10 Easy Tips for a More Sustainable Laundry Routine
Try incorporating these tips into your sustainable laundry routine to save time, money, and your clothes, all without harming the planet.
Estimated Read Time: 8 minutes
The easiest way to adopt a sustainable lifestyle is to switch up the things you’re already doing, rather than adding new tasks to your list. There’s one household chore, like it or not, we all have to tackle: the laundry.
These simple hacks for revamping your laundry routine will help you create an eco-friendlier routine by reducing the resources used, the number of microfibers shed, and the chemicals added. And for a dose of good karma, these tips save you money and time, and help your clothes last longer!
Right, we can’t put the washing off any longer. Let’s get to it.
There are many reasons why doing the laundry can be an unsustainable task, including the amount of energy used and the plastic waste from detergent bottles.
One reason that might surprise you, however, is the micro-plastic shed from the fabrics you wear:
- Plastic-based synthetic materials such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon make up about 60% of clothing materials worldwide.
- Every time we do our laundry an average of 9 million microfibres are released into wastewater treatment plants that cannot filter them.
- Plastic particles washed off from products such as synthetic clothes contribute up to 35% of the plastic polluting our oceans.
(Source: Ocean Clean Wash)
You can find more about the shocking effects of plastic pollution in our previous blog post.
Of course, fabric wear and tear doesn’t do anything for our clothes either. Cheap fabrics and overwashing might be one reason we’re so quick to clear out our closets. Over 13 million tonnes of clothes get trashed every year in the US. That’s about 85% of clothes thrown away each year! (Source: PBS NewsHour).
We need to hold the fashion industry responsible, but our habits as consumers make a difference too. We have the power to reduce our micro-plastic waste and make our clothes last longer. And it can all start with a low-impact laundry routine.
10 tips for an eco-friendly laundry routine
1. Wash you clothes less often
Don’t roll your eyes, we’re not saying you should go to work covered in coffee stains or stink out your gym class with your smelly kit. We’re just asking you to consider putting some (clean) items back in your closet before you toss them in the laundry bag.
You don’t need to wash most items after every wear unless they’re stained (skip to our tips at the bottom if that’s the case!) and reducing the amount of loads you do will save time, money, and your clothes too.
How often should I wash my clothes?
- Workout clothes: 1 wear
- Swimsuits: 1-2 wear
- Shirts and blouses: 1-2 wears
- Pajamas: 2-3 wears
- Dress pants or slacks: 2-3 wears
- Bras: 3-4 wears
- Suits, blazers, and jackets: 5-6 wears
- Sweaters: up to 6 wears
- Fleece jackets or sweaters: 6-7 wears
2. Read the laundry care symbols
Those squiggly drawings on labels aren’t for nothing. Reading the laundry symbols and sticking to the advice will help prevent unnecessary fabric shedding as well as help your clothes last longer.
Follow our mini glossary below if you’re unsure what they mean.
3. Opt for a quick cool wash
We all know short showers are more sustainable than long steamy ones, and we can apply that same logic to our washing too.
Not everything needs to be washed on the longest, hottest setting. Most of your clothes will benefit from a low, cool setting instead. Don’t worry, unless they’re stained, this will still clean them!
Cool wash vs. warm wash
- Cool water works on most clothes you can safely put in washing machines
- Delicate, dark, and color fabrics do best in cool water
- Cold water saves you energy costs
- Hot water can wrinkle, shrink, and fade certain fabrics
- Synthetic fabrics wash best in warm water
- If someone in your family is sick, washing bedding and clothes in warm water can stop the spread of germs.
- Warm water works best for stain removal
- Warmer water is more effective for dissolving low-quality powder detergents
4. Use a washing bag for plastic-based materials
Before we even get to the washing stage, it’s worth considering what fabrics you’re purchasing. Try to go for natural fabrics, over plastic-based materials where possible.
That said, you may have some synthetic items from before your zero waste journey, or that you picked up thrifting. Carefully wash them in a microfiber-catching bag, like this GuppyFriend Washing Bag.
This will reduce fiber shedding, filter the few fibers that do break, and prevent microplastics from ending up in the oceans. All whilst protecting your clothes and helping them last longer – double win!
