Last month, sitting on the subway in a pool of my own sweat on the way to work, I was struck by the headline of a Fast Company article: “The Next Big Thing in Fashion? Not Washing Your Clothes.” Huh? In it, the writer summed up her experience with Unbound Merino, a brand that’s part of a larger trend of companies creating clothes that—true to the article’s title—don’t need to be washed as often as traditional pieces.
The lazy person in me thought, Great, I hate doing laundry. The sweaty, disgusting person in me thought, Girl. Pipe dream. Basically, I was skeptical, so I set out to wear it for ten days without washing it. I said a silent prayer for myself and everyone who would come into contact with me.
To my very pleasant surprise, the experience wasn’t as stomach-churningly gross as I expected, though I did wind up throwing in the proverbial towel five days early. Before I get into the positives—of which there are many—I’ll mention the negative: the price. At $85, this isn’t your three-for-five-dollars Hanes tee. It’s an investment, for sure.
Pangaia’s T-shirt is super simple (it’s just a black tee, after all). The sizing is genderless, meaning the shirt is cut a little looser—a godsend in the middle of New York summer when I’m looking to be touched by as little fabric as possible. Tiny white text on the right side of the chest reads, “This T-shirt is made from seaweed and organic cotton, with just a touch of natural peppermint.” It’s minimalist and cool. It also comes in TIPA packaging, a plastic alternative that completely disappears within 24 weeks in a compost bin.
Construction-wise, the T-shirt is made from organic cotton blended with seaweed fiber—both sustainable fabrics. The company also derives dyes from food waste and other natural resources, which is less toxic and relies on less water than traditional synthetic dyeing methods.
So how does the whole no-wash (or, at least, fewer-wash) thing work? Each shirt is treated with natural peppermint oil meant to keep it fresher for longer. The company estimates that by washing your shirt less frequently, it’s helping you reduce water waste by up to 3,000 liters of water over its lifetime. The peppermint smell isn’t overwhelming at all—it smells fresh, but not like you’ve rubbed minty gum all over your body.
Days one through four were awesome. The majority of my wardrobe is black, so it wasn’t really obvious that I was wearing the same thing for days in a row. I wore my tee with everything from boyfriend jeans and silky Bermuda shorts to an A-line miniskirt and workout shorts. The simple design means that you can wear it with pretty much anything. It smelled fresh and was super quick to dry any time I had to be outside for more than five minutes.
By day five I did notice that it was starting to…get a little gross. As in, it needed to be washed. I chalk that up to the fact that—as I mentioned—I sweat more than the average human being and it’s July in New York City. I imagine that if I tried this little experiment again in fall or winter, I could get away with at least seven or eight wears without washing. I don’t have any big trips planned, but you better believe the next time I pack a suitcase, this baby will let me save major room.
Is this a cheap shirt you’ll wear for one season before tossing? No, it’s not. But it is a fabulous option for people looking to cut back on water use and shop more sustainably in general. Plus, it’s just a really solid black T-shirt that you’ll want to wear all the time.