How I learned to love my laundry

How I learned to love my laundry

By Leah Sorini

I have always enjoyed cleaning. It’s a time for me to relax and catch up on podcasts, so I was excited when my mom gave me How to Love Your Laundry: Sort your smalls, save the planet and never dry clean anything ever again by Karin Miller and Patric Richardson.

The authors talk about how to care for your clothes and do laundry more sustainably.

I’m about two months into my new laundry routine, and I wanted to share a few changes I’ve made before I even put my clothes in the wash. This is an almost 200-page book, so my recommendations cover just what’s worked for me.

Washing your clothes less often is better for the environment and your wardrobe, as I mentioned in my post, How to shop sustainably for clothing. You save water, energy and help your clothes last longer, which, of course, prevents you from buying more.

Conserve water and save your clothes

The need to conserve water will only become more important as we continue to see severe consequences of the climate crisis. Americans are already among the most profligate water users on the planet, especially compared to Africa.

Most Americans use 82 gallons of water each day or 29,930 gallons per year (over 700 bathtubs full), according to the EPA. The National Geographic warns that many places in the country will see the planet’s freshwater resources reduced by one-third over the next 50 years.

To avoid so many washes, a great practice is to air out your clothing instead, until the item is ready for the wash. Garments, such as coats, don’t need frequent washing. You can get out a smell (like cigarette smoke) by lightly spraying it with straight vodka, according to the book. I must admit, I haven’t tried this yet, but I do have a spray bottle of cheap vodka ready!

Getting rid of clothes only adds to the waste stream because so few are recycled. This is why we all really should make every effort to save our clothes with smart laundry habits. In the U.S., only 13.6% of clothes and shoes thrown away are ever recycled, according to the BBC.

I’ve also stopped taking my clothes to the dry cleaners, even when labels say “dry clean only.” This is not only more environmentally friendly but saves money.

Dry cleaners may use toxic chemicals (such as Perc), which pollute our air, water and soil.

Washing my clothes less and avoiding the dry cleaners are changes I’ve made before I start my laundry.

In Part II of this post, I offer specific tips for laundry day and how to wash a few “dry clean only” items.

In the meantime, for more tips on sustainable choices, check out my earlier posts:
How to shop sustainably for clothing
How to shop sustainably for food

Leah Sorini is a communications professional with experience in writing, project management, strategic planning, community engagement and public speaking. She is involved in the Chicago chapter’s communications work. She’s passionate about raising awareness to encourage action that addresses the climate crisis. 

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