How Often Does It Really Need To Be Washed?   6 comments

When I read the Energy Star website while shopping for a clothes washer, I had to do a double take on the overview page. It said that the average American does almost eight loads of laundry a week (400 per year). **8** loads of laundry??!! My first thought was, “How on earth can even a family of four come up with eight loads of laundry every week?” My second thought was, “No wonder people seem to complain about laundry being a massive never ending chore.” And my third thought was, “How on earth can the average family create eight loads of laundry in an average week? My husband and I do two loads most weeks, and occasionally three loads. Growing up in a family of four I remember doing three loads of laundry most weeks. So how do you reach eight loads?”

After thinking about a bit I realized that there are lots of things that get washed more frequently than they really need. The two big things that I can think of are towels and sheets, but if I had to guess I’d say the average American washes a lot of essentially clean clothing, too. Please permit me to rant a bit here.

Towels: When I learned in college that people use a bath towel once and then toss it in the hamper, I was floored. When you get out of the shower aren’t you clean? Why on earth can you not use the same towel for a few days or a week? Considering that towels are made to be absorbent, they are one of the biggest energy hogs in the laundry pile.

Sheets: When I learned that some people change sheets every week I thought to myself “who would want to do so much work?” (and then when I found out that some people iron their sheets I thought the same thing but in all caps.) Maybe because I shower at night I’ve never felt my sheets to be dirty after one week. Try pulling back the covers in the morning for a few minutes to air out the bed before you make it if you’re worried about a stuffy bed. Or make yourself a sheet spray using essential oils. Or wash your pillowcase each week but keep the sheets.

Overwashing is kind of a lose-lose situation: it wears out clothing (what do you think lint is?), uses a lot of water, uses a lot of electricity (to pump, treat, and pressurize the water, run the washer and dryer, and heat the water for the washer), and consumes precious time. In my conscious living journey it is very important to me to minimize my water and energy usage, reduce wear and tear so that I don’t have to shop for more stuff, and use my time efficiently. As a result, I try to keep my overwashing to a minimum (I’m pretty sure I wash a lot of clothes that could be worn a second time, though).

While I’m on a washing rant, I’d like to include the dishwasher, too: For as long as I’ve lived in a house with a dishwasher, I have only washed full loads (with a few special exceptions), and I thought everyone else did, too. Then we got new neighbors in our old duplex and I heard their dishwasher running every night. My husband and I cannot physically create enough dishes in one day to fill up the dishwasher, and I know they have the same model on the other side, so apparently some people run half empty dishwashers regularly. Are they so low on plates and dishes that they can’t go at least 2 days? The dishwasher is not water efficient if you wash partial loads (compared to hand washing).


Posted August 14, 2010 by mayakey in cleaning, conscious living, energy use, water use

6 responses to “How Often Does It Really Need To Be Washed?

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  1. Um…wait until you have little kids. Just about everything gets pooped on and you can’t wear that more than once. Owen was a spitter upper and so all of his clothes and most of mine STUNK!!!

    That said, now he’s down to usually one outfit and one or two pairs of jammies a night – leakage, buddy, leakage.

    But we do whites, darks, lights, baby darks, baby lights, jeans, unbleached whites, blacks, tans, underwear, towels, sheets and dishcloths. Not all in a week. Towels about once a month, sheets every couple of months because I have a bunch, but whites get washed every week, so do underwear, lights and darks. Also baby stuff, sometimes twice. So there you go, EIGHT. I do wear things more than once, and so does Michael, but somethings are one-wear items. Shirts and undies specifically 🙂

    If I could do less laundry, I so would.

  2. The June issue of Real Simple had a guide to washing clothing. They did not include underwear. I think they assumed people changed that daily. Their main criteria for washing after one wear was wether it touched your underarms. Only t-shirts,tanks, camisoles and some tops really made the list. Some items were recommended for 5-6 wears. Bathing suits were only one wear but, to me, they are in a separate category.

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