I’m not sure when it happened that getting a new washing machine became more exciting than a new pair of shoes, or a relaxing activity meant hanging the washing out on the line, but here we are and I’m rolling with it.
Because yes, like it or not, clothes washing is a huge and very necessary component of family life, not least when you’re washing cloth wipes, napkins, cloth nappies and any other fabric reusable as well as clothes. And with a third baby on the way, and our washing pile set to grow even more, I wanted to share some research I’ve been doing to ensure our laundry is as energy efficient as possible, and isn’t contributing more than it needs to to our family’s carbon footprint. So here goes:
Use Chemical Free Washing Detergent
Many of you might know that I’m a big fan of the Eco Egg laundry egg. We use it for everything, including cloth nappies – you just pop it in the main drum of the washing machine on top of everything with no need for any powder, liquid or fabric softener and buy refills for the pellets as and when. For tough stains, I use a vanish stain bar. Others like to use soapnuts or you can of course try making your own DIY washing powder. Talking of stains….
Yep, you read that right. No one wants to go around with weetabix hanging off their jumper, but it’s also worth questioning if you or your partner are washing clothes more often than necessary. Not to mention the time you’ll also be saving. I swear by spot cleaning, especially when it comes to Jack’s school uniform – there’s simply no need to wash an entire garment after every single wear.
Get the Right Washing Machine
We’d never owned a washing machine before we recently moved house and I’m not one to update appliances just because they’re ‘old’ (I would always look to repair it, first). We opted for the Hot Point Active Care Machine, and so far, I couldn’t be happier with it. It has a bunch of nifty features, for example the ‘Steam Refresh’ which takes just 20 minute and uses less than two glasses of water, with steam penetrating into the fabric and freshening clothes without the need for a full wash. Then there’s the Rapid and Eco option; with the Rapid option, you can speed up the cycle by up to 50%, without compromising on washing results; with the Eco option, the washing machine reduces energy consumption by up to 20%.
Wash at a Low Temperature
The main feature that attracted me to the Hotpoint machine was the Active Care feature which enables clothes to be washed and removes more than 100 stains (from mud to ink…) at a temperature of just 20 degrees. It takes far less electricity/ energy to run the pump/motor than it does the heating element which is why most Eco cycles wash at a lower temperature, but for a longer time period. The Active Care technology works by controlling the exact right amount of water and energy for the cycle, which explains why even though the cycle is much longer (over 3 hours – this takes some getting used to!), it still saves energy and removes stains at 20 degrees. I’d always washed at 30′, and had never even considered going any lower. Otherwise with a different machine, simply switching from 40 degrees to 30 degrees uses around 40% less electricity. Modern washing machines operate just as well at 40 degrees and if you compare that one load of washing washed at 30 degrees creates 0.6 kg CO2e versus another load washed at 40 degrees which would generate 0.7 kg CO2e , there’s a simple saving of 100 kg of energy just by slightly lowering the temperature. You can even wash in cold water –just be sure to use a detergent specifically formulated for cold water. Cold water washing also helps to prevent fading and keeps clothes looking new for longer. Of course if clothes are soiled, you may want to do a slightly higher wash.
Always wash a Full Load
Make sure you always wait until you have a full load before doing a wash in order to save money, water and electricity. You can check if yours is full by putting a clenched fist above the laundry in the drum – you shouldn’t have to squash your clothes.
Say No the Tumble Dryer wherever possible
Remember the general rule of thumb that the more heat an appliance generates, the more energy it takes to run. To give you an idea, a load of washing washed at 40 degrees and dried on a line creates 0.7 kg CO2e; a load of washing washed at 40 degrees and tumble dried in a vented dryer uses 2.4kg CO2e – so nearly three-quarters of the carbon footprint comes from the drying rather than the washing. Ultimately, tumble drying is really energy intensive: a household running a dryer 200 times a year could save nearly half a tonne of CO2e by using a clothes rack or washing line. Instead, invest in a (aesthetically pleasing) drying rack or a washing line if you have the space – a suspended pulley drying line is my dream! I strangely also find hanging up laundry a surprisingly relaxing activity, and if you have outdoors space, come rain or shine, I get my washing out there – Mother Nature is the best stain remover / dryer there can be!
I hope this article is of interest. Got any more low waste laundry tips? I’d love to hear – let me know in the comments below.
* This article draws on text and numbers from How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee. Also, AO.com and Hotpoint very kindly gifted us this washing machine – we love it, and are making serious use of it.