Honest, Practical, Style Advice

Washing your whites green! – Tips for reducing the environmental impact of washing. And reducing your energy bills at the same time!

Think before you wash, it may not always be necessary and you could save yourself time and money. 







It’s all too easy whilst getting undressed at night to chuck everything in the laundry pile – but does it all really need washing? Washing machines and driers use vast amounts of energy and water and we are often too eager to use them. Even the most high-efficiency washing machine needs around 15-30 gallons of water per load. Doing the laundry three times a week results in around 400 litres of waste water. And washing reduces the life of your clothes as well as producing unnecessary environmental waste. Did you know that every time you run a washing cycle you can be releasing over 700,000 microscopic plastic fibres into the environment?

So here are my top tips for washing greener!

1. It starts with the buying decision – think about fabric when you are buying clothes – the fibre content can make a big difference to your washing. It is the synthetic clothing like polyester that shreds all the microscopic plastic fibres that end up in the oceans poisoning aquatic animals that accidentally ingest them.

Wool is best for handling stains and smells, being tightly woven means that stains tend to sit on the surface. In contrast, synthetic fibres hold onto smells more, including body odour. Did you know that this is particularly true if you use fabric softener?

2. Think about prevention – how you can avoid your clothes going in the washing pile so frequently. Our clothes might just need an airing, this can help faint odours to disappear. Hanging clothes in a steamy shower room or even over a radiator can work well and also help those creases ease too.

Consider wearing an apron. It’s something I do all the time. On the few occasions when I haven’t followed this guide-line I’ve always regretted it. But if you do spill something down you or you’re a bit of a messy eater like my husband, you may be amazed by the trick we learnt in Greece from a friendly waiter. My husband got olive oil on his shirt and we discovered that if you wet it with water and then apply a piece of bread it acts as blotting paper and draws the stain out. My friend even tried this on her dress that had got stained from insect repellent and it worked!

Obviously your underwear needs to be washed daily but to cut down on washing other garments think about layering. I wear a thin T shirt under my cashmere jumpers, that way you only have to wash the layering piece and not the jumper itself.

3. The temperature matters – 90% of the energy consumed by your washing machine goes towards heating the water. So, stick to low temperatures.

When your clothes do need a wash sometimes the industry isn’t very good at helping you make the right washing decision, washing labels are often not very helpful, that’s if you can read the details on the label in the first place. However, most garments can ideally be washed on a 30 degree delicate load with just as good results. According to the Energy Saving Trust washing clothes at 30 degrees uses around 40 per cent less electricity over a year than washing at higher temperatures.

4. Consider what washing detergent you use. To avoid releasing bad chemicals into the ocean, choose sustainable and natural detergents that are kind to the environment like Ecover. I’ve recently changed my washing powder to Earth Breeze which is an environmentally friendly washing powder (actually they are washing sheets) and it’s plastic free! It has good results on everyday washing loads, the only time I’d use a stronger washing powder would be if something was badly stained, which let’s face it, if you haven’t got small children isn’t very often. If, however, you do stain something then time is always of the essence. Tackle it straight away and sponge off using washing up liquid for best results. It’ll never be as easy if it’s left for any length of time.

5. What about all your black garments – how can you keep them looking their best for longer? Well, it’s the same as any delicate garment, you want to agitate it as little as possible so, wash inside out on a gentle cycle with liquid detergent and avoid tumble drying. Ideally you want to wash them as infrequently as possible. However, when they do eventually fade consider dying them. I’ve done this with my husband’s jeans with great success, it certainly gave them a new lease of life. It’s worth noting that natural fibres like cotton, linen or silk will take to dying better than synthetics
such as polyester and nylon. And when you hang your black clothes out to dry keep them inside out because UV light is the most powerful fading agent for clothing.

So, think carefully before you reach for the laundry basket, extend the life of your clothes by washing them less – did you know that by extending their life by a mere 9 months could reduce carbon, waste and water footprints by around 20-30% each (UK Parliament Publication).

As always, if you need any help with any aspect of your colour or style, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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