Did you know that in Europe, on average, more than 1000 laundry washes are started every second? That’s more than 98 million washloads a day and a lot of water, energy and detergent . But we all love clean laundry, fresh bed linen and soft fluffy towels! They’re important for our health and add to our quality of life.
And by setting the temperature at 30°C instead of 60°C, you’ll use more than 60% less energy. Clean laundry, using less energy is a positive move towards helping the environment. Follow these sustainable consumption tips and the five step laundry guide to get the full picture.
The first question to ask is “what do I need to wash today?“ as this influences the type of detergent to use. Sorting the laundry into piles is the first step to a clean wash and helps to keep clothes, linens, and other household items looking their best through repeated washes. Think about what requires similar detergents, wash cycles and water temperatures.
Separate items for dry-cleaning, hand-wash only and machine wash.
For machine wash items, separate:
Whites (no delicates or wool/silk)
Colours (no delicates or wool/silk)
Delicates (delicate fabrics are lighter and more liable to being damaged like undergarments and lingerie)
The care label will help you in understanding the fabrics you have. Consult the clevercare.info website to understand the textile care symbols for washing, drying and ironing.
To save energy and water, always put on a full load. In case you really have to wash smaller loads, use the washing programmes especially designed for partial loads.
• For the cotton cycles, fill your machine completely. • For other types of textiles (e.g. wool, synthetics), refer to the user manual of your washing machine to know the appropriate amount of laundry.
In recent years, bigger capacity machines have been entering the market (i.e. beyond that average 4-5 kg standard washing machine). Look up the size of your machine, fill it correctly and adapt your dosage accordingly.
The type(s) of laundry product(s) required depend on the type of textile that you need to wash. Typically, in most cases, you will be able to use a “detergent for everyday fabrics”. Very delicate fabrics, but also silk or wool textiles, require special care (see detergents for delicates and detergents for wool and silk).
Check if you need to use a pre-wash stain remover or a bleaching additive to remove difficult stains. Fabric conditioner can be helpful in softening fabrics, reducing drying time and making ironing easier, as well as providing laundry with a pleasant fragrance.
In hard-water areas, your laundry and washing machine may benefit from using a water softener. If you don’t have a water softener, you should dose accordingly, check the label.
Use compact products as they allow you to dose less, which saves product and reduces packaging waste.
Dosing correctly is an action that as a consumer we can take to help the environment and also make sure our laundry is clean.
Using more than the recommended amount of detergent (‘overdosing’) does not provide better results and leads to an unnecessary release of chemicals into the environment. It’s also more expensive for you. And an excess of detergent can leave a residue on your clothes.
If less than the recommended amount of detergent is used (‘underdosing’), soil particles cannot be efficiently removed and may be left on the laundry, causing a dull haze on your clothes, or on the heating element of your washing machine. Stains that are not removed entirely can be ‘burned’ into the fabric, which makes them extremely difficult to remove later. Underdosing also increases the need for a rewash.
The amount of detergent that you use depends on three factors:
how dirty or stained your laundry is
the water hardness in your area
the amount of laundry in your machine.
Follow the dosage instructions on the detergent packaging carefully. You should dose less for a smaller load and more for a fully loaded 6kg-8kg or even 10kg washing machine.
Detergent manufacturers typically use three different levels of soiling when testing their products and also when recommending the appropriate amount of detergent that is needed. These are:
Light soiling: e.g. when you invite a friend and you give them fresh sheets for one night; those sheets are lightly soiled
Normal soiling: this is the soiling of everyday use of clothes. It includes: fatty stains, such as on collars and cuffs
Heavy soiling: this is when the clothes are very dirty, e.g. with difficult stains such as grass, coffee, fruit, blood.
Water hardness is caused by soluble mineral salts, typically calcium and magnesium, sometimes iron and manganese in the water in variable amounts, depending on the source. Water that is largely free of calcium and magnesium is described as ‘soft’. You can find out how hard the water is in your home by contacting or checking the website of your water supply company. You should adapt the dosing of detergents according to the water hardness level. As a general rule, the harder the water, the more detergent you may need to use to maintain an efficient washing cycle.
Washing machine load level and size
In recent years, washing machines of greater capacity have been entering the market in Europe (e.g. from 4-5 kg to 8-9 kg or more). Make sure your machine is appropriately loaded and that the dosage takes the size of your your washing machine into account. On average, the dosage table is provided for a 4-5kg capacity machine, but additional information is provided by the manufacturer in case of bigger capacity machine.
Typical dosage table
Laundry products will provide information on the amount of detergent you should use. A dosage table like the one below is often used. Always look at the actual product pack that you are using for dosing guidance with your detergent.
Information is usually provided for maxi-machines with a larger capacity. There may also be tips concerning half-load washing. The dosage table shown here is for a 4-5kg machine. When using an 8kg machine, an extra dose of detergent should be added.
Did you know that the laundry basket icon shown on the front label of your product shows the number of standard loads (i.e. with ‘normally’ soiled items and medium water hardness conditions) your detergent will cover.
Check the instruction manual to find out how many kgs can be washed in your machine.
Adjust the amount of detergent for a bigger capacity machine.
Modern detergents have been designed to perform well across a broad temperature range, from 30°C (even 20°C) to 90°C. The appropriate temperature setting depends on the load that you are washing, but in many cases 30°C or 40°C gives excellent results. In some cases, a higher wash temperature can be used, such as 60 °C or 90°C. In general, it is recommended to use the ‘eco-setting’ on your washing machine with the appropriate detergent, to benefit the environment. This saves energy without compromising on cleaning performance or convenience. Washing at lower temperatures will also allow you to properly clean delicate items without any risk of colours fading. Check the manufacturer’s information on the appliance for details on eco-setting programmes and temperatures.
The benefits of washing at low temperature
1. Gets your clothes as clean and fresh as you need
Today’s products are made to achieve high performance results at low temperature so this means you can lower the temperature of your wash and get clothes as clean and fresh as you need.
2. Keeps your clothes in better condition for longer
Low temperature washing allows you to take better care of the fabric. Not only do clothes retain their colour for longer when washed at lower temperatures, but there is also less wear of the textile.
3. Collective efforts reap big environmental benefits
If everyone in Europe made an effort to reduce their wash temperature when possible, it could really make a big difference. Simply lower the wash temperature of your washing machine whenever possible and you’ll be doing your bit for the environment.
4. When are higher temperatures (60°C) washes necessary?
For heavily-soiled items or anything related to illness (not only the clothes of an ill person but also their carers), wash at 60°C with a general-purpose powder detergent if the fabric care label permits:
When there is someone in the household who is particularly vulnerable to infection
To ensure a thorough cleaning of textiles used in the kitchen, especially for food preparation
To clean anything that requires deeper cleaning such as health care uniforms, washable diapers, contact sports clothes or anything that has been contaminated with body fluids (such as blood, vomit, faeces).