8 Easy Ways To Wash Your Clothes More Sustainably
Washing our clothes is a tedious yet essential chore. Nobody likes to be confronted with the end-of-week washing basket, piled high with soiled pants, smelly socks and gravy-stained shirts, even less the inevitable, subsequent hours loading and unloading the washing machine. Still, when needs must – and we'd certainly be a lot scruffier and smellier if we didn't.
At a time when reducing your carbon footprint and being more environmentally friendly in every aspect of our lives is an inescapable fact, now is the ideal time to confront our inherent clothes washing loathing by making it more appealing and rewarding with an eco-friendly approach.
A more sustainable approach to washing your clothes means an agreeable blending of attitude, method and occasionally out-the-box thinking.
1. Wear your clothes for longer
Though this clearly doesn't apply to underwear, wearing your shirts and trousers for more than a day at a time is perhaps the biggest no-brainer.
Only wash your clothes when they're noticeably dirty or smelly – an instant way to reduce the number of times you visit the washing machine. Unless your job renders your clothes absolutely filthy by the end of the day, there's no reason you can't wear them two or three times.
Also, buy darker coloured clothes so they don't make any marks or dirt conspicuous, and go for longer-lasting clothes rather than their bargain basement counterparts.
2. Wash by hand
The days of squatting down by the river with a pile of laundry and rubbing the dirt out with a large pebble have dissipated in to the mists of time, but washing clothes by hand is a viable alternative to using up the energy (and racking up the energy bills) of a washing machine.
Sure, it will require a bit more elbow grease but it will also make you fully comprehend the (often unnecessary) level of clothing you're hurling into the washing basket every week.
A laundry plunger is a good, low-tech tool which does the job and triumphantly works out those stubborn stains – and they're affordable and last a long time. Use large plastic bins or buckets to wash your clothes – starting with the least dirty – so you can wash several loads. Use the dirty water to water the trees or keep your compost moist.
Then there's always the pedal-powered option to consider…
3. Use the clothes line
As incumbents of the UK we know the sun is a rare commodity, but we certainly have plenty of cold and wintry days when we can peg our pants on the washing line. If the sky's fluttering with snow or the grass is carpeted in frost then it's not an option – so use a clothes rack and dry them inside instead.
4. Wash clothes while showering
"What?!”, I hear you cry. "Wash clothes when you're in the shower? You’re as mad as a box of pencils." However, this is an old backpacking trick that serves a nifty double function – it washes you and your clothes simultaneously. Step into the shower with them on or take them off and let them wash and rinse at the bottom of the shower as you indulge in your ablutions. If you use a mild soap the lather that runs off your body will wash and clean your clothes with a spot of physical scrubbing encouragement from your feet.
5. Only wash full loads
You're wasting so much detergent and energy if you only throw a few items of clothing in at a time – and in an age when we're all supremely conscious of being environmentally friendly and being more frugal with our expenditure, we shouldn't even have to think about it. Putting a small load in a hot wash is indefensibly wasteful. And by accumulating a hefty pile of washing you'll be able to optimise your laundry habits. If you've only got a few items to wash, doing it by hand is the most practical and sustainable way.
6. Use cold water
Unhook the water supply from your washing machine and wash your clothes using only cold water. The reality is that cold water gets clothes just as clean as hot, and by not heating the water you're also reducing your energy consumption and saving on those exponentially-rising energy bills.
7. Get an efficient front-loading washing machine
One of the more essential, sustainable options is to upgrade with an efficient front-loading washing machine. These appliances get clothes just as clean but use a lot less water. The vast majority of front-loading models are also rated as being higher in energy-efficiency, meaning you can also minimise the amount of electricity you use to ensure you've got a pile of fresh shirts for the next working week.
8. Use biodegradable soap
There was a time, not so long ago, that biodegradable soaps and powders would have been viewed with a certain level of suspicion by consumers. Nowadays, however, it's as common as doing the dishes, with many of the major labels proudly boasting on the labels about the product's biodegradability with its gentle and non-toxic properties. Some of them even go above and beyond the required standards by not testing on animals and working in partnership with certain environmental agencies.
Of course, there are occasions when – as much as a boon to the modern kitchen it is – your washing machine will fall foul to a fault or break down completely. So rather than throwing yourself into an uncontrollable panic that the weekly laundry isn't going to get its usual hot wash, you can call one of our engineers who will repair your washing machine and have it working perfectly again faster than you can say "sustainability".
These are just a few practical and environmentally sustainable solutions to doing your laundry. Can you think of any other eco-friendly methods?
Image by: Kim MyoungSung