6 Ways To Skip The Dry Cleaner, Just Like Stella McCartney

As Stella McCartney refuses to have her clothes cleaned, Frankie Graddon explores other ways to stay fresh


Stella McCartney at Milan Men's Fashion Week spring/summer 2020. Photo / @ alfonsocatalano Instagram

It might come as a surprise to many that Stella McCartney, the fashion designer who dresses many of the world’s most stylish women, who cuts a very polished figure herself, doesn’t like to wash her clothes.

READ: Are You Washing Your Clothes Too Often? Here's Why Less Laundry Is Best

“In life, rule of thumb: if you don’t absolutely have to clean anything, don’t clean it,” she said in an interview last weekend. “I don’t just chuck stuff into a washing machine because it’s been worn... I’m not a fan of dry cleaning or any cleaning, really.”

McCartney, who counts Kates Moss and Hudson as famous fans (and friends), added that she “wouldn’t change my bra every day” either.

The idea of not changing my own daily is enough to make me feel more than a little itchy, and her stance feels at odds with the nation’s love of putting on a wash: the average UK household does five a week, according to Blanc, an eco-friendly dry cleaning company.

Yet for 47-year-old McCartney, dodging an unnecessary spin cycle is all part of the move to make fashion more eco-friendly: every load sees up to 700,000 fibres leeched from the likes of polyester-cotton blend T-shirts and acrylic jumpers, many of which wash up in our oceans.

READ: Could You Go Plastic-Free? Inside The Reality Of Ditching Plastic

Her tactic is to “let the dirt dry and you brush it off”; one shared by Orsola de Castro, co-founder of sustainable fashion organisation Fashion Revolution, who says “we need to relearn that there are several steps before washing, such as refreshing, sponging, brushing, airing and steaming”.

But do they really work better than a quick blast in the machine?

Embrace Dirty Denim
Ever heard the one about sticking your skinny jeans next to the frozen peas instead of the wash basket? Either way, it is sadly nothing more than an urban myth, as storing it at sub-zero temperatures doesn’t kill bacteria, but merely puts it to sleep. Over-cleaning does ruin the support and shape of denim, however — even Chip Leigh, CEO of Levi’s, admits to never washing his, choosing instead to “spot clean with a washcloth” when needed.

If eschewing machines altogether feels like too big a first step, limit yourself to washing denim only after every five or six wears, and make sure to wash them in cold water (which helps them to maintain their colour) and turned inside out to minimise any damage from errant zips and buttons in the same load.

Water-Less Washing
Washing doesn’t have to mean gallons of water going to waste. A number of products are seeking to do for our garments what dry shampoo has done for hair: sprays such as Day2 (available in the UK only) promises to remove deep odours, soften fabric and remove wrinkles — as well as saving the 60 litres of water used with every load — while Mr Black’s Denim Refresh, created to revive well-worn jeans, is a plant-based alternative. Sard Wonder Stain Remover Stick is another option, where a stain can be treated up to seven days before washing the garment. Given research shows 40 per cent of what we throw in the machine could have been worn again, a quick spritz or dab can extend that shelf-life yet further.

Sponge Baths
If you’ve got a stain on your favourite top, rather than hoping it’ll fade away in a hot cycle, try a little bit of vinegar or bicarbonate of soda on a natural sponge and dab the stain out. For grease stains, try talcum powder and leave overnight to soak if stubborn.

Airing Is Caring
Airing clothes is a great way of getting rid of odours without resorting to washing them. The easiest way to do so is to hang clothes up as soon as they’ve been taken off — no throwing them on a chair — which will let air circulate around fibres and keep things fresh. De Castro also says bringing them into the shower with you — if space allows — can work well, too, acting as a steaming agent and getting rid of unwanted creases.

Small Steps
As the items worn closest to your skin, underwear, socks and tights should be washed every time you wear them to get rid of bacteria.

However, there is a trick for keeping your smalls out of the machine; half-fill a salad spinner with water, add a squirt of liquid detergent then put your dedicates in and spin. Pour out the water and repeat the entire process once more and, hey presto: a far less wasteful way of doing your knicker washing.

Squeeze the delicates to release water, rather than wringing them out (this will ruin the fibres) and avoid placing them directly on a heat source — roll in a towel, if it needs extra help drying, then leave flat to finish off.

Keep It Cool
“Ninety-five per cent of the energy consumed by your washing machine is used to heat up water,” explains Mathilde Blanc, CEO of her eponymous company, which “is very bad for the environment”. Plus, “the hotter the setting, the quicker fibres get worn out”.

Most of our garments can be washed at 30 degrees — with the exception of towels and bedsheets, which should be washed on a cycle that is somewhere between 40 and 60 degrees.

— The Daily Telegraph

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