Everyday Ethical: How to make your laundry more eco-friendly [ep. 16]

Jun 4, 2019

A guide on how to make your laundry more eco-friendly, including the best planet-friendly products for doing your washing and top tips for reducing your energy usage!



Find “Everyday Ethical | How to make your laundry more eco-friendly” on iTunes, Spotify or stream above!

Podcast graphic, with a picture of a washing line and the title "Episode 016: Caring for your clothes"

How to make your laundry more eco-friendly: Key Links:

My Instagram 

Guppyfriend Bags 

Soap Nuts 

Full transcript:

Hello and welcome to everyday ethical, a podcast about all of the small ways that we can be more sustainable, without the pressure to be perfect.

I’m your host Bethany Austin and I’m an ethical lifestyle blogger who talks about everything from slow styling to cruelty-free cleaning.

Today we’re going to be talking about a topic that, granted, doesn’t sound THE most exciting in the world. But I definitely have a lot to say about it, and I can almost guarantee that you’re going to learn something new to help you be more sustainable in your everyday life. We’re going to be chatting about washing your clothes: how to make your laundry more eco-friendly, how to reduce your energy usage and, of course, a tonne of product recommendations, too. Whether you are an eco veteran or are new to the sustainability scene, you’re going to leave this episode with at least one goal for switching up the way you care for your clothes, so that you can care for the planet whilst you’re at it and make your laundry more eco-friendly

So, let’s dive in.

Honesty time: I don’t enjoy washing clothes. I know that some people seem to get a real kick out of it. But I am 100% not that person. There are certain cleaning and tidying tasks that I love because they make me feel like an organized bitch. For example, I love wiping all our kitchen surfaces down, I love hoovering, I love spraying my mix of fabric conditioner and water all over the house in true Mrs. Hinch. But I am not a fan of doing the washing.

Honestly, I let it pile up, until I have no choice but get it done! Like, until I have no pants left.

We all have to washing though, unless maybe you’re still living at home and your parents do it for you. Well, in that case, you’ve got a storm coming, my friend!

Okay, that was dramatic. Doing the washing isn’t that hideous, but I just hate having to sort it and peg it out and actually remember that I’ve done it so that it doesn’t go all stinky in the washing machine.

Anyway, you get it. I’m not a fan.

And I think, because of that, it wasn’t one of the areas of my life that I thought about making more eco-friendly to begin with. I tackled things that were bigger and more fun part of my everyday life, like cooking, fashion and cosmetics for example. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I started to consider my washing and how it was affecting the planet. But once I went down that rabit hole? Wow. It was a lot.

I kind of thought that it would be an easy one to get sorted, but there is way more to consider than you might think.

Everything from the frequency of your washing, the temperature you wash at, the products you use, the clothes that you own, how you dry them. The list goes on. All of these things have an impact on how ethical and eco-conscious your washing routine is.

Learning about it means that I’ve gone from someone who bought whatever washing capsules were on offer and would even wash, like, a few things instead of a full load because I was just lazy, to someone who now thinks about every single step of the process.

I guess you could say that I’ve done the legwork for you. You’re welcome. I’ve thought through the processes and figured out how to make your laundry more eco-friendly, so don’t have to! So, let me lay them out for you one by one.

My first tip for being my eco-friendly when it comes to washing is one that I think most Brits won’t be too shocked about, but I feel like, if you’re American, you might not be fully on board with this one: Don’t use a tumble dryer! Now, maybe it’s just me, but I feel like tumble dryers are waaay more common in America. I feel like most families in the US have one. And a whole bloody washing room in their house, for that matter. It could be that I just watch too many motivational cleaning videos from in the US though, maybe I’m totally wrong and that’s just not the case at all. But that is my ill-informed judgment.

ANYWAY. I think the reasoning behind not using tumble dryers is pretty obvious: It’s often a totally unnecessary waste of energy. Like, I get it. They’re handy. I used to use one in our communal washroom when I was living on-campus at uni. And, sure, it was super nice to be able to get clothes washed and dried within an hour and a half. Especially if you wanted to wear something on a night out that wasn’t yet clean. However, they really are awful for the environment.

