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The Impact Of Clothing On Water


Erik de Groot

Water water

Water … you know … the stuff you kind of need to stay alive, and which is also great for the occasional water-fight. Even though there are some planets out there that could provide us with this godly liquid, currently we only have our own waterways to consume, so it’s a good idea to see what we use them on.

While I really like food (as most of you probably do), water is more important to our bodies. You can possibly go for some weeks without food, but without water, you probably wouldn’t last a few days. Seems like water deserves some more love from us, and that’s why we’ve made this blog.

In the production of clothing, a lot of resources are used. Whether it’s tons of energy for polyester or oceans of water for cotton; it’s an intensive industry. Today we’ll have a look at the impact clothing has on our precious water.

Bring me some water!
So how much water are we talking here Erik? Let’s imagine a perfect world: trains always come on time, the sun is always shining, I’m married to Meghan Markle, and last but not least: all clothing that’s currently made from cotton would be made from hemp. In this awesome world, we would save billions of liters of water. About 200 (5M liter saved per ton fabric x 40M tonnes = 200B liter = quick math) to be precise. In this blog, we explain in further detail why hemp saves so much water, and why striving towards this perfect world is a good idea.

Washing Machines

Wash away
It’s obvious that we need a lot of water to produce our clothing, but that’s only the beginning of our water usage. What happens when you wear something for a longer period of time? Right, it’s going to smell. I mean you can walk around with a shirt that you haven’t washed in two weeks, but do everyone around you a favor and wash it.

So you take my advice to heart and you put your shirt in the washing machine after wearing it for two weeks. It’s filthy when you put it in, and it comes out clean! Pure magic if you ask me, and that for just 50 liters of water and some energy (which we will cover in another blog). Yearly this washing ads up to 15.000 liters, which is not that much if you realize that producing a kg of cotton requires around 6.000 liters at a minimum, but it is still something to consider.

“But Erik, why don’t we just go to a river an-” NO, we’re not talking about my perfect world anymore, where every home would have a river flowing in the backyard to wash clothes in. Back to reality; we are subjected to the ever turning pieces of metal and plastic we call washing machines, and as far as I can see that’s not going to change anytime soon. Luckily the washing machines have gotten way more efficient, so there’s already a lot of water saving going on in that department.

Water pollution
We don’t only use water, we apparently also tend to pollute it when we leave clothing factories unattended. I’m not going to preach about it here, but you can find more info about that in our blog on microfibers and our blog on chemicals in clothing.

What can I do?
So is there a way to save more water? I don’t think that washing a lot less will be that nice to the people around you, but you could check if your clothing really needs to be washed before you throw it in the laundry. Another way of saving lots of water is by buying second-hand clothing since there’s no need to produce them. If you do want new clothing, try and see if you can find hemp or lyocell instead of polyester or cotton :).

Alright, that was it for this week. If you have questions, post them down below and we’ll see you in two weeks!