When I moved house recently (the carnage of which was documented here) I learnt the downside of taking in second hand equipment; discovering that the very cheap (and very old) second hand washing machine purchased on Gumtree did not fit the pipes installed in my brand new kitchen. No hot water meant no washing!
Here followed a weekend of numerous frustrated drives to the DIY store, frantic “plumbing for beginners” You Tube searches, and about 10 towels to mop up all my failed attempts to get the darn thing working! But I was proud of myself – pouring a well-earned glass of wine that Sunday evening – as I had triumphantly brought my old washing machine back to life.
My secret? I accepted that we don’t actually need a hot water pipe to wash our clothes. Now, this might seem a little crazy (I even doubted myself, and resorted to online forums of similar crazy people, to back me up) but it’s true…after over a month of cleaning my clothes in cold water, nothing scary has happened! My clothes are clean and haven’t stretched or shrunk. In fact, cold washes have been known to protect colours, minimize shrinking and saves on energy (and ultimately cost of heating water). But more importantly, I have considerably reduced my CO2 with very little effort. Now that’s lazy green washing!
But I’ve also taken my eco washing a step further, and swapped my usual washing powder for a funny little thing called soap nuts. These small nuts, from the tropical shrub Sapindus, magically produce a natural soap; which is free from any nasty man-made chemicals or irritants. At first I wasn’t confident that they would work very well. How could 5 little dry nuts tied up in a sock clean my clothes? But they honestly do work, even in cold water! As soon as they get soaked in water and spin through the cycle, the nuts start to froth and produce a gentle, natural soap. And even better…they can be used multiple times which, for £3 for about 50, is a bargain!
Tips for eco clothes washing
- If you going to brave cold water, it might be worth scrubbing any obvious stains with some soap nuts or natural detergent in a bowl of warm water before washing in the machine.
- Washing on a lower heat can make a massive difference to the environment. Simply switching from 40 to 30 degrees uses around 40% less electricity – saving CO2 and money!
- Add a little of your favourite essential oil to your soap nut bag/sock for scented washing.
- I always dry my washing on an A frame or radiator rack. Even the most up to date, energy efficient tumble dryers will generate over 160kg CO2 per year if used 3 times a week!
- Learn to love the dirt! We have become a generation who washes after one wear, and it’s costing us money, and the planet we rely on. Dab that dirt with a cloth and wear again; saving you a wash load too (which is certainly the kind of lazy I like…)
- The Guardian Green Living Blog – Tread lightly: Switch off your tumble dryer
- The Telegraph – Is it really better to wash your clothes at 30c?
- Ecover cleaning products are a great middle ground if you’re not ready to brave soap nuts – and is an easy and cheap alternative to the usual chemical laden powders.
- Living Naturally sell the traditional nuts and an (even lazier…) liquid version and are vegan Society approved too!
- I tried this one from Natural Spa Supplies as a cheaper version