In pre-historic times, man felt the need of clothing for physical and psychological protection. However, with time, the purpose also got transformed into modesty and adornment. Being a social animal with a high desire of acceptability among our peer group, today, we all as humans require new and clean clothes every day.
Today, people buy more clothes and wash them more often than they did earlier. The laundry washing of clothes has thus become a vital task performed daily in every household across the globe. This increase in consumption pattern and radical shift in the life styles are not only exploiting the environment but also exerting a great pressure on the world’s finite resources.
According to the World Bank Annual Report (2008), approximately 5 percent of an average household's electricity was consumed for washing clothes with a corresponding energy consumption of 672 gigawatt hour (GWh) with an average per unit consumption of 40.7 kilowatt hour (kWh).
In addition, 3,175 million tonnes of detergent and approximately 144 million cubic metres of water are used annually for laundry care in India. These figures provided the rationale for a scientific research study on developing green ways of doing laundry in India. The study was funded by University Grant Commission (UGC) and carried under the aegis of Department of Fabric and Apparel Science, Lady Irwin College, University of Delhi.
Laboratory-based tests measuring cleaning effect, energy and water consumption were performed in order to find out the most sustainable way of doing laundry at household level without compromising the cleaning efficiency. The significant results of the study have been summarized below as eight green laundry tips for doing laundry in India. These guidelines will not only help you to contribute positively to the ecology but will also save on your annual household bills.
Here are eight ways to make your laundry economical and eco-friendly: 1. Avoid frequent washing Not all the garments require washing on a daily basis. When clothes smell a little, it may be sufficient to hang them on a line in fresh air for a while or wash them using only water. 2. Wash only full loads When the washing machine is only half filled, it still uses 94 percent of the energy, 74 percent of the water, 67 percent of the detergent as compared with a full machine. 3. Choose a sustainable washer technology Various scientific research studies across the globe have found that a horizontal axis (usually front load) washing machine consumes 63 percent less water and 33 percent less detergent, and causes less wear and tear to the garments as compared to a vertical axis (usually top load) washing machine. 4. Choose low temperature and long wash cycle When clothes are only slightly soiled, a wash at low temperature (for example at 30 degree Celsius) for a longer period of time may already provide sufficient cleaning result and may save approximately 36 percent energy. For high temperature washing, wash during the day. 5. Use eco-friendly laundry detergents Laundry detergents may contain chemicals which are otherwise harmful to the environment. Eco-labeled detergents are certified for their environmental friendliness. Also, liquid laundry detergents are more environment friendly as compared to their powder counterparts. 6. Use correct detergent dosage Detergent dosage instructions on labels should always be followed. Overdosing does not provide extra cleaning and uses more water for rinsing, while using less than the recommended amount will not result in clean garments. 7. Use the wastewater from rinse cycles for non-potable uses like toilet flushing, car washing etc. 8. Dry under the sun Spin dry your garments followed by line drying under the sun/shade. Sunlight also kills germs. Nidhi Gupta is a research scholar and Seema Sekhri is an associate professor in the Department of Fabric and Apparel Science, Lady Irwin College, University of Delhi, New Delhi. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.