The cost of our laundry habits
Nothing beats the feeling of sliding into freshly laundered sheets. Or what about pulling a crisp, white shirt out of your wardrobe that still smells like a ‘summer meadow’?
Whether you live on your own or you’re trying to tackle the huge laundry mountain produced by a large family, chances are you never give the cost of running your household washing machine a second thought.
Until, that is, your latest energy bill lands on the doormat. So how much do we really spend on washing and drying our clothes – and is there any way of using our washing machines more cheaply?
According to the Energy Saving Trust’s (EST) 2012 ‘Powering the Nation’ report into the UK’s domestic energy consumption, we run on average 5.5 washes a week. And, if you have access to a dryer (be it built-in or separate), 81% of those washing cycles will include a tumble, rather than hanging them out on the line.
The EST found that households who ran a separate dryer and washing machine had the biggest bill. Their laundry costs amounted to £81 per year, while those with a combined washer-dryer were spending an average of £35 per year. Lowest of all were the households who just had a washing machine – it cost these people just £24 per year. However, these figures didn’t include powder and detergent, which can increase costs considerably.
So what can you do to reduce the overall financial outlay and also your own time? One more radical method of being both energy and time efficient is to wash clothes by hand while you take a shower, suggested by New Yorker Kay who appears on a series called Extreme Cheapskates. But if that doesn’t appeal, try these ideas suggested by the EST:
- Reduce the amount of clothes you wash. Minimise the amount of clothes you wash by dabbing off small marks with a clean cloth, or by airing items on a hanger after wearing. It’ll minimise your workload, too.
- Wash cool. Unless you’ve just rolled around in mud, modern washing powders will work just as well at lower temperatures. By washing at 30 degrees you’ll use around 40% less energy.
- If you buy a new machine, look out for the Energy Saving Trust Recommended logo as these all have an A-rating for energy efficiency.
- Standby power can make up 9-16% of a household’s annual electricity bill. So make sure your washing machine is turned off at the wall when not in use.
- Always wait until you have a full load before washing.
- Spinning uses much less energy than tumble drying so give your clothes a whirl on the highest spin cycle before drying, whether that’s in the dryer or outside.
- Dry outside wherever possible.
- De-fluff your tumble dryer and change the filters so it works more effectively.