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Let's Talk Laundry!

Updated: Jul 20, 2021

Nothing beats the (smug) feeling of seeing a line of cloth nappies blowing in the breeze for an eco lover. It nostalgically reminds me of childhood afternoons in the garden while my mam hung the washing or playing with my Gran's clothes-horse (Airer? Maiden?) in Winter months by the coal fire...this is the 1990s not the 1880s just in case you were wondering!😉

We don't have, and have never had, a tumble dryer, much to our family's horror; they've even offered to get us one but we just don't see the need. In the winter we have some indoor drying facilities and it is a bit more inconvenient but in spring and summer it's line drying all the way.

While I'm on my drying rant: a household could save 36kg of carbon in a month by drying outside on a washing line instead of in a tumble dryer. They're so carbon-intensive that running a tumble dryer regularly can emit more carbon in a year than a tree can absorb in 50 years! Tumble drying not only takes a toll on the environment but on your clothes too. Just 20 cycles of drying can reduce the strength of fabric by 50% making it more likely to tear and reducing the lifespan of your garments. There are so many benefits to line drying your clothes. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Did you know that hanging out a load of washing can burn 68 calories? This is because any form of activity increases circulation and heart rate. It can be good for mental health too - just 10 minutes of calm activity outdoors can reduce your level of stress.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

There are a few reasons we love air drying; it saves us money, the sun is one of the best ways to naturally bleach your whites and helps keep more harsh chemicals off of your clothes, our clothes smell 'fresh' and hanging the laundry can be therapeutic or good exercise. Plus it's a job we can get the Childebeests involved with!

But do you know the impact of your laundry?

A washing machine uses 50 litres of water per wash during an average cycle and around 90% of the energy in a laundry cycle is used for heating the water:

Laundry washed at 30c, dried on the line = 0.6kg CO2e whereas laundry washed at 40c, tumble-dried in a vented dryer = 2.4kg CO2e

compared to washed at 60c, dried in combined washer-dryer = 3.3kg CO2e

So washing at cooler temperatures is not just better for your clothes but for our environmental impact too. So far, increased knowledge on this topic means reducing washing temperatures, tumble drying less, and ironing less has reduced the carbon footprint of clothing by 700,000 tonnes, which is the equivalent of 700,000 flights between London and New York.

Here's an added top tip (you're welcome!): Dark clothes should be washed inside out to prevent colour fading; ideally on a cool temperature and air drying.

If you aren't ready to switch to Soapnuts or an Ecoegg laundry egg, think about refills of laundry detergent. I love the Bio D brand for detergent refills. They are a super ethical (vegan and cruelty free), planet friendly brand that manufactures their products in Hull. the products are very affordable and the fact I can buy 5l bottles or do refills locally.

Of course you can just wash less! There’s no greener laundry load than the one you don’t do! We’ve taken to a lot more spot cleaning - a damp cloth can do wonders for the odd splodge of yoghurt or mud.

Ok so let's talk microfibres for a moment...

Microfibres are the tiny synthetic fibres shed by your clothes in the wash, they are just 1 denier long. A fleece jacket can shed 250,000 microfibers in a single wash; so many microfibres are shed through washing that they've been found in 83% of drinking water samples globally.

Plus once thrown away, the average polyester product is likely to survive for 200 years.

Which brings me neatly on to my favourite topic: fast fashion. If you're interested in this you might want to check out our other blogs on the subject but in a nutshell, 38 million new fashion items are bought each week in the UK and 11 million go to landfill each week and 350,000 tonnes of used clothing go to landfill in the UK every year.

The average lifespan of a garment in the UK is 2.2 years and just 9 months of extra wear would lower the carbon, water and waste footprint of the UK’s clothing by 20-30%

So by buying less, buying better, washing at cooler temperatures and line drying we could massively lessen the load on the planet (load, laundry...see what I did there?!😉)