Here’s a stat for you: According to the Guardian, A load of washing done at 40 degrees and dried on the line produces 0.7 kg of C02e. On the other hand, washing at the same temperature, but using a vented-tumble dryer, produces 2.4kg of C02e. So that’s more than 3 times the amount, provided my god awful maths is correct!

Instead of using the tumble then, opt for air drying. That doesn’t just mean out on a line. Grab yourself an indoor airer or even the ones that hook straight onto the radiator which is what I used in our uni flat when I was off-campus. Or, yeah, do hang them outside on the line if the weather’s good enough!

Oh, and also, if you do grab yourself and airer or some new pegs to use on your washing line, and you want to be a total eco-warrior, opt for wooden ones with metal components maybe, instead of the ones that are just plastic and metal. You can get super cheap wooden pegs from Tesco. But that’s a relatively minor thing in comparison to the other things I’m going to mention. Something to think about when you next buy one though, for sure.

On to my second tip – and one that I definitely have nailed – reduce the number of washes you make! Even though it produces less C02 to use a washing machine than a dryer, you still don’t want to be doing any more washes than you need, in order to make your laundry more eco-friendly. Otherwise, again, it just unnecessarily raising your carbon footprint. Obviously, I’m not saying to never wash your clothes, like be hygienic. But if you’ve only worn a pair of jeans for half a day whilst sitting on the sofa, they probs don’t need to go in the wash yet, right?

Where possible, you can also wash at 30 to reduce your carbon footprint. The NHS recommends a higher temperature for things like undies, towels and stuff so that it kills any germs, but those jeans probably don’t need any more than a 30-degree wash! It uses 40% less electricity than washing at 40, so keep it low where you can.

Also sorting your clothes into piles of similar garments in terms of colour or fabric and not putting them on to wash until it’s a full load is another super simple step. It means less washes, which means less electricity and water used, which means a more eco-conscious home.

One thing that I’ve been doing more of recently is hand washing some clothes, too. If I haven’t got a full load, but 1 want an item, then hand washing is the best option. Learn how to do it and it’s a skill that will definitely benefit the planet, but also you if you’re traveling and your suitcase gets lost or something! Win – win.

Hand washing is also great for items that are a bit more delicate. For example, I never wash my bras in the machine because, firstly, they cost a lot of money, but also because I want to make my clothing last! I’ve spoken a lot on this podcast about the impact of fast fashion on the planet. 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon emissions are released globally by the industry. 

I don’t want to add to that number! I don’t want to fuel this ridiculous level of consumption. Therefore, I need to look after my garments and make sure that they last as long as possible. Honestly, just looking after your clothes is a huge step in terms of not being a part of the fast fashion machine that is causing so much harm to our earth. It’s a massive one in terms of how to make your laundry more eco-friendly.

Related post: The Fundamentals of Fast Fashion and How to Avoid It 

So, like I said, hand washing is one way that I do that. It means that my clothes don’t get thin or go out of shape and they just generally stay looking newer, for longer. However, there are a couple of other things that you can do. For example, invest in a washing bag for your delicates. Just one of those small mesh bags (I actually use one of my reusable produce bags for this purpose) so that more delicate items aren’t getting thrown around the machine as much. It stops straps snapping, too, which is one of those things that makes me so angry when it happens.

Also, of course, washing clothes of similar materials and colours will ensure they look good for a lot longer. If you have a bright, colourful wash, don’t high temperature otherwise they might end up losing some of their vibrancy. And make sure there’s no red sock in with your whites!

But now I just sound like your mum, honestly.

As well as generic washing bags, you might want to consider investing in a Guppy Friend Bag. In case you didn’t know, a lot of clothes are made including plastic. For example, polyester, or any fabric with the term “poly” in it. Not only does this mean that the clothes won’t biodegrade fully, but it also means that when your clothes go through the wash, they will release microplastics. These then get into the water systems, damaging marine life and being ingested by fish. Which also means that, if you eat fish, there’s a much higher chance that you’re also eating plastic these days.

