering by all the commercial ships and navies, Moore discovered, amounted to mere polymer crumbs in the ocean compared to what was pouring from the shore.

The real reason that the world’s landfills weren’t overflowing with plastic, he found, was because most of it ends up in an ocean-fill. After a few years of sampling the North Pacific gyre, Moore concluded that 80 percent of mid-ocean flotsam had originally been discarded on land. It had blown off garbage trucks or out of landfills, spilled from railroad shipping containers and washed down storm drains, sailed down rivers or wafted on the wind, and found its way to this widening gyre.

You can read the whole chapter online , which gets into much more detail about the sheer  amount of plastic litter in the environment. I promise you, it’s hard not to think of the phrase “polymers are forever” after reading this and looking around at how much plastic you have in your life.

I definitely have more sustainability blindspots, but trying to reduce the amount of plastics I use and purchase new is definitely going up there as one I am actively trying to address.