We Get Greener Kit Cassingham & her Bigger Half

Hangers

I recently have noticed how many brightly colored plastic hangers are on sale. It must be the beginning of school and everyone is getting ready. Seeing those hot pink, tan, orange, white, blue, and lime green hangers got me to thinking about which hangers are the more environmentally friendly option, as well as which ones I like better.

I see that there are four basic options for clothes hangers:

  1. wire hangers, like you get from the dry cleaners
  2. plastic hangers, like the brightly colored ones that caught my eye
  3. wood hangers
  4. padded hangers (though they are padded versions of one of the above styles)
I suspect there are other types out there, but those are the three that come to my mind immediately.

Which hangers do you like and use most? I have all four types in my closets.

Mostly I seem to use the metal hangers. They are plentiful and do the work they were designed for, in most cases. But there are times I absolutely don't want wire, so then turn to one of the other three styles.

My coats, especially the heavy, full-length coats get wooden hangers. My jackets and fleece are hung on plastic hangers. I like the durability of those hangers, and the support my clothes get too.

My silk and very nice clothes get either the padded hangers or plastic. I want to avoid snags and sharp creases, and I want to cushion some of my clothes so they look nicer for longer.

But what about the environmental aspects of my choices? Without even thinking about it I know the plastic hangers are the worst environmentally, especially given my preference for avoiding petroleum-based products. They sure do a fine job of hanging my clothes up, though. They probably off gas and degrade my interior air quality too.

What about wooden hangers? Did a tree lose its life for my wooden hangers, or are those made from scraps or "junk" wood? This is mostly a rhetorical question for me, designed to get us all thinking and more aware of our choices. The wood itself wouldn't off gas, but the finish on it sure could. That may effect clothes hung on it as well as air quality. The durability is present though.

Wire hangers do deplete metal reserves in the earth. Since they can be recycled, used for many things (unlocking cars, roasting marshmallows and hot dogs, and scratching between your cast and arm) have a wonderful flexibility (as it were) that makes them a good option for many clothing cases.

Padded hangers are a more mixed bag. The fabric and padding may contain synthetic fibers, and they may cover plastic hangers, but they are decorative and easy on delicate clothes.

I haven't reached any conclusions here. Perhaps it's time for a carbon footprint analysis of each style. But I want to conserve energy and not do that research. When I run out of hangers I'll have to figure out what to do next. Culling my closet of tired and unused clothes will be a first choice, but buying something may be in order.

What is your stance on hangers?

Comments

I've always preferred the wire hangers, but my wife prfers the plastic ones, which got me to thinking about it. Been a long time (20 years) since I've bought wire hangars, but I could buy them in a pack of 20 for a buck. Plastic, I end up paying over a buck just for 10.

Still, if petroleum was being processed specifically to make plastic products, I'd be more concerned, but plastic is mostly a petroleum by-product. In other words, it's here whether we like it or not, so rather than trying to figure out how to dispose of it, might as well make use of it.

Metal, on the other hand, does have to be mined specifically to make metal products. Sure, metal can be recycled where plastic is less flexible, but truth be told, most wire hangers end up in a landfill, not recycled.

Wooden ones may be made from leftover wood by-products, but they're still too expensive and (worse) just too damned clunky for my tastes. Again, they end up in a landfill. And really, does it matter whether something breaks down in 100 years or 500 years? Either way, it still takes up a lot of land space to do it.

Now, I do a lot of business with dry cleaners, getting lots of nice, new wire hangars every week. Sure, I could use those, but I already have dozens of plastic hangers that my wife loves. Personally, I'm not a fanatic about recycling, but I am averse to waste, so throwing them out is anathema. So I take them back to the cleaners, since they're in excellent condition, and ask them if they recycle or re-use them. I mean, if it helps them save a buck, I'm game. And some cleaners do re-use the good ones. But others seem to only accommodate me because they think I'm one of those recycling nuts. If all they're going to do is humor me and then just throw them out later, why should I waste my time gathering and carrying them? So that's the hard part, getting a real, honest answer from them.

Mike at September 3, 2010 4:39 PM

Mike, preferences are interesting to observe, which is part of the reason I brought the subject up. I guess I'll take a picture of my collection, just to add interest to the article and future conversations. Anyway...

I see hangers as more than merely functional. They add color, pizazz, and variety to my closet. And different kinds of clothes "demand" different kinds of hangers -- at least in my closet. Heavier clothes, like my wool winter coats, want broad surfaces, as found on wooden hangers, to support their weight without damaging the fabric. My silks also last longer, looking better as they last, when pampered with padded hangers. My "every day" clothes do fine with wire hangers, IMHO.