One way to cut down on the microfibres your clothes produce is to simply buy clothes made from natural materials. For example, organic cotton is a really great eco option. However, if you’re not ready to make that shift yet, a Guppy Friend Bag might be the answer. It’s basically a bag that you put your clothes in before they go into the wash, then it catches all of the microplastics before they enter the water.

Isn’t that so clever?

Also, they are completely recyclable at the end of their life. So you don’t have to worry about stopping one form of pollution to then just cause another!

The final thing that I’m going to talk about, and the final thing for you to consider, is the washing powder and conditioner that you’re using.

Before we dive into product recommendations and stuff, I want you to start asking before you do every wash whether you really need fabric conditioner or not! If it’s the type of material that’s gonna go, like, stiff without conditioner, go for it. If it’ll be fine without it, don’t add to our plastic pollution problem by wasting conditioner, and therefore wasting bottles.

That’s just a really easy way to be more conscious.

However, here are some more eco alternatives to your washing powder.

Related post: Cruelty-free cleaning on a budget

The first choice and, probably the one that requires the smallest habit shift, is buying lower-packaging washing stuff in your usual supermarket. For example, maybe you could opt for a two-in-one detergent and conditioner to reduce your plastic waste. Or maybe you go for a super-concentrated detergent to cut down on the bottles you get through. Even better, you could ditch bottles altogether, and go for a box of powder detergent, meaning that the packaging is biodegradable. Yay!

Taking it a step further, you could invest in eco brands for your detergent and conditioner. Again you can get them in most supermarkets these days. It usually means that what’s in the bottle is way less damaging to planet, that the packaging is made from recycled materials or is at least recyclable itself, and that the factories they’re made in are way more green. Not always but that’s generally the boxes that these eco-conscious brands tick. Some examples are Ecover, Method and even the Tesco own Eco Active range which is super affordable. Personally, my fave for washing is Ecover because they do some BEAUTIFUL scents, but they are a lot more pricey. It’s one of those things I’m happy to spend a bit more on, but I get that that’s not possible or preferable for everyone.

Finally, taking one step further again, you could be even more eco and forgo shop-bought washing powder or capsules altogether. Again, I’m not saying to just not wash your clothes properly, but maybe you could make your own washing liquid. Just search Pinterest, it’s really not that difficult, but common ingredients for that sort of thing are baking soda if you’re going down the solid route, or castile soap, if you wanted a liquid.

You could also invest in soap nuts. They’re literally just a type of nut, that’s been dried out and then when it gets wet it releases a natural soap know as saponin. But the best part is that they are completely reusable for a really long time and often come in natural fiber bags. So the waste with those is so minimal! I definitely need to get my hands on some soon, as my next way to make my laundry more eco-friendly

Okay and that’s all of my tips for this week’s episode! That was a lot, wasn’t it? I told you there was more to think about than you probably thought!

So, let’s make this a bit less overwhelming and talk about some of the goals that you can set after listening to this episode to make your washing more eco-friendly.

  1.  You could vow to no longer use a tumble dryer
  2. You could reduce the number of washes you make and make sure they’re at 30 as much as you can
  3. You could start hand washing where possible
  4. You could invest in a Guppy Friend Bag
  5. You could opt for one of the more eco-friendly washing products I discussed in this episode

If you’re going to set yourself any of those goals, or create your own, after listening to this episode, definitely let me know by tagging me on an Instagram story. I’m @bethanypaigeaustin, which will also be tagged in the show notes.

I hope that you’ve learned something new in this episode and that it was a bit more interesting than it sounded! If you have, and you value the information you got in this episode, please do leave me a glowing review on iTunes to make sure that as many people as possible give it a listen!

Have a great rest of your day and I’ll speak to you soon!


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