Doing your laundry may seem like a simple, almost dull task for some and a joy for others. Regardless of your view, everyone needs to think about how to do laundry sustainably. This household task uses around 50-100 litres of water per wash according to Cambridge Water. Not to mention the energy used to power your washing machine and, dare we say it, tumble dryer. It’s not until you really begin to understand the impact that doing your laundry has on the environment that it becomes obvious that we should learn how to do laundry sustainably.
Here, find out how to do laundry sustainably, taking a more conscious approach to this household chore to reduce your impact on the environment and on your skin.
How to Do Laundry Sustainably
Wear More, Wash Less
Many of us have fallen into the practice of washing our clothes after every wear when, aside from socks and underwear, they mostly don’t need this. Cut back on water, electricity and your bills by taking a step back to think if your outer garments really need washing or if they can go for another wear. Revive the art of airing them, as your grandmother would have done. Most garments can also be spot cleaned if they are marked, but be sure to dab and not rub, and treat stains immediately. (CONTENT Tip: We recommend avoiding spot cleaning silk and other delicate fabrics as it can leave a watermark).
Use Eco Friendly Cleaning Products
Water waste from your washing machine eventually ends up in the ocean meaning the cleaning products and detergents that are used will wash up in the ocean too. In addition, studies reported in the Independent show that there has been an increase in the number of people suffering with skin sensitivities from laundry liquids and detergents, so you have multiple good reasons to switch to a biodegradable, naturally scented version.
If your laundry liquid has been certified by one of the organic certification boards, they will have ensured all ingredients are biodegradable and leave less of a ‘water mark’ on the environment. This mix of ingredients may also benefit people with sensitive skin, avoiding the fragrance and detergents that cause outbreaks of eczema and other topical skin conditions. The Gentle Label Laundry Liquid was created to solve these two problems. Certified by the Soil Association, it avoids synthetic ingredients and is made with Soapwort, scented with Rosemary and Lavender and contains Aloe Vera, which is particularly good for those with sensitive skin, and also leaves your laundry smelling and feeling fresh.
Hand washing helps preserve your clothes, especially delicates. Try hand washing more of your items with a small amount of Dr Bronner Pure Castile Liquid Soap and minimal water, then gently squeeze out excess moisture after rinsing, using a towel for absorption. Not only will this show you how much water is used to wash one item, but if you double up your shower with a quick wash of some of your clothes, it’s two tasks in one and you will save water at the same time. Hand washed items are often best dried by laying flat to retain their shape.
Hang to Dry
Avoid the use of tumble dryers and air dry your clothes instead. In the summer months there is nothing better than the warm, summer air to dry your clothes and bedding, leaving them feeling crisp, fresh and clean.
For knits and delicates, lie them flat to dry so they retain their shape. Dryers can cause shrinkage and unnecessary wear and tear on your clothes. If you do need to use the dryer, wool dryer balls can not only help soften clothes and reduce static but also cut down on drying time, which saves on energy.
Don’t Wash Your Jeans
Did you know the head of Levi Strauss didn’t wash his jeans for a whole year? If you can’t wait that long, why not try to go at least 10 wears before you wash them, increasing the amount of wears each time? Read our more specific guide on how to care for denim and other fabrics.
Turn Down the Heat
Go cool or cold with your laundry wash – most of the energy used is in the heating of the water. Care labels indicate the maximum temperature at which you can wash your clothes. Washing at high temperatures can wear out your clothes, cause shrinkage and colour loss, and cost you more in energy. Going from 60°C to 30°C can reduce your energy consumption by up to half, and your laundry will still be clean.
Same for irons – they use up a large amount of energy so avoid them where you can. Instead hang shirts and dresses onto hangers direct from the washing machine. For dry, crinkled clothes, steam them out whilst you have a shower for as long as they need.
Many clothes that recommend dry clean don’t actually need to be dry cleaned. The dry cleaning process traditionally uses a harsh carcinogenic chemical called perchloroethylene (known as PERC). Long term exposure to PERC can give you a myriad of health issues and is toxic to the environment. If you do need to dry clean, look for a green dry cleaner that uses either wet cleaning or liquid carbon dioxide cleaning, both of which are considered safe for the environment and for us.
Use a Laundry Bag
Keep the microplastics that leach from your clothes out of our waterways, as well as help to prevent the shedding of these microfibres by using a laundry bag. Read more about the damaging effects of microfibres in washing clothes and how the Guppyfriend Washing Bag can help.
Read More: How to Care For Your Clothes By Fabric
Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov