Updated: Feb 28
What we wear in our life day to day greatly impacts our environment. Also, our washing routine has an impact on our carbon footprint. Read here tips to make your laundry routine more sustainable.
If you already use a lot of natural fiber for your clothes like cotton, linen, bamboo, silk or wool you are on the right track. These natural materials are more resistant to bacteria compared to synthetic fibers. This means you can wear them more than once before they need to be washed. Another downside of synthetic fibers is that they release microfibers (tiny pieces of plastic) during washing. This ends up in the sewers. These particles are so small they can’t be filtered out so they end up in nature and in the end in our tap water.
How hot you wash your clothes depends on how dirty they get. I wash my clothes at 30 degrees Celcius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) after I wore them a couple of times. T-shirts usually 2-3 times and jeans 3-4 times. At most my clothes get a little sweaty in which 30 degrees is enough. I also wash towels at 30 degrees after using them a couple of times. These only got wet from drying your body so these shouldn’t be dirty after use.
Items dirtier then a little sweat I wash at 40 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit). For example bed sheets and underwear.
I only wash my cloth diapers at 60 degrees Celcius (140 degrees Fahrenheit). These are extremely dirty and need to be properly cleaned to prevent a rash on my baby’s bum. Also, clothes and wipes that are soiled with poop will be wash with the diapers. Read more about my cloth diaper washing routine here.
Use a detergent that comes in a cardboard box. If you have a bulk store nearby you could buy detergent using your own containers. The detergents nowadays are good enough that they can clean your laundry at 30 degrees. Don’t use too much detergent as this can bulk up in your clothes which is not good for the longevity of your clothes and not good for your skin. Ditch the fabric softener or if you want you could use a splash of vinegar instead.
Some stains can be a challenge but when you know what caused the stain you can handle it in an eco-friendly matter.
Red wine: generously apply table salt on the stain and let it be for several minutes. Rinse with cold water.
Blood: Prewash cold with detergent and some enhancer. Don’t use hot water as this causes the protein in blood to solidify and the stain won’t come out. After rinsing you can wash it with other items.
Waterproof makeup: Use liquid soap. Waterproof makeup is often oil-based which can be broken down with soap.
Coffee: Use backing soda. Rub some baking soda gently over the stain with a clean cloth. Rinse in cold water after half an hour.
Grass: Use white vinegar. Make a solution with 1 part vinegar and 2 parts water. Rub the solution on the grass stain and leave it there for about 15 minutes before washing.
Don’t use a dryer. This has 2 major advantages; It saves a lot of energy and your clothes remain nice longer. Another benefit of outside drying (when the weather allows for it) is the nice outdoorsy smell your clothes get.
The chemicals used at the dry-cleaner are aggressive and toxic. It is best to avoid this altogether as these chemicals will stay in your clothes when you pick them up and you transport them to your car, house and in the end your skin. Tetrachloroethylene (perc) is the chemical used by dry cleaners. This is a carcinogenic substance that can enter your body via your skin or airways.
I hope these tips will help you to make your laundry routine more sustainable.