Visions: The Great Unwashed

Uploaded by unimelb on 17.11.2011

Tullia Jack, a Masters student studying at the
Melbourne School of Design,
has undertaken an unusual and innovative study
investigating alternative laundering practises
to make clothing more sustainable.
Current laundry practises require significant amounts
of water, energy and chemicals.
This research questions why people wash clothes
so frequently, and whether it's entirely necessary.
The participants in my research had to
wear the same pair of jeans five days a week
without washing them for three months.
I was kind of expecting that it would be socially
challenging and we would get to the point
where you could smell the jeans and see dirt on the
jeans and I could use that as a way to explore
community censorship around cleanliness
and the kind of signals that people were getting
that would motivate them to wash their jeans.
But it was a big anti-climax the jeans didn't smell,
they didn't look dirty.
I talked to one of the medical scientists at
Melbourne hospital and she was saying that the
bacteria reach peak population and once the
food sources, dead skin cells or whatever,
stabilise then that's as dirty as the jeans
are going to get.
So this is a pair of jeans that were worn
five days a week for three months without
washing and you can see that there's no
real stains on them.
They haven't been washed since and they
smell just like people.
Using denim as the medium for this social and
scientific experiment, the research examined the
way people wear and wash their clothing, and social
attitudes towards cleanliness.
I kind of found such a range and even looking
on the internet as well there's a huge range in
how often people wash.
Some people wash after every sing wear,
even if it's only one or two hours.
Some people go for a month in the same dress
without washing and that's linked a lot to
their families and it's also linked to lifestyle
and how much they care for clothes.
I was brought up in a family where washing
is quite an important thing and washing quite
frequently is quite an important thing.
Taking on this challenge of wearing something
for three months was quite a big thing for me because
not only living with a pair of jeans in my room
that I know I'm not washing and slightly smells
but also the idea of having to wear
it every single day and especially after very
hot days where you sweat and things like that and
still having to put them back on.
There was one guy who kind of felt that he
wasn't participating because his jeans
weren't smelly or dirty.
So he started going for runs in them and
then he started sleeping in them to try and make
them a bit dirtier towards the end.
These findings provide a compelling case for
washing clothes, or at least jeans,
significantly less frequently, but social
norms and behaviours are difficult to
deconstruct and change at the best of times.
There are, however, some straightforward
measures that can make the usage and
laundering of clothing more sustainable.
I would like people to wash less,
only wash when needed.
When you take something off air it out, if it's
got a stain on it perhaps you could
spot clean and then if it's really dirty
wash it using a natural detergent like soapnuts
in cold water and then dry it on the line.