It you want your garment to look good for a long time, it's essential to treat it like you treat yourself.
You wouldn't use harsh chemicals on your skin or tumble spin your body, so let's treat our natural fabrics just as gently.
1. Wash gently no matter the fabric or color.
Since it is highly unlikely that your garment is extremely dirty and has multiple tough stains, then what you want to achieve is a nice refreshment and a gentle rinse from everyday residue. So there is no need to give the harshest washing program on your machine, even if it's cotton. The more a fabric is tossed in a washing machine the more the fibres loosen up and wear/wash away making the fabric weaker, loosing quality. It will be clean after a gentler cycle too…
If your wool can be machine washed, then remember it must be gentle. Wool felting occurs when water is too warm, it is tumbled to much and harsh soap are used changing the fibres' structure
2. Use gentle detergents and less
Just like we mentioned, since it's not that dirty, then using to harsh and to much detergent not only washes the dirt away, but washes the fabric fibres and color away as well. It will also be clean and fresh using something mild and using a very conscious amount-you don't need a lot. I know that it is tempting to have a machine full of lathered bubbles, but that is really no good. This is especially important with color. Hot water and strong detergents wash out color very quickly.
With natural fibres like cottons and viscose fabrics (cupro, modal, lyocell) using mild and small doses is enough, it will definitely be clean and fresh. Also, using a smaller amount is more beneficial in the rinse cycle-it is important for all the detergent to rinse completely out, if you use too much, then your rinse cycle might not be good enough - so using less gives you a lot more benefits.
With wool you need to be more delicate. A good option is a clear shampoo- ultimately wool is almost like our own hair, so we need to treat it with something we would treat our own hair.
3. Fabric softener.
There are a lot of fans of fabric softener. It gives your clothes a soft to the touch feel and fragrance, but did you ever wonder why? Or why your garment becomes weird after a while?
Most fabric softeners are based on compounds of waxy, emollient substances. These ingredients sink into the fibres making it silky to the touch. But this isn't necessarily good. These waxy substances compromise many fabrics (especially viscoses and wool) and after constant use, build up in the fabric and are hard to later wash and rinse out, ultimately making the fabric dull and weak (if you think of the thread that the fabric is woven out of, since these emollients sink into these threads, they become slippery and start to untwist, compromising the structure of the weave, destroying the fabric). It is a highly popularized process which is very bad for the longevity of your garment. Plus it is not at all healthy, when you think that these sticky emollients are clogging and stuffing the cloth of the garment and then imagine what these sticky emollients collect in the environment…
Why do we use these? Because what most of us are suffering from is hard water and harsh detergents. Once you change your choice of detergent then you're on a good road. If you have soft water, then you don't need this step at all! If you suffer from hard water then there are alternatives like wash salts (for example Epsom salt) which can be used in the rinse cycle, soften the water, have no fragrance, do not have allergens and do not clog your drain with build up. There are also non-toxic, eco-friendly commercial option. You will still have fresh smelling clothes which will actually stay fresh longer (ever noticed that fabric softener washed clothes have a weird odour after a few weeks? The fragrance already aired out and all those chemical emollient substances are what you smell. That is why the fragrance is so strong, because they cover up the chemical odour.)
But, if you like your fabric softener anyway and want to use it, then we really wish you didn't. There are many studies which confirm toxicity of fabric softeners, their bad impact on the environment, and potential to cause skin allergies, ect. If you must, use less and less frequently.
4. Water temperature.
Unless you are washing pure, white, 100% cotton (or extremely dirty garments) then there is no need to wash in more than 30. Warm water plus detergent really weakens fabrics and washes out color, degrading the quality of your garment. Using a detergent and washing in 30 will be just as clean but will be less damaging, giving your garment a longer life.
Wool should always be washed is cold water on a very gentle cycle.
5. Spin cycle
Small adjustments to the spin cycle can help you further protect your garment from other damaging processes. It's fine to spin cycle on high things like jersey (but it's always better not to), but cotton poplin, canvases, denims should be on medium. There are a few benefits why: it gets less wrinkled which means less ironing which is less heat damage. Ironing is also more effective and easy on a lightly damp garment (does not apply to polyesters and polyamids)
With more delicate fabrics like viscose, this also helps with wrinkles and it doesn't suck the fibres away.
With fabrics like wool, that can be machine washed, then it is highly recommended to use the lowest or not at all (just water suction). Like we mentioned earlier, spinning around wool is no good because it can contribute to the felting of the wool fibres.
It is definitely good to use water suction (we don't want those garments to be heavy from water when we hang to dry, so they don't loose their shape).
The conclusion is that, honestly, being gentle will give you the same result regarding cleanliness but will give you far better results regarding preserving the quality of your garment. We don't actually get that dirty, to have to wash the life out of everything we own.