5. Use a microfiber catching ball
Of course, you might not be able to fit all your clothes in a washing bag. You can add a microfiber-catching laundry ball, like this one by Cora, to help prevent microfibers from breaking off your clothes and to collect the few that do.
6. Switch to zero-waste laundry detergent
Did you know 900 million plastic jugs of laundry detergent are thrown away each year? you can wave goodbye to plastic bottles and toxic chemicals by switching to a natural zero-waste laundry detergent.
Our Laundry Paste is a soap-concentrate-to-liquid formula, so you can refill the same container over and over again with no waste. It makes enough laundry detergent for up to 265 loads which is less than $0.10 per load. We told you these tips would save you money too!
7. ...or zero waste laundry sheets
Alternatively, you can give laundry detergent sheets a go.
Our Zero Waste Laundry Detergent Sheets are lightweight and dissolve within seconds, without the need for heavy plastic bottles and messy detergent. They’ll make your laundry routine quick and easy to manage (saving you time!) and reduce your plastic waste (helping the planet!).
Do laundry sheets work?
Little skeptical about switching to sheets? We find them just as effective as liquid detergent when you use 1-3 sheets depending on the size of the load.
Many of you have found them effective too…
Love that I don’t have to buy plastic bottles anymore. The small box of detergent sheets take up less storage space and the detergent really cleans the clothes. How can you lose?
In an attempt to cut down on plastic consumption, I have tried several laundry sheets. Zero Waste's sheets seem to be doing a better job of cleaning than others I have tried. I like the container they come in too, a cardboard box sort of like a wooden matchbox.
- Nancy Davis
8. Hang your clothes out when you can
We can’t control the weather, but we can make the most of it. If it’s unlikely to rain, skip the tumble dryer and hang your clothes outside to dry. If the sky isn’t looking so clear, use a clothes horse to hang up your clothes inside instead.
This will help the environment, save you money on your energy bills, and, you guessed it, help your clothes last longer (many items aren’t meant to be put in the dryer!).
9. Ditch the fabric softener
Fabric softeners aren’t the only way to make your clothes comfy. Many are packed with chemicals that can damage your clothes in the long run, not to mention the hefty plastic bottles they come in.
If you do decide to machine dry your clothes (we get it - sometimes life is a rush), add Wool Dryer Balls to your load. These are sustainable alternatives to fabric softeners. They absorb water throughout the beginning of the dry cycle and then release the moisture when the clothes are dryer to help reduce wrinkles. They prevent your laundry from clumping together too.
Ready for a money and time-saving bonus? Using dryer balls can reduce dry time by up to 40%.
10. Wait until you have a full load
Yep, permission to put your washing off for longer. By washing when the machine’s half empty, you waste water and energy, and in turn, time and money. Wait until you have a full load to do it.
This tip might require some collaboration. If you don’t wear a lot of light-colored clothes but your partner or housemate does, see if they have any items to chuck in with yours. The same goes for darks, brights, and different materials – trust us, they’ll thank you for it!
Bonus tips: How to make your clothes last longer
Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to be more sustainable is to take care of the things you already own before you buy anything new. Since fashion is one of the most wasteful industries, caring for your clothes is a good place to start.
Your new sustainable laundry routine will already help your clothes last longer, and we’ve added some extra tips for closet care:
- Carry a stain remover stick to treat stains straight away
- Read the care instructions carefully
- Protect delicate fabrics in a washing machine bag
- Sort your clothes into lights, darks, heavy fabrics, and light fabrics
- Air-dry your clothes when you can
- Buy a repair sewing kit to fix up minor damages
- Find an alternations place near you (or a handy friend!)
- Zip -up all zippers and tie all drawstrings before washing
- Invest in high-quality clothes hangers
- Keep moths away with lavender or cedar wood fabric bags
- Give your clothes ‘breathing’ space in your closet
- Dye, or redye, faded clothes instead of rebuying
- Don’t overdo it on the chemicals, opt for natural products instead
From eco-friendly laundry detergent to reading the labels, a sustainable laundry routine is a great step to take on your zero-waste journey.
If it seems overwhelming, start with a couple of swaps and build your routine gradually. Remember, you’ll save money and time too! multiple wins when helping the planet.
(ps. We’re sorry we’ve got no tips for the mysterious missing socks after every load - let us know if you figure that one out!)