Top tips for washing clothes without polluting the planet

Laundry. It’s the tedious household chore that’s never completed – the moment you’ve got one load washed, dried and put away there’s another pile waiting for you. So you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the average UK household gets through a whopping 260 loads a year!

Not only is laundry hugely time consuming, but it’s also one of the biggest domestic offenders when it comes to the environment. A single load washed at 60C and dried in a combined washer-dryer has a carbon footprint of around 3.3kg CO2e. Over the course of a year that adds up to 858kg – the equivalent of driving 2,156 miles. And then there’s the hidden impact of the water that’s used.

But unless you’re willing to embrace smelliness (or naturalism!) laundry is a necessary evil, so here’s how you can make the whole process a bit greener.

  1. Turn down the temperature

It’s a myth that clothes need to be washed at lava-like temperatures to get them properly clean, and many detergents these days are designed to do an impeccable job even at low temperatures. In fact, data from WRAP suggests that washing clothes at 30C uses 40% of the energy that washing them at 40C does – plus cooler temperatures put less strain on your clothes, so they’ll last longer, too.

  1. Opt for a shorter cycle

If your clothes just need a quick refresh rather than a deep clean, choose a quick-wash setting instead of the usual full-length cycle. This will use less water – and therefore need less energy to heat – and your clothes will still come out smelling fresh as a daisy. Learn about appliance eco settings here.

  1. Skip the tumble dryer

…if you can, of course – not everyone has space to line-dry clothes. But if you are able to forgo the tumble dryer, you’ll be making a massive dent in your laundry’s carbon footprint – tumble dryers generally use electricity to generate their heat, which is expensive and  carbon intensive. A load of laundry washed at 40C and dried on the line produces around 0.7kg of CO2e, compared to 2.4kg for that same load then tumble-dried in a vented dryer.

  1. Invest in efficient appliances

When the time comes to replace your washing machine or tumble dryer, go for the most energy efficient model you can (read more about energy efficient appliances here). Better still, choose a ‘high-efficiency’ (HE) machine. HE machines have sensor-driven capabilities that calibrate to specific scenarios in order to maximise efficiency; they can sense and adjust the wash cycle according to your load’s water-to-suds ratio, for example. A HE washing machine uses between 20% and 66% less water and as little as 20% to 50% of the energy as a traditional washing machine.

  1. Choose green washing powders and liquids

A lot of popular detergents and stain removers contain harmful hidden chemicals which have a big impact on the planet, so if you’re already making the effort to green your laundry in other ways, it makes sense to consider your cleaning agents, too. There are an increasing number of eco-friendly laundry detergents on the market – check out Faith in Nature, Ecover and Sonett, for example – and you can whip up your own super-effective stain removers at home using items you’ll already have around the house (here are our top tips on green cleaning).

  1. Do laundry less often

That’s the dream, right? So ask yourself, do you really need to put on another load right now? If you’ve got kids or a messy job, the answer is probably yes, so crack on (using the tips above, of course!). Otherwise, consider whether you’re simply running the machine because that one top you want to wear tonight is a bit whiffy. You can also cut down on your laundry impact simply by wearing clothes more between washes. Obviously, you shouldn’t wear socks or underwear more than once without a clean, but you definitely don’t need to be washing things like jeans or jumpers every day. And of course, always make sure your washing machine has a full load when possible.

The bottom line

Laundry is a tedious everyday task, so it’s a great place to make a positive difference by doing things a little more greenly. The added bonus is your clothes will last longer and you will save money. The more people that follow these steps, the bigger the positive impact, and the brighter the future is for our One Home.

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