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8 Ways To Wash Your Clothes In A More Eco Friendly Way

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Magic Madzik

Cleaning our clothes, while necessary, is a potential mine-field for the environmentally-aware individual. From the water and power that we use to the chemicals we flush into the water system there are a huge number of improvements that can be made to the “standard” way of washing your clothes to make the whole process more sustainable.

We’ve come up with eight different ways to make your laundry more eco friendly but we’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section below so please leave your feedback at the end so we can be constantly adding to this list.

Keep Specific Clothes For Messy Jobs

Whether it’s painting a fence, mucking out a horse or digging your vegetable plot there are certain jobs where you’re almost certain to get messy. Rather than wearing a different outfit each time, and having to put considerable time and effort into getting it perfectly clean again, why not select an outfit specifically for these jobs that you can clean less often?

Select an old pair of jeans to dig the potatoes in. Choose an old jacket for lugging hay bales around in and so on. Keep this outfit safely in your garage or an outhouse and only bring it out when you know for certain you’re going to be getting dirty. Then as soon as the job is finished, change into your clean clothes and keep your messy clothes safe for their next outing.

Only Wash Your Clothes When Necessary

We live in a world where cleanliness is important so I’m not for one moment suggesting you refuse to ever wash your clothes again or you wear the same pair of underpants for weeks on end but many people still wash clothes far more than necessary. I know of people who will only use a towel once before putting it in the wash. Many people will get home from work, put on their “home clothes”, only wear them for a few hours before bed and put then straight in the wash.

What I’m advocating here is just a little more thought about which items of clothing really need to be washed and which ones can easily be reused without any risk of marks, dirt or smells putting off your family, friends and work colleagues. Simply think before you put anything in the laundry basket and ask yourself if it really needs a wash right now.

Buy An Eco Friendly Washing Machine

Thanks to the “green dollar” manufacturers are being put under ever more pressure to create “eco friendly” equipment and washing machines are no different. There are now models designed specifically to use minimal water and power whilst still attaining the same level of cleanliness you would expect from an older, less efficient model. I’m not suggesting you should go out and buy a brand new washing machine right now but when your machine reaches the end of it’s useful life, consider investing in a new eco friendly model as a replacement.

Use Short Cycles

I have seen washing machines with cleaning cycles that finish after half an hour or so and I have seen other machines that can take over two hours to complete a wash. Unless your clothes are suffering from serious staining or ground-in dirt, most clothes will come out clean and fresh after just a short washing cycle. Take a look at your own machine to see if it has an “eco” wash, an “everyday” setting or similar and try this out for size. I think you’ll be surprised by just how quick a cycle you can get away with and still have clean clothes at the end.

As a side benefit not only will short cycles save electricity but they’ll also save your pocket as your utility costs will go down as well as meaning you need spend less time on your household chores each week.

Use Low Washing Temperatures

Many years ago it was standard to wash your clothes at high temperatures but times have now changed. Washing at cooler temperatures can be just as effective at removing dirt as higher temperatures (with a few exceptions), uses far less power and almost as importantly can extend the lifespan of your clothes meaning you need to buy fewer replacements.

If you have a decent-quality washing machine try lower temperatures of 30-40 degrees as standard and save up any clothes that don’t come up to standard to do just the occasional “hot wash” and give them the treatment they need to bring them back up to their former glory.

Get Rid Of The Washing Detergent

In some ways washing detergents have come a long way. For example many are now suitable for use at low temperatures and can do a surprisingly good job even in small quantities. However we need to appreciate that if you’re using washing detergent – irrespective of the brand – you’re still putting potent chemicals down the drain that risks aquatic life as well as requiring effort and resources to remove at your local treatment plant.

So what’s the alternative to washing detergents? Arguably the most popular choice among eco friendly individuals is the Eco Ball – a natural rubber ball designed to create bubbles in your wash and to repeatedly knock your clothing during the washing cycle. These two effects help to lift even stubborn stains without any chemicals and Eco Balls can be used thousands of times making them incredibly cost-effective.

Air Dry Your Clothes

Tumble drying may get your clothes dry quickly but of course the process also uses a lot of unnecessary energy. In addition it can make clothes stick together, smell unpleasant and indeed these days many garments aren’t tumble dry-able anyway.

So use nature’s own tumble dryer and hang your clothes out on a line to dry naturally. They’ll smell better, iron easier and you’ll save a boatload of money by not using unnecessary power in your home.

Store Clothes Properly To Keep Them Fresh

The main reason people wash their clothes it to remove dirt, stains and smells as a result of everyday wear and tear. But there’s also another less common reason for washing clothes – and that’s because they’ve got musty in storage and need to be “freshened up” before being worn. Rewashing clothes that are already clean is obviously something of a wasteful process but there are things we can do to reduce the need.

Did you know, for example, that using too much washing powder in your machine can leave powder residues on your clothes even after the cycle has finished which in turn can attract microscopic mould spores when your clothes are stored for long periods? This can be a major contributor to “stuffy” clothes but is easily avoided if you use Eco Balls rather than washing powders and liquids.

Another idea is to use scents in your cupboards, wardrobes and drawers to help keep your clothes smelling fresh. Whether you use scented drawer liners or even better just add a bunch of dried herbs the possibilities are endless.

Finally rather than washing clothes to freshen them up, consider just hanging them out on the washing line again to let with wind blow the cobwebs away and make them as fresh-smelling as the day you washed them.

5 Responses to “8 Ways To Wash Your Clothes In A More Eco Friendly Way”

  1. boreumindNo Gravatar 25 January 2012 at 10:46 pm Permalink

    super wash ball is also a great alternative to get rid of detergent. check out at http://www.superwashball.com

  2. p.viestiNo Gravatar 30 January 2012 at 6:30 pm Permalink

    is 30 degrees a bit too low temperature for clothes, especially white?

  3. Carol HenshawNo Gravatar 11 March 2013 at 10:59 pm Permalink

    I wash most things including clothes at 30 degrees C without any problems but bed linen should be washed at 60 degrees C to kill any bedbugs that might have taken up residence. One suggestion to keep your whites white is to add some lemon juice to the wash & ideally dry outside in the sun if there is any

    • Richard AdamsNo Gravatar 12 March 2013 at 11:14 am Permalink

      Thanks for the comments Carol – I’ll have to give the lemon juice trick a try 🙂

  4. CindyNo Gravatar 1 April 2013 at 5:31 pm Permalink

    These are some great tips. I think that in some parts of the world we just can get the most out of them just because of the weather. I used to live in Greece (where almost no one has a dryer). Then moved to Canada where it is impossible not to have one. Washing is one thing, drying however is where we consume most of our energy.


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