This is how much water you’re actually using on your laundry

It's time to stop those wasteful second washes
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  • Laundry is one of the household tasks that often feels never-ending. But as we bung our clothes, towels and bedsheets into the washing machine, we don’t always think about the environmental cost.

    Related: How to wash clothes properly – common laundry mistakes include using fabric conditioner on towels

    In the UK, our laundry habits cause 360 billion litres of water to go down the drain every year, according to research by Oxwash. That’s enough to drain England’s biggest lake, Windermere in the Lake District.


    Image credit: Jon Day

    The laundry service surveyed 2,000 adults and found that nearly a quarter of us rarely think about the impact of laundry on the planet. ‘Unlike running a bath, it’s hard to appreciate just how much water gets used in an individual cycle,’ says Dr Kyle Grant, CEO of Oxwash.

    ‘Depending on the setting and the type of machine, you can expect to use anything from 50 to 100 litres a wash,’ he says.


    Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd

    Other findings included that two thirds of us keep a watchful eye out for finished cycles. But, a guilty one in five forget about freshly laundered loads up to three times a month.

    This results in wasteful second washes. Oxwash’s study also found that over a year, a fifth of households did unnecessary second wash loads. This amounts to 9.7 billion litres of wasted water.

    That’s enough to fill nearly four thousand Olympic-sized swimming pools.


    Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd

    The data also identified that cotton (36%) followed by synthetics (20%) and delicates (5%) are the nation’s go-to laundry settings. But research by Newcastle University showed that the delicate setting is the worst for the environment.

    This is because it uses the most water and causes hundreds of thousands of extra microfibres to be released into the water system.

    If your house currently resembles the local laundrette while you wait for clothes to dry, our drying rack ideas piece will help you find a practical solution. Read our best washing line guide if yours needs replacing.

    Related: Utility room ideas

    In March, the Environment Agency issued a stark warning that the UK could see water shortages in 2050 if action is not taken to conserve supplies.

    Checking clothes definitely need to be washed in the first place, and avoiding double-washes at all costs are two things we can do to reduce our impact.

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