You Won't Believe How 'Eco-Friendly' Laundry Habits Are Losing to This One Human Emotion!

In an age where environmental consciousness is on the rise, it's surprising to find that our laundry habits haven't quite caught up. Despite the growing awareness of climate change and the push for sustainable practices, a recent study has revealed a rather unexpected obstacle to greener laundry habits: our own sense of disgust.

The study, conducted by Swedish researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, surveyed 2,000 individuals and discovered that feelings of disgust and the fear of social shame greatly influence how often we wash our clothes. It turns out that even among those who hold strong environmental values, the aversion to wearing clothes that might be perceived as dirty trumps the desire to reduce our carbon footprint.

Washing clothes too often can be more important to some people than thinking about the environment. Credit: Unsplash

Erik Klint, the lead author of the study, points out that disgust is a powerful emotion that often overrides our environmental intentions. 'The study shows that the higher our sensitivity to disgust, the more we wash, regardless of whether we value our environmental identity highly,' he explains.

This finding is particularly interesting because it highlights a fundamental conflict between our evolutionary instincts and our modern-day moral standards. Disgust, as Klint notes, is an evolutionary response designed to protect us from potential pathogens. In the context of laundry, this means that people are intuitively prioritizing an age-old survival mechanism over the more abstract concept of environmental responsibility.

The implications of this are significant, especially when considering the environmental impact of our laundry practices. The average European household does four to five loads of laundry per week, and the size of washing machine drums has increased over the years, leading to more water and energy consumption. Furthermore, a staggering 70% of clothes are washed without any visible stains, suggesting that many of us are overwashing our garments.

The fashion industry has long been criticized for its role in environmental degradation, particularly through the phenomenon of fast fashion. However, the environmental cost of laundry habits has not received as much attention. For instance, a single wash of polyester clothes can release hundreds of thousands of microplastic fibers into the water system, contributing to pollution.

Clothing manufacturers and fashion experts often recommend washing clothes less frequently to extend their lifespan, and certain items like wool jumpers and denim jeans can go several wears before needing a wash. Spot cleaning is also suggested as a way to address minor stains without subjecting the entire garment to a wash cycle.

Interestingly, one of the few studies that successfully changed people's laundry habits did so by providing participants with 'excuse strategies' to overcome their fear of social judgment. Once individuals reduced their washing frequency, they found that others did not notice the change, suggesting that our concerns about cleanliness may be exaggerated.

The environmental benefits of washing clothes less frequently are clear. For example, Levi's estimates that washing a pair of jeans after every 10 wears, instead of after every couple of wears, can reduce water usage by 75% over the garment's lifetime.

While the Swedish study's reliance on self-reported data may have its limitations, it offers valuable insights into the psychological barriers to adopting more sustainable laundry practices. As Ian Walker from Swansea University notes, the research could help people reconcile their desire for cleanliness with their environmental goals, perhaps through messaging that normalizes rewearing clothes or emphasizes how little dirt and germs they typically collect.

Key Takeaways
  • Feelings of disgust and shame can lead to excessive clothes washing, outweighing environmental concerns for many individuals.
  • A study from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden found that a high sensitivity to disgust is associated with more frequent use of washing machines, regardless of environmental beliefs.
  • The no-wash movement promotes washing clothes less often to save on water and energy and to reduce clothing’s lifetime climate impact, citing examples of garments like wool jumpers and denim jeans that don’t need frequent washing.
  • Reducing the frequency of washing clothes has significant environmental benefits, such as decreasing water usage and preventing microplastic fibre pollution.

So, dear readers, it's time to reflect on our own laundry habits. Are we letting our noses lead the way at the expense of the planet? It might be time to challenge our instincts and consider the bigger picture. After all, a little less washing could go a long way in preserving the environment for future generations. What are your thoughts on this delicate balance between cleanliness and sustainability? Share your experiences and tips for eco-friendlier laundry in the comments below!
Do we really need ‘studies’ to know so many simple hacks? The researchers and people that put out their studies are probably not doing this for nothing - there’s definitely compensation involved.
When I was much younger and Political Correctness only happened behind the razor-wire in Re-education Camps in China, Vietnam etc., we had a collective pet-hate for The Unwashed Pom. Now we appear to have the Stinky Swede?
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Reactions: Pommyoz
It's funny really, as airlines have spare clothes and a shower for smelly people to wash, then put on clean clothes before embarking on the plane. Some people with the waste/plastic free movement don't wear deodorants either. I'm all for saving the environment, but not if I smell sweaty. If people want to prevent microplastic fibre pollution when washing, wear natural fibres like cotton or linen. Polyesters are plastic, although people can purchase products to prevent microplastics in the washing machine.
I save my washing and do it once a fortnight or once a month, in cold water and I recycle the water... whites, then darks... then underwear
The piece mentions something about other people not noticing when you wash clothes less. I would notice if I didn’t wash my clothes after every wear. I just can’t wear anything more than once. What anyone else does doesn’t bother me, I like clean clothes so that’s what I have
Perspiration rots the fibre of the fabric. Is that eco friendly I can't see people wearing clothes with holes in then that gradually. Doesn't strong smells damage the atmosphere and also make breathing difficult for every living "thing" on this planet.
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Reactions: Colette 3799
Oh they don't notice, my foot! BO - are you losing friends - could be you do not wash your clothes enough
What a rubbish article.
  • Haha
Reactions: Colette 3799

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