Day 246: Laundry Musings

Grant has been away for just under a week, and I’ve been thinking about laundry.  At first these two topics seem unrelated; however, I bring them up because whenever Grant is out of town, my laundry seems to go down drastically.

It’s not just 50% as you might expect.  When he’s out of town, I can go for weeks without doing laundry (I know those of you with kids are sighing with envy at this point).  The need to do laundry is signaled only when I completely run out of underwear.

Is it just that he has fewer clothes or that he gets them dirty more easily?  Or is it that my standard of clean clothes leaves something to be desired?

One of my old co-workers used to wash his pants every time he wore them.  Every time!  Even if he just wore them at the office!

I was shocked when I heard that, but then I started thinking – maybe that isn’t so unusual in this society.  I mean, we are a little obsessed with cleanliness and germs aren’t we?  Maybe I, with my two-weeks-worn jeans, am the anomaly.

But you have to agree, doing laundry can be quite wasteful.  Washers and driers hog electricity, detergents and bleaches pollute the waterways, and the whole system gradually breaks down your clothing (that drier fluff doesn’t come from nowhere).

A couple we know actually decided to go with disposable diapers over cloth for their child because of the environmental effects of laundry.  I can’t say I agree with that one, but at least they gave it some thought.

The good thing about laundry is that, while we all have to do it, there are many ways to be less wasteful while doing it.  Energy efficient appliances are all the rage and biodegradable laundry soaps are widely available.  You can even go package-free and make your own laundry soap.

Two of my friends have told me in the past month about how they don’t use their driers.  Ever.  They both said line drying makes their clothes last longer and saves electricity.

It turns out that next to your fridge, your clothes drier is the household appliance that uses the most energy, so line drying starts to make a lot of sense (and don’t give me the “cramped apartment” excuse because both of these friends live in apartments and use fold up drying racks)

Truth be told, I use a drier all the time in the winter (it is, after all, convenient).  On the other hand, I do participate in some energy & waste-saving laundry activities:

-I don’t use fabric softener (who wants chemicals spread all over their clean clothes anyway)

-I wash and dry full loads

-I use cold water (about 80% to 85% of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water)

-I use a clothesline in the summer

Although we don’t have a mandate to reduce energy consumption as part of the Clean Bin Project, after thinking so much about waste, we’re definitely starting to think about conservation in all aspects of our lives.

And as a final note to Chad – I hope you read this and think twice about washing your office pants when they’re not even dirty.



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9 responses to “Day 246: Laundry Musings

  1. grant

    my feet sweat, i go through lots of socks

  2. kate

    my pyjama pants have a tag in them that says “change daily!” wtf!?

  3. I used to wash my clothes every time I wore them. It was a habit left over from high school when my friends and I were paranoid about body odors. Then when I moved out and started budgeting, I realized that clothes fare much better when they’re not washed/dried all the time.

    Most people really don’t smell. I’m starting to wonder if the message about hypervigilance when it comes to personal hygiene come from all the marketing out there about cleanliness: “lather, rinse, repeat,” and so on.

  4. You are not alone on the 2 week jeans, Jen. Unless I spill on myself or get dirty working in the yard, they get worn for 2 weeks or more. I work in an office and so really only wear my jeans in the evening and on weekends. My work clothes get aired out overnight before begin hung back in the closet. The whiff test will usually let me know that they need to be washed.

    Almost all of my other clothes get dried on hangers in my bathroom. I usually only use the dryer for 1 load a week. Yeah! What I have noticed is that my sweaters are a lot less “pilly” and everything lasts much longer. Allowing clothes to be beaten up in the dryer definitely lessens their life.

    I agree with Savvy Christine – I think the aversion to people’s natural odors (not to be confused with those who don’t shower regularly) is marketing driven. Not only do they get us to buy a ton of products to use for personal hygeine, they make us paranoid about it!

    SC – lather, rinse, ..umm I never make it to repeat.

    Jen – I’m just about out of laundry soap and am going to try the recipe you posted. Is that still working for you?

    • I’m glad I’m not alone with my non-obsessive attitude to laundry. Christine, I think you are right, as teenagers we get a little paranoid about how we smell (with good reason), but as our hormone levels even out, I think most people can get by wearing a shirt more than one day (unless you’re jogging in it or something).

      As for laundry soap. The first batch or powdered, I didn’t really like because of the soap Iused as the base. The second version (liquid) works well, but it is really strange looking. There are big chunks of congealed soap swimming on the surface of the scummy-looking water. Next time I’m going to try powdered again, but with a nicer soap. I’m going to go for #9 on that soap site.

  5. One day I announced that we had too much laundry. When Hubby asked how to solve the problem I jokingly replied wear less clothes. And we did! We started wearing clothes multiple times unless soiled or they became smelly. We went from three loads a day to three loads a week (Fam. of 4). Duh!

    We also line dry year round, thanks to my basement clothesline, wash in cold, and stopped using fabric softener, bleach, and dryer sheets – no more dryer period. What a huge money saver. Made me realize just how unnecessary these items are.

    Now I just need to make my own laundry soap to avoid the plastic jugs. Thanks for the recipe!

    • It’s super inspiring to see what other people are doing. I never really realized before that you can live without a drier even in a wet climate like Vancouver. I have to get over the convenience factor of having laundry done in just 2 hours. I agree that bleach, fabric softener, and dryer sheets are completely unnecessary. If we all followed greeen sheeep and went from 3 loads a day to 3 loads a week, think of how much water and energy we’d save!

  6. Most clothes hold up better with fewer washings, which is probably why their labels suggest washing them so often and in the most vigorous/hot cycles possible! Colder, gentle cycles are easier on most fabrics and also mean you can combine more loads. You can also get away with less soap than recommended. There are also items I handwash to prolong their lifespan (such as any underwear that’s not cotton or most things with lace/etc). Handwashing can be done easily in most bathroom sinks and if you wash from cleanest to dirtiest you don’t have to change water very much either. I use Dr. Bronner’s soap for this which is convenient because I do handwashing in the bathroom and also use the soap for body and occasional hair washing.

    • I’ve been using dr bronners for most cleaning since we got it at our local refill store, but I can’t say I ever handwash beyond cloth pads. It just seems so time consuming, adn I think I never really learned to do it properly.

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