loved clothes last: how sustainable washing works

Together we can create a #WasteLessFuture. Sustainable washing is one element to reach that goal, because it is important to make our clothes last. If they stay in a good condition, we love to wear and keep them for a longer time. Generally clothes should be designed to be washable and we at Natascha von Hirschhausen stick to that rule. So let’s take a deep dive into the washing process: 

We will take a look at detergent ingredients, also giving our recommendation, and we will share the background, of what washability and long-lasting garments mean for our design process.

What happens during the washing process?

There are four factors that influence the washing process: mechanical action, chemical action, heat and time.

1 why it is important, that our laundry can flirt and rub against each other

Mechanical action occurs when the laundry drum rotates. The laundry pieces rub against each other and thus, together with the chemicals, remove the stains. It is important not to overload or under-load the machine, otherwise it will not clean sufficiently.

2 & 3 the opposite of quick and dirty

Then there is the factor of temperature. 30 - 40 degrees is definitely enough to clean your laundry because the chemicals are most important to remove stains. Washing at these lower temperatures saves energy and is more environmentally friendly. This temperature is necessary for the chemicals to be active. Although colder washing is more environmental friendly, it would not make sense to wash cooler than 30° (except wool), because the colder we wash, the more time is needed.

And what about the bacteria when you wash at 30-40 degrees? Most of them are removed by the washing process itself - leaving behind only a few bacteria, that are natural and come from your body anyways. So don’t worry, bacteria help you stay healthy. 

4 the chemistry within: how washing works

What is actually in the detergent that makes your clothes clean? Of course there are always special ingredients in special detergents. What is most important are the surfactants.

Surfactants are chemicals that have a unique property that makes them so beneficial for the washing process. They can combine grease and dirt with water. They can do this because they have a water-attracting part and a water-repellent part. The water-repellent part reacts with the stains and any kind of dirt on your clothes. The other part reacts with water. Together with the movement of water, the dirt is removed from your clothes.

Surfactants can be made from plants or petroleum. However if they are made from petroleum, they won’t be biodegradable, which means that they are released as nano-plastics into the sea every time you wash your clothes. On average, 30 kg of detergent is used by every 4 person household in Germany each year.

sustainable washing and how it works

Can chemicals be natural?

The chemical action comes from the detergent. It removes the dirt with its properties. It is important to know that some detergents can be made from petroleum. Unfortunately they are harmful as they put nano-plastics into the oceans. Later, together with micro-plastics, they get mixed into the food chain of many animals such as fish, turtles or birds. They can have a very damaging effect on them, like blocking their digestive tracts. In comparison to that, the impact of using natural detergents is quite big. Eco detergent like ECOVER for example use renewable resources such as vegetable oil.

What about the rude and stubborn stains?

Enzymes tackle those! They are also found in your normal detergents. These enzymes take care of the really stubborn stains, because they literally eat proteins. But be aware! Fabrics like silk and wool are also protein based. That’s why you need a special detergent, like a delicate detergent made specially for silk and wool.

also welcome to the party: more ingredients

Water softeners are also a part of the process, they keep the limescale (dt.: Kalk) away from the surfactants. It secures that the surfactants really remove the dirt. Most detergents include the right amount of waters softeners, so you don’t need to add additional softeners. In fact, they can be harmful for your clothes and the environment as they are mostly made of petroleum.

Of course, you want your laundry to smell fresh and good, so there is always a slight fragrance. Then there may be bleach, softeners (which can be made from animal fat) and optical brighteners, all to boost the cleaning process. 

our recommendation for sustainable washing

our recommendation - und jetzt kommt die Werbung

It is important to care for our clothes, whilst keeping our planet clean. That is why we recommend ECOVER. This detergent is mainly composed from plant based substances, as well as being vegan and cruelty free.

We even share a complimenting vision beyond our passion for eco-friendly products. As we focus on zero-waste in our collections, ECOVER also thinks that we need a #WasteLessFuture. To take a step towards this goal, they have opened the world's first zero-waste certified factory in the world.

We are happy to share that we will have an exclusive collaboration with ECOVER, giving you the chance to try out their eco-detergent. Every cotton order will be accompanied with one ECOVER detergent suitable for your chosen product. So #LetsLiveClean!

excursion: why choice of material is key to long lasting garments

It is really important to understand some basics about materials in order to wash right.  

1. Insight: Natural materials divide into two categories: Firstly there are animal fibers, which are protein based, like wool or silk for example. In contrast to that plant based fibers are cellulose based. These include linen, cotton or hemp.

2. Insight: Materials often are mixed, meaning they are made of more than one raw-material. A mono material on the other hand is composed of one single type of material. A cotton-silk blend, for example, is a mixed material. Satin made of pure 100% cotton is a mono-material.

Mixing the two categories, meaning animal and plant based fibers, is quite common. Wool and silk are high quality materials and therefore rather expensive. To be more cost efficient they are blended with cheaper fabrics like cotton. 

But as we already learned in the chemical composition, the enzymes in the normal detergent tackle proteins and thereby harm animal fibers, as they are protein based. So washing mixed-materials often harms the quality of your mixed-material clothes and there is hardly any way to wash mixed materials right. Mono materials are the alternative for washability. Using mono-materials sounds like a relatively easy and straight forward idea for sustainable garments, but keep a close eye during your shopping as material mixes are quite common. 

Here at Natascha von Hirschhausen we care about the longevity and thereby washability of our garments. So we came up with a few straight-forward rules to make washing and caring for our garments easier:

  1. We exclusively use mono-materials, meaning no fabric mixes, because they are washable.
  1. We only use organic, natural, high quality materials, which are plastic free. They don’t release micro-plastics to the oceans and they have the best wearing properties for your skin.


"Only garments, that are worn for a long time and with pleasure can ever be sustainable."