Did you know that 75-80% of the environmental impact of your clothes comes from washing and drying?
According to Energy Star, the average household does a massive 400 loads of laundry per year and consumes 51,103 litres of water in the process.
When you consider all the energy that’s needed to produce heat and to make the washing machine drum spin, you start to get an idea of just how bad washing your clothes can be for the environment.
So, what’s the alternative? What’s the most eco-friendly way to do the laundry without it costing the earth?
Here are a few tips.
1. Use an eco-friendly laundry detergent
Conventional laundry detergent is bad for the environment. It contains a whole host of chemicals such as phosphates, alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) and heavy metals which can pose a significant risk to marine life and human health.
Once used, these chemicals drain into rivers, streams and the oceans, causing algae blooms, low oxygen levels and harming delicate ecosystems. Many of these chemicals could also damage the immune system and disrupt the hormone balance of the body.
It’s always better to look for a biodegradable, phosphate-free laundry detergent instead (see some eco-friendly options here). Opt for one that is plant-based instead of petroleum-based wherever possible.
Also, choose laundry detergent powder instead of liquid as contains fewer surfactants so is better for the environment.
Soap nuts are another great eco-friendly alternative to conventional laundry detergent (see them on EthicalSuperstore.com here). They’re the seeds from the Sapindus tree and become soapy when they come into contact with water. They’re also compostable and biodegradable so almost a perfect zero-waste option.
If you want to replace your fabric softener, you can add 240ml of white vinegar to your machine during the rinse cycle. This will balance the pH and leave your clothes feeling perfectly soft.
2. Do a full load
Whenever you need to do a wash, fill the machine with as much as you can (without packing the machine too tightly).
Your washing machine will use the same amount of energy and water, yet you’ll be able to wash more clothes so become more efficient.
There will also be less friction between your clothes, fewer microfibres will come off into the water and so your clothes will last for longer.
3. Wash less frequently
Do you toss your jeans into the wash after every wear? Perhaps you wear your winter jumper once then pop it into the laundry basket.
If so, stop.
You should only wash your clothes when they’re dirty, smelly or stained.
This will help them to last longer, you’ll use less energy and you’ll lighten your load of chores too.
Of course, this doesn’t include items like underwear and socks or anything else you should change regularly, and it doesn’t mean you need to go around being smelly. Just think twice before putting something to wash.
4. Hang your clothes out to dry
Using a dryer consumes a huge amount of energy and can make a real dent in your energy bills too.
According to Energy Use Calculator, “The energy use of a dryer varies between 1800 watts and 5000 watts, a typical dryer will use around 3000 watts,” which soon adds up.
Instead pop your clothes outside to dry and let the sunshine and fresh air do all the hard work for you. Your clothes will smell better, they’ll last longer, and your conscience will be clean.
This can be more challenging in the British winters but every little helps.
5. Wash by hand
Although hand washing does take time and effort, you’ll drastically reduce the energy required per load of washing and you might even get a workout too. This makes it much better for the environment.
If you have a full load of washing to do, consider filling your bathtub with water, adding an eco-friendly detergent then stamping in it until clean. You can also invest in a laundry plunger or pedal washer to make the task much easier.
6. Wash in cold water
Hit the ‘cold’ button on your washer and you’ll save money and use approximately 75% less energy whilst getting your clothes clean. Although this won’t get rid of stains (you’ll need warm water for that), it does refresh your clothes and get rid of daily dirt and grime.
Give your laundry an eco-friendly facelift by following the tips we’ve shared here.
Only wash when absolutely necessary and do a full load, opt for an eco-friendly powder detergent, hang your clothes outside to dry, use cold water whenever possible and wash by hand.
You’ll save yourself money, save the planet and help your clothes to last much longer!
Charlotte Witts is a writer and entrepreneur who wants to show you how easy it is to live a more conscious, zero-waste lifestyle. A confirmed yoga-addict, trail runner and ocean-lover, she currently lives in the Azores where she enjoys the simple pleasures in life.