I see your point about petroleum being pumped anyway so why not use it. I see a flaw in that logic though. The more plastic we buy the more it encourages petroleum drillers to pump oil. If we stop consuming as much oil then they will quit drilling so much, saving us from disasters like The Gulf Spew. Oh, and saving air quality too.

You're right about what we put in the landfills will be there for centuries to come. I'm striving to put less and less into landfills -- everywhere I go. Be it a wooden hanger, a banana peel, or a piece of paper, I try to find another way of disposing of it that won't have much of an impact.

Where you get your wire hangers from the dry cleaner I don't because I don't do much business with them. I don't like the hassle or expense of dry cleaning so try to buy clothes that don't require it. You save money by not buying plastic hangers, and I save money by not using dry cleaners. I bet my hangers are cheaper than yours in the long run, even those expensive wooden ones. ;~>

I haven't found a "perfect" answer yet, and probably won't. I have found it interesting and mind stretching to discuss these kinds of topics though.

For now my closets will contain a mixture of hanger types, though I probably will abstain from buying plastic ones as my part of protest against oil drilling.

Thanks for the chat!


-Kit

Kit Cassingham at September 4, 2010 11:31 AM

My approach? The best hanger is the one you already own.

vlnvla at September 8, 2010 7:22 PM

I have lots of plastic hangers, but when I need new ones I buy wooden. They support clothes better than metal, will last way longer than plastic, and they're biodegradable whenever they reach the end of their life, which will probably be very long. I have brought metal hangers back to dry cleaners before and all seem happy to accept them. Thrift stores are also usually happy to have and use any excess hangers you have. And if you're in the market, your local Freecycle list is a good place to ask for hangers - they seem to be the one item that people either have tons of or nowhere near enough.

Laura at October 27, 2010 8:36 PM

Vinvla, I agree with your proposal to use what you have, but what if you don't have enough? What would you buy?

And Laura, I love your comments. I agree that wire hangers tend to be harder on clothes than the other mentioned ones, and they are recyclable.

Thanks for playing, both of you.

-Kit

Kit Cassingham at October 28, 2010 7:58 PM

I agree about freecycle. For those of us who are not "shoppers", this is a wonderful way to give and to receive. Plus, it is an opportunity to meet the neighbors, so that when you see them at town meeting, you can say hello.

What would I buy if I needed to buy hangers? Well, with a husband in the wood products industry, I would probably start out looking for wood. But, if those came from overseas, I might look for something manufactured in the neighboring state--I think they only do plastic and wire. I like the thought of using wire, although I am not sure that scrap yards actually accept them. I know they are not keen on wire fencing, but why?

However, I moved from my parents' home 22 years ago with a full complement of hangers. I used to have a coat that needed to be drycleaned every year or two, so I received a few more. And, I donated a few to make mobiles at preschool. Other than that, I have not found myself with any net gain or loss of hangers.

On my more cantankerous days, I might suggest that since I have reached the halfway point of my life expectancy, any loss of hanger should imply a similar decrease in my wardrobe. That way, when I go, I will leave less "stuff".

vlnvla at December 5, 2010 3:05 PM

Vinvla, what an interesting idea of decreasing your wardrobe to match your decreasing supply of hangers!

A friend of mine is doing the 100 Things Challenge and simplifying his life. His wife isn't quite as excited about this concept as he is, but that's fine. He's getting quite the charge out of culling from his collection of clothes, toys, tools, etc.

Thanks for sharing.


-Kit

Kit Cassingham at December 6, 2010 6:39 PM

Metal hangers probably are the most environmentally friendly, but I really do not like them. They are typically far too flimsy and they look unattractive. I like to go for plastic or wood hangers typically. It's funny because usually people consider me a tree hugger, but in this case I guess I'm not.

Rose Henderson at February 6, 2015 10:36 AM

There are pros and cons to using each type of hanger. In terms of going green, your best bet would be to use wood hangers because they are the most renewable of all the resources used in different types of hangers. That being said, all the options don't put a major impact on the environment, but it's up to you.

Stephan Bashkir at April 8, 2015 4:04 PM

Stephen, I just discovered tonight we've had a technological glitch on this site. But, I see your thoughtful comment now.

You're right. There are pros and cons, and environmental impacts, with every decision we make. That's part of what this site is about -- sharing our challenge in being as green as possible. We are all faced with tough decisions daily. We can do our best, and then pivot when new information and options become available.

Kit Cassingham at June 3, 2016 10:02 PM

I have an idea to color coat all of my clothes. Like putting blue with my sportswear, red with my dresses and things like that. I'm so happy to hear that someone has found a bunch of colored hangers. It looks like you're having a little trouble deciding which you like best. Interesting that you tend to use metal hangers.

Jessie Harrison at July 19, 2016 9:08 AM
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