It will come as no surprise that doing the laundry has a big negative impact on the environment and here are some of the reasons why. But don't despair, there are some great tips below too.
Power: Firstly we need energy and I’m not talking about the effort required to pick up dirty socks. Washing machines and tumble dryers are big guzzlers of energy. In fact the majority of energy used in washing machines is required just to heat the water.
Water: We can’t wash without water and according to the Clean Home Guide the average household uses up to 13,500 gallons (over 60,000 litres) of water a year. To put this into a bit more context that works out to be approximately 320 full bathtubs which is almost a bath full a day.
Plastics: Pesky plastics crop up everywhere don’t they? A lot of materials are made from synthetics and as such each load will release squillions (ok a lot) of microplastics that find their way into the water system. There’s also the containers that many detergents come in to consider too. These are made from plastics which are not always easy to recycle.
Detergents and softeners: Have you looked at what’s actually in your detergents? I had a read of some of the ingredients lists on a few big brands and counted over 50 different ingredients. A lot of them contain chemicals and bleach which not only run into our water systems but will get embedded in our clothes. Anyone with sensitive skin will understand how much of an issue this can be. Softeners on the other hand are often petroleum based chemicals which actually coat your clothing, and what does your clothing rub against? Yep your skin!
Dry cleaning: There are lots of chemicals used in dry cleaning, the most common being PERC (Perchloroethylene) which is toxic to humans and dangerous for the environment. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, PERC is a potential carcinogen. In California it has been banned from dry cleaning with other states set to follow and closer to home it has been banned in France and Denmark. Here in the UK the government has published specific guidelines for dry cleaners which refers to the hazards of PERC such as the need to limit exposure as well as ensuring good ventilation and correct training for handling it. As people become more aware of the issues solutions are being found and for anyone living in London Blanc Living is offering toxic free solutions for Dry Cleaning.
10 Laundry Eco Tips
So whilst this all sounds a bit doom and gloom I do like to give a top tip or two (or in this case ten) as to what we can do to help reduce our environmental impact:
1) Run you machines on an eco-wash – the wash may take a bit longer but it uses less energy overall.
2) Wash at 30 degrees – most of the energy is used in heating the water so if you can knock it down a few degrees you’ll be making great savings.
3) Always run a full load. One load is better than two when it comes to washing.
4) Line dry laundry instead of using the tumble dryer, why not try using some sustainable clothes pegs.
5) Wear things more often and wash them less. This will also improve the lifespan of your clothing.
6) Keep your washer and dryer clean. Check the filters regularly to keep them in tip top condition. If they are blocked then they’re less energy efficient.
7) Pre-treat stains before you wash them with an eco-friendly stain remover bar.
8) Avoid ironing – hang clothes up when they’re still damp and watch the creases fall out. (I don't need to be told twice for this!)
9) Avoid dry-cleaning where possible.
10) Use laundry sheets. Why ship heavy liquids when you can use these great space saving alternatives?
Photo credit: Frantisek Duris - Unsplash