There are many ways that we can improve the environmental impact of the laundry that we do. For many families, especially those with young children, the washing machine runs daily and often more than once. However this desire for cleanliness can have a heavy environmental impact; water and electricity are consumed, detergent is discharged into the sewerage system and of course washing machines require disposal at the end of their lives.
The first thing to consider is whether you actually need to wash clothes as often as you do. I’m not suggesting that you sacrifice hygiene, but many clothes do not require washing after every wear. They will also last longer if they are not washed so often.
Once you have asked yourself if washing is really necessary, the next thing to do is check your washing machine. Does it have an energy saving programme? Try it to see if you are happy with the wash it gives. Maybe you can wash at a lower temperature. I have started washing at 30°C instead of 40°C and I find that the clothes come out just as clean, and the washing time has been almost halved which must substantially reduce the amount of electricity used.
Next, can you use an environmentally friendly washing powder? The best known is Ecover, which is available at most supermarkets and heath food shops as well as online.
Maybe you would like to avoid washing powder altogether? One possibility is to use Soap Nuts, which are native to India and Nepal and contain Saponin, which can be used in place of your normal washing powder. What’s more they are biodegradable so they can be put on the compost heap when you have finished with them.
More hi-tec are Eco Balls, which contain a substance which ionises the water in your washing machine to produce oxygen, which then lifts the dirt out of your clothes. They require more of an initial investment, however the balls should be good for up to 1000 washes, or about 3p a load.
Finally to drying you clothes. Of course, clothes will get dry perfectly well if left to dry in air, and clothes airers and washing lines are available in any hardware shop. However if you must own a tumble dryer, try to use it as little as possible, and use Dryer Cubes, which reduce drying time by 25% and soften your clothes so that you don’t need to use a fabric softener.
More green laundry products are available at Nigel's Eco Store and BigGreenSmile.
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