Tips for a More Sustainable Swim Wardrobe
It’s the best time of year. Temperatures are on the rise, the sun is coming out, and with vaccines now widely available, you’ll hopefully be packing for your first vacation — in over a year — in no time. First thing on your list: Swimwear. But let’s talk about that for a minute.
Like most activewear, swim is a category that has traditionally been made from stretch fabrics and other synthetic materials that shed microplastics into the water supply when they’re washed. On top of their lack of sustainability, swimwear is often overpriced and never seems to last very long: chlorine, salt water, sand and washing machines tear down the fabric makeup and color dyes, so you’re constantly needing to replace your suits.
The good news is that times are changing. As consumers become more aware and the demand for sustainability across all categories increases, more and more brands are becoming sustainably focused, or being created from scratch with sustainability in mind. And technology is improving along with it; materials are stronger, machines are more gentle. Here, we have a list of our favorite new sustainable swim brands, plus some tips for keeping your suits in good condition and as a result, lasting way beyond a single season — which is really the most sustainable way to do anything.
- As a rule, swimwear should be washed on cold. Heat can shrink fabrics, damage stretch, and destroy colorfastness.
- Washing by hand or on delicate cycles, or within a garment bag can help protect delicate swim pieces — i.e. straps and ties. Since even recycled materials are still often made from plastics and other water contaminants, Guppy makes a garment bag that’s protective of the pieces you put in it, but also keeps microplastics from leeching from the synthetic fabric into the water supply.
- Hang-drying is a must. All garments and fabrics last better when they’re hung to air dry or laid flat — but swimwear gets stiff, loses its color and it’s stretch, and is more likely to tear or shrink in the dryer, even on low. Plus, you’ll always be conserving energy the less you use a machine to dry.
New brands seem to appear almost weekly these days, touting sustainable swimwear, recycled fabrics, and locally produced pieces. Rule of thumb: just like product shopping, look for transparency in natural materials, dyes, production processes and quality — and watch out for greenwashing. Here are a few of our favorite brands right now.