|I do like a line of washing|
Laundry has become a bit of an issue in our house recently. I don't actually mind doing the washing. As household chores go it's less of a faff than most and you get pretty good returns for, to be fair, not that much effort. I remember my mum using a twin tub washing machine. It was kept under the work surface and you had to drag it into the middle of the kitchen, fill with water from the kitchen tap (and put the drainage pipe in the sink, I seem to remember) before loading the washing. Once it had washed you used big wooden tongs to transfer the (still hot and wet) washing over to the adjacent spinner. A step up from boiling water in a copper but still a palaver; no wonder she had laundry days. By contrast, I can sling stuff in my super-efficient front loading automatic washing machine (I remember our first one- we children pulled the kitchen bench over to sit in front of it and watch the washing go round through the glass window! Simpler times...) and wait for it to soak, wash, rinse, drain, spin, whatever I want with eleventy billion options- various combinations of temperature, agitation strength, spin speed and cycle length. Hand wash, Wool wash, Outdoor wash (what?!), Cottons, Denim (yes, really), Synthetics, Quick wash, Intensive, Easy-Iron, Spin, Rinse and Spin- while I... do whatever else I want. The housewife's energy saving dream!.
So why do I make such a fuss about it? Partly because it's so easy to just 'chuck a wash on', that's what we do. Not so energy saving (ours or electricity). Easier washing = more washing. It's never ending. People wear things once and wash them. Underwear, well yes, but do we really need to wash the average t-shirt after one wash? My children used to wear their primary school uniforms pretty much the whole week unless they got it dirty- like really dirty, not spongeable or it's-felt-tip-pen-so-it-will-look-the-same-after-I've-washed-it-anyway-dirty. And we've lost the ability to air things. If you had to lug your water to the fire, or your laundry to the water source (and back) you'd be a lot more careful about how much washing you did. Airing clothes extends their use between washing by freshening them up. Use your nose- if it's ok when you sniff it, it'll be alright to wear. At this point I do refer you back to my comment about washing underwear after one outing.
But this brings me onto my main issue. It seems (and I know my teenagers are not alone in this) it's much easier to just scoop everything up off your floor and put it in the laundry bin when you're being hassled over the state of your bedroom than to put the clean clothes away first. Wading through an overflowing wash bin to discover paired socks and folded t-shirts is guaranteed to get a reaction from Mum in this house. Long story but last week I declared a strike and told them they're on their own. They all know how to do it but not much action has been taken. We'll see what happens when they desperately need that particular t-shirt that's in there somewhere...
Frequent washing obviously uses more electricity and water than is needed. I often try to cram too many things in which is counter productive but it's absolutely worth not running the washing machine if it's not full (unless you have one with a half load option or something but even then the full loads are still usually more economical).
Of course the other, well-publicised, issue is microplastics. There are many soundbites- every mussel in UK waters contains an average of 70 pieces of microplastic (and I see no reason why there would be less in molluscs in other parts of the world)- and many sources , but washing of synthetic fabrics is a significant contributor.
I've made the difficult decision to bin my microfibre cloths. I loved those- easy, chemical-free cleaning. The epitome of eco-friendliness ten years ago, they are now proved to be an ecological disaster. I can't keep washing them knowing what they are releasing. I've considered sending them for downcycling but sadly I think the bin is the answer. I know my landfill gets incinerated, which I'm not ecstatic about for several reasons, but I do at least know my microfibre cloths won't be leaking microplastics into water courses from landfill. I also have some cotton cloths made from the tucking-in part of mattress protectors that my children had when they were toddlers (the waterproof part was beyond passing on) so I'll have to make them work.
Clothes aren't so easy. I try to stick to natural fibres but they're expensive. And hard to come by. Back to the dilemmas- ecologically sound but new and expensive, or second hand and cheap but not natural? Do clothes stop shedding microplastics after a while or does it get worse as the fabrics age? And I have teenagers. Teenaged girls at that (I think son would be happy enough in jeans and a cotton t-shirt).
There is an invention called the guppy bag. This apparently catches the microplastics and stops them leaving your machine. But it's £30 (53 AUD/59 NZD/39 USD). And I'm not sure I could fit everything in it. Plus I'm not at all sure that more products are the answer. More manufacturing, more shipping...
So, shoving dirty washing in the washing machine, albeit with an uneasy conscience. My husband was brought up to believe that clothes weren't clean unless you can smell the detergent from 50 paces. I loathe and detest all those smells. I used soapnuts for years with no problem but recently I've noticed that if he puts a wash on he uses our 'for emergencies only' (of the cat wee variety) bio washing liquid. He'll never be bothered to add essential oils AND soap nuts (plus, are the soap nut growers exporting more than they can afford to, shipping etc) so for the moment I've bought another bottle of Ecover. But it comes in plastic bottles and it's ownership is now rather dodgy (more dilemmas). Bio D would be better ethically, but still in plastic. Making my own liquid or powder is on the cards.
Then what? I don't own a tumble dryer. Although I suspect more British families now own one rather than not, line drying here is not so unusual I feel the need to do a blog post on how to do it. I have a mixture of plastic and wooden sprung pegs and some dolly pegs. I have two lines and (almost) nothing makes me happier than seeing washing billowing in the wind. And I LOVE the smell of line dried laundry. Sometimes I save pegs by pegging the hem of one top to another. Sunlight is sanitising and helps bleach whites, so hang your sheets out on a sunny day. Two of my family have hay fever but I haven't noticed it's worse when I line dry their clothes or bed linen. Other areas may have stronger pollen?
|George photobombing my favourite basket|
The other one is currently in use holding up a sunflower that fell over in the heavy rain and wind we had.
The pegs live in a bag I made from fabric I found in a charity shop with one of the children's old coathangers. As ever I winged it and it turned out that the bottom part of the bag wasn't deep enough, so I had to add a bit more fabric to it. It then frayed on the shoulders so I 'visibly mended' it and so far it's holding up fine.
|Functional peg bag|
I hate ironing and so I give things a good shake before hanging them and fold them as soon as I take them off the line. Most things look fine. Most things are also going to get screwed up
|Energy saving ironing with a felted wool pot holder|
In winter I have two airers, one in front of the boiler and one in front of the rayburn. plus things draped on doors and banisters. I air it all folded up on the boiler in the corner of the kitchen. Then the challenge is getting everyone to actually put it away...