Clean your Clothes, Save the Planet

UIC students conserve energy with #FlamesWashCold campaign

Out of the entire life cycle of garments, from the creation of fabric in a factory to garment disposal, washing and drying is the most environmentally impactful process that clothing undergoes. When washing laundry, about 80 to 90 percent of the total energy consumed is used to heat water (unless the machine is specifically connected to hot water).

At UIC, there are approximately 4,500 students who live on-campus in residence halls, 60% of whom wash their laundry once per week. If every UIC student switches to cold water washing, we have the potential to make a dent in UIC's carbon footprint, while also forming a lifelong habit that saves both money and energy!

Illustration of a little kid next to a washing machine, washing their clothes with cold water!

Cold water gets clothes just as clean, and is an eco-friendly alternative to warm or hot water washing!

 

Many UIC students believe that while cold water won’t ruin clothes, it might not get them quite as clean. Hotter water means more germs get killed right? That seems simple. However, unless you’re washing clothes that you wore when your were sick, doing your sweatiest workout of the month, or working in a hospital with biohazardous material, cold water does the trick just fine!

Detergents used to require warm or hot water to dissolve properly, but most of today’s formulas work with any temperature setting. Even better, cold water prevents some of those classic laundry problems you may run in to. Color bleeding and shrinkage can be avoided by washing with cold water, and many stains respond better to cold water. So, your clothes will retain their shape and color for longer when washed in cold water, which means you get more time to wear your favorite t-shirts.

Of course, you should always check your clothing tags, especially if the garment is new. Special materials might require warm water, or even washing by hand.

Cold water washing...

  • Stops color bleeding and shrinkage that can occur with hot or warm water!

  • Extends the life of your clothes with more gentle washing and better stain removal!

  • Saves energy and money, especially in a residential setting!

Already a cold-water-wash expert? Here are more ways to be eco-conscious while doing laundry.

Do your laundry at a weird time.

  • When more people are using electricity, that means electricity is more expensive. It also means that our electricity is sourced from dirtier places, like coal. So the next time you need to do a load of laundry, embrace your inner night owl and wash late at night.

Use detergents that are eco-friendly (and recycle the bottle!).

  • Look for detergent brands that are sourced sustainably. Seventh Generation, Method, and Mrs. Meyer’s are all brands that are known for selling environmentally responsible products.

Hang your clothes dry instead of using the dryer.

  • While we encourage you to wash your clothes on cold, the real energy waster here is your clothes dryer. Some estimates attribute 75% of energy used during the laundry process is from the dryer. Using drying racks is an easy way to eliminate that energy waste!

Use dryer balls instead of dryer sheets.

  • For those circumstances where you’re in a rush and just don’t have time to line dry, use wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. Although dryer sheets are cotton, they aren’t recyclable —simply opting for reusable dryer balls will prevent extra waste from entering a landfill.

Take broken clothes to the tailor instead of throwing them away.

  • Finding a local tailor to fix broken zippers, holes, and ill-fitting clothing does double-duty by supporting your local economy while also preventing textiles, which are often made from plastic-based polyester, from entering the waste stream.

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