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The planet-friendly laundry guide

The planet-friendly laundry guide

We’ve talked about the environmental cost of buying new clothes before, but the truth is, your wardrobe’s impact on the planet continues long after you’ve made your purchase. A load of laundry not only uses energy to heat up the water and run the machine, but it can also pollute the waterways with chemicals from your detergent or plastics that shed from your clothes. A 6kg load full of polyester or acrylic can send more than 700,000 microfibres into the ocean.

The solution is not to go around in unwashed clothes and hope a good airing will do. But odds are you can get away with doing laundry less frequently (as a bonus, you’ll keep your clothes in better nick, as washing machines can make them wear out more quickly). Then, when you do, just follow these four planet-friendly steps.

Save time and energy

Modern washing machines have an eco setting, which adjusts the temperature, time and amount of water. Just hit that. If yours doesn’t have this function, then wash at the coolest setting. You should also wait until you’ve got a full laundry basket, so you’re washing less frequently.

Switch up your products

The environmental considerations of laundry detergent isn’t just about the chemicals that get washed into the waterways (although that is significant). There is also the carbon footprint to consider – that is, the amount of carbon dioxide produced while making, shipping and using the product.

You could switch to a natural laundry liquid, but that still leaves the problem of the plastic packaging and the fuel used to transport it. Instead, we’d recommend Ecoegg laundry eggs. The mineral-based product cleans without chemicals and is about the size of a computer mouse. You buy the plastic egg once, fill it with pellets that last about a year, and away you go. Even better, it’s cheaper than mainstream detergents, at around 4p per wash.

Tackle those microfibres

Limit the amount of synthetic materials you wash by investing in natural materials like cotton where possible. Of course, with things like sportswear, it’s going to be hard to steer clear of synthetics. In which case, there are two products on the market that could help.

Guppyfriend has created a mesh laundry bag that catches nearly all of the microfibres released in the washing process. Then, at the end of the cycle, you collect the microfibres and bin them so that they don’t wash into the waterways (they’ll end up in landfill, which isn’t ideal, but is at least better than inside a fish).

If your laundry won’t fit in a bag, then just chuck a Cora Ball in the drum. Its clever arms – which are inspired by the natural coral that gets clogged up with plastic in the sea – gather up invisible microfibres as they’re swirling around. You just peel them off and chuck them away.

Hang clothes to dry

This one really is as simple as it sounds: don’t use the tumble dryer. Not only will you save lots of money and energy, but your clothes will last longer – nothing’s more likely to shrink, bobble or tear your clothes than spinning and cooking them for an hour. If you’re finding that a clothes horse isn’t doing the trick, then a heated clothes airer is still better for the environment than a traditional dryer.

Words: Theresa Harold
Illustration: Haley Tippmann