Water – it’s the key ingredient for washing our clothes, but it’s also one of the earth’s most precious resources. So, what are ways to save water, save energy, protect the environment – and still have perfectly clean laundry? Whether you are one of the 50 million households for whom water is a scarce resource, or one of the 10% of people (that’s more than 700 million worldwide) who still lack a steady supply of clean water, we all have one thing in common: we can’t live without it. And you may also have noticed that we use rather a lot of it when doing our laundry. So, what can we do to cut down how much we use?
How to save water at home: shorter washes
The average washing machine uses 10 litres of water for every kilogram of cotton it washes on the standard 40oC cotton program – for a standard 5kg machine, that’s 50 litres per wash. Using a shorter cycle, therefore, is one of the quickest ways to save water and energy. Not to mention the fact that less wear and tear on your machine means it should last longer. It is also more economical to wash full loads or use a half-load setting, if you have one. You might also want to consider how often you wash different items to save energy and water. When washing by hand, we have more control over how much water we use.
Stay cool to save energy
The main energy-guzzling culprit is heating the water. In fact, it’s around 80% of the energy used in an average load of laundry. We’d recommend washing most things at 30˚C to save energy. Many people think they won’t be able to get their clothes perfectly clean without hot water, although many items (e.g. delicates and colours prone to running) actually prefer a cool wash and most stains can be loosened by presoaking (see here advice on how to remove specific stains). We’ve also been working hard to increase the power of our detergents; our OMO Ultimate Liquid is perfect for lower temperatures at shorter washes.
Save water - don’t throw it away
And once you’ve finished your hand wash, all of that water is still a valuable resource. Use it to clean perhaps the garden path, the kitchen or the kids’ bikes. For more tips on how to save water and energy at home, see our Sustainable Living Plan.