Why Doing The Laundry Isn’t Eco-Friendly (and what you can do about it…)

laundry basket

Most of us try to live as eco-friendly as possible. However, as Extinction Rebellion has recently shown, governments continue to pay mere lip service to green issues. It is – as it’s always been – up to us as individuals to make a difference.

That’s why we’re forever turning lights on and off, taking our own bags to the supermarket and walking to the shops instead of driving (weather permitting!).

But all of our good work can be undone by something we do several times a week – washing and drying clothes.

Why Doing The Laundry Isn’t Eco-Friendly (and what you can do about it...)

How Washing Machines Pollute Our Environment

If you had to guess why washing machines aren’t eco-friendly – you’d probably say water. While this is true to a large degree, today’s washing machines are much more efficient than those on the market 15 – 20 years ago. According to research, washers only account for 9% of a home’s water usage. Showers and toilets use more than 5 times the water of a washing machine. It might also come as a surprise to learn you microwave uses more electricity than a washing machine.  So how does doing the laundry harm the environment? 

Microfibre Plastic Pollution

If you ask most people what their clothes were made of – how many would say “plastic”? The fact is, our clothes are made of many synthetic fibres such as nylon, polyester and acrylic. In other words – plastics. And millions of plastic microfibres could be breaking off your clothes every single week. This happens when they spin, tumble and crash together inside your washing machine.

Scientists at Plymouth University showed that up to 730,000 plastic microfibres are released from a single load of laundry. These fibres are too small for the filters on residential washing machines to catch. In fact, they’re also too small for the filters at the UK’s 9,000 waste treatment plants. Then they find their way into our natural waterways – lakes, rivers and oceans. Or they get collected with other sewage sludge…and used as fertiliser on crops.
So not only do these plastic microfibres take decades to degrade…they also find their way into our food supply!

Energy-Inefficient Tumble Dryers

Thanks to our lovely British weather, there are times where it’s impossible to dry clothes on a line. Most people need some electrical assistance and use tumble dryers to get the job done. Like washing machines, they are becoming more energy-efficient. However, they still use 4-5 times the electricity of a washing machine. If you check the energy-efficiency ratings, you can find many A+++ rated washers but the highest score for a dryer is only a “B”…

The Dangers Of Drying Clothes Indoors

In trying to find an alternative to expensive dryers, people might be wasting even more power and resources. You might know somebody who covers their radiators with dripping clothes. While this won’t hurt occasionally, doing all the time has some serious side-effects. Radiators weren’t designed to have clothes draped over them. All the heat gets trapped and your boiler has to work much harder – using much more energy in the process.
There’s also a health-concern too. Drying clothes this way releases a lot of moisture into your home. Scientists warn that this increases damp and mould inside your home. And they say a growing number of people have inhaled life-threatening Aspergillus fungal spores after drying clothes this way.

So what are some alternatives? After all, we can’t walk around naked even if we want to. If for no other reason than it’s much too cold!

laundry basket

6 Tips For More Eco-Friendly Laundry

Here are 6 tips for eco-friendly washing:

1. Wash Less

Washing less will help reduce water consumption and plastic microfibre pollution. This doesn’t mean you should turn your small inside out…but you can make a point of only washing full-loads and when it’s absolutely necessary.

2. Use A Washing Bag

If you want to stop those pesky plastic microfibres there are special washing bags you can use. They are relatively inexpensive and self-cleaning, too!

3. Buy Clothes That Don’t Pill

The clothes that release the most micro-fibres are made from Acrylic and Polyester (think cheap fleeces). The good news is scientists found synthetic-natural blends (such as polyester-cotton) release up to 80% less microfibers.

4. Use An Extra Spin Cycle

Using an extra spin cycle removes more water from your clothes. This reduces the drying time and the amount of moisture being released into your home.

5. Consider A Heated Airer

Heated clothes airers use less energy than tumble dryers and can usually dry clothes overnight. There are also some heated airers with covers which prevent damp and mould.

6. Leave A Window Open

If you drying clothes indoors it’s a good idea to keep a window open. This helps air circulate and reduces the risk of condensation and dangerous mould appearing.

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