My mother once commented to me, “You are either very clean, or very dirty!” As she found our house was always strewn with washing – either dirty; hoping to be ironed; or waiting to be put away! It is probably a bit of both given three children, and one with a liking for mud. But it got me thinking – have our standards changed? Is it no longer acceptable to wear the same T-shirt for a week? A friend recalls, as a child, knickers were only changed every other day! Yet now I know of people who wash their shower towels everyday; and others who can’t bear any dirty laundry around and will use the washing machine three times a day, every day. So given that the average modern washing machine, according to sust-it’s database of electrical appliances, costs, around 22p per cycle and uses around 55 litres of water, washing too often will certainly be bad for the environment and our pockets. And that would be if everyone had a washing machine less than 10 years old, which they don’t. Plenty of people still have machines that have been going for years, oblivious to the amount of energy they are consuming. So multiplied over the country that adds up to a lot of carbon being emitted not to mention the costs.
So how clean should we be? How often should we change our sheets/towels? I had a very odd discussion once with a distinguished university professor about how he and his wife turned over their bed sheets after two weeks to get more use! Well we all know how wonderful it is to get into a bed with fresh sheets – but how often is it necessary to wash them. There are obviously people with allergies who need to wash their bedding very regularly – but what is normal? And has this changed over the years. What happened in the past with Monday wash days, and no tumble dryers? The size of washing machine drums has grown too, it’s now possible to fit 9kg in some machines. If you have a family and enough clothes to wash in bulk, these machines can work out more economical, but not if they are used to wash just 3.5Kg of washing and are used the same amount of times. I know I usually have too much for my 5kg machine and a bigger drum would cut down on the number of washes. But before we all rush out to stick solar panels on roofs, we should think about how we can do less washing. Although I would always have to have clean knickers – who knows when you might get run over!!