Doing the laundry may not seem like a household chore laden with environmental issues but think again.
Caught in a cycle
Let’s begin with the simplest change of all.
We have long been conditioned to constantly wash everything we wear and use. For example, according to Good Housekeeping, you should be washing your hand towels daily and pyjamas every three days. Life is too short, right?
Let common sense prevail and wash things when they look (or if you are brave, smell) like they need it. If you can eek an extra wear or two out of certain items – great!
Energy and water
Heating water can account for up to 90% of the total energy used by a washing machine during a hot wash cycle. Consider washing the majority of loads (perhaps with the exception of anything that is particularly dirty, towels and bedding) using the ‘cold wash’ option. This will use water that is typically between 20°C and 30°C and deliver significant energy and cost savings – typically more than if using the washing machine’s ‘eco mode’.
Lower temperatures are absolutely fine for washing the majority of items and will generally be kinder to your clothes, as well as the colours in them. Try to avoid doing inefficient small loads but similarly, don’t overfill your machine or you may find that you need to re-wash some items which, of course, isn’t eco-friendly.
Many washing detergents and fabric softeners contain all sorts of chemicals and toxins that aren’t great for us or our planet. From 1,4-Dioxane, a human carcinogen to Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLS), derived from petroleum, coconut or palm oil. Sodium Hypochlorite is essentially bleach and more familiar nasties, including Phosphates and Benzene, may be lurking.
Also, don’t forget the process and footprint involved in producing these detergents, and the typically plastic packaging they normally arrive in.
At home we use a refillable Ecoegg on everything. If you’d prefer an eco-friendly detergent, we would recommend the likes of Friendly Soap, Bio-D, SESI, Fill, Faith in Nature, Greenscents and Planet Detox.
You will find some of these available, along with many other brilliant products, through nearby zero-waste businesses Maya’s Refillables (Woodley, Wokingham and delivered), ArborFill (Delivered from Arborfield) and Handy DIY Store (Crowthorne), as well as through Milk and More and ethical online retailers.
Leading research has recently highlighted that microplastic pollution as a result of washing clothes and other items made from synthetic textiles is the primary source of microplastics found in our oceans.
Every time we wash our clothes, fibres are shed and released into the water system. A single load of washing can be responsible for hundreds of thousands of microfibers. Every week it is estimated the over nine trillion microfibers are released through washing in the UK alone.
To combat this major problem, as above, wash your clothes a little less often and on a full load. Also, consider ordering a filter (these can cost under £50) or a laundry bag or ball (that goes in with the washing), designed to reduce the level of microfibers being washed away.
And, of course, as much as possible by clothes, towels and bedding that are 100% cotton, ideally organic cotton. Wool is fine too, if properly sourced and made. Nylon, Polyester, Lycra and so on are all synthetic materials and derived from forms of plastic.
Clean and fresh
Washing machines live longer… if they are looked after and kept clean.
According to research by WRAP, a leading charity focused on reducing waste, the average UK consumer expects their washing machine to last just six years. That’s shocking. Many sources suggest that on average a washing machine should last nearly twice that long.
On 1 July this year, the Government’s new Right to Repair rules came into force. The legislation aims to ensure that appliances such as washing machines, TVs and fridges bought after this date will be cheaper and easier to repair, extending their lifespan by up to a decade.
To help keep your washing machine clean, particularly in a hard water area like ours, check out eco-friendly cleaning solutions from the likes of Ecoegg and Ecozone. And never overfill your machine.
Drying your clothes
If you can, avoid any standalone spin/drying cycles and absolutely avoid using a tumble dryer. An average drying cycle uses around 4kWh of energy and produces 1.8kg of carbon dioxide. If every household in the UK with a tumble dryer instead dried one load of washing outside weekly, more than a million tonnes of carbon dioxide would be saved in a year.
Created in 2018 by blogger and voluntary hack David Lamont, Plastic Free Home is an online community with over 32,000 followers that aims to seek and share ideas on how we can all live more sustainably.