Dirty Laundry! The Environmental Impact of Washing Clothes

Giada Nizzoli

Dirty Laundry! The Environmental Impact of Washing Clothes

It’s time to expose the dirty laundry of… doing the laundry. This seemingly innocent chore that we’ve become accustomed to overdoing is actually bad for the planet in many ways. 

However, simple adjustments can help you reduce the environmental impact of washing clothes.

What’s the environmental impact of washing clothes?

The environmental impact of doing the laundry

We chuck the clothes in the washing machine, press a button, and have nothing to worry about. Or... do we? Well, a lot happens during that hour or so.


When you wash synthetic materials like polyester and nylon, they shed microplastics, tiny pieces of plastic that make their way down the drain and… into the ocean. 

As well as contributing to its pollution, they end up in the bellies of animals across every layer of the ocean food chain and, when we eat fish, in ours too.

Water waste

Even most high-efficiency washing machines need around 15-30 gallons of water per load, whereas older or less efficient models can use many more. 

Doing the laundry three times a week will result in around 400 litres of water waste!

Energy waste

It takes a lot of energy to keep the washing machine going and, mainly, to heat up all that water. An average machine wastes between 350 and 500 watts of electricity per load.

Toxic detergents

That £1 detergent might have felt like a bargain, but it’s certainly not for the environment. 

Most of these products actually contain chemicals that are toxic to algae and other aquatic organisms.

Tumble dryer’s energy

If, after doing the laundry, we chuck it in a tumble dryer, the environmental impact of washing clothes worsens. They require 2.50 kWh per cycle and even an A-rated model will produce over half a Kg of CO2 per load.

How to reduce the environmental impact of your laundry

How to reduce the environmental impact of washing clothes

Luckily, there’s a ‘laundry list’ of tricks that we can implement to reduce its footprint.

Invest in a more efficient machine

Still relying on that second-hand washing machine that’s seen better days? When you buy a new one, look for an energy-efficient model. 

It’ll use a lot less water and it’ll also save you money in the long run thanks to lower energy bills. 

Wash your clothes less often

We’ve been brainwashed into thinking that we must clean our clothes after using them just once. That’s not true! 

Check out our article on how to take care of your clothes to find out a few tricks to keep them clean and fresh for much longer.

Lower that temperature!

90% of the energy consumed by your washing machine goes towards heating the water! Sticking to lower temperatures and cold washes can really make the difference.

Choose natural detergents

To avoid releasing bad chemicals into the ocean, choose sustainable and natural detergents that are kind to the environment.

Capture those bad microplastics

To reduce the number of microplastics that go down the drain, consider investing in products that are designed to capture them, like a Cora Ball or Guppyfriend.

Dry your clothes naturally

Forget about the tumble dryer! Let your laundry dry naturally on a clothes rack by leaving it outside, on the balcony or, if you don’t trust the weather (which is often wise!), next to an open window.

Choose more sustainable clothes

Lillia Shirt - Choosing sustainable fashion

Whenever you can, avoid cheap synthetic fabrics that shed microplastics and prioritise the most sustainable fabrics instead. 

On Project Cece, you can use our practical filters to find the right eco-friendly clothes for you, choosing from over 200 ethical brands.

Overall, don’t forget that these tips aren’t just great to reduce the environmental impact of washing clothes: they’ll also help you make them last longer and save money. It’s a win-win!

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