Fight Global Warming – Hand Wash Your Clothes

Posted by John Goetz

From the Creative Ways to Tackle Global Warming files:

It appears that the Australian Cotton Research and Development Corporation feels the need to develop an argument that cotton is a green alternative to polyester. According to Daily News & Analysis India, the CRDC has commissioned a “life cycle assessment” that compares the environmental impact of cotton and polyester T-shirts on their production, use and disposal stages, the “cradle to grave” approach. This assessment is being done by researcher Francisco Javier Navarro of the Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Sustainable Resources.

According to the following excerpt: washing dirty linen yourself rather than relying on a machine could help cut down greenhouse gas emission levels… Now there’s an idea sure to gain a lot of traction in the modern world. Surely most of us want to return to that nostalgic era captured in the image above, back to the pre-industrial age when life was simpler and temperatures cooler.

The article continues: For example, washing and tumble drying a dirty T-shirt consumes three-quarters of the energy used in manufacturing and using it…This means our decisions on washing our clothes have a big impact on the carbon footprint of our clothing. It makes a huge difference in energy consumption to hang clothes out on a washing line to dry instead of using a tumble dryer.

OK, that seems to be pretty standard common-sense stuff. But wouldn’t polyester have the edge here, as it takes less time to dry a polyester leisure suit than it does a 100% cotton T-shirt? Well, the study actually seeks to break new ground.

The article concludes with the following:

One of the objectives of Navarro’s research is to analyse the effect of increasing the number of times T-shirts are worn before washing.

Navarro said the use of “smell-friendly” fibres would also assist in increasing the number of times a shirt is worn between washes. “Research shows that polyester is related to more intense sweat odour than cotton,” he said.

So, the suggestion is that we wear the cotton T-shirt more times between washes than the polyester shirt, thus negating the polyester advantage and therefore saving the planet. Now that’s clever, but Dr. Navarro might first want to check and make sure there is not a middle school boy out there somewhere holding a patent on that concept. Perhaps the study will extend this to underwear and socks and just about everything else we wear. No, wait, that has probably been patented by the same boy…

Regardless of who came up with the idea first, I believe this will go over well with those who use public transportation, as they are at the forefront in reducing their carbon footprint.

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68 thoughts on “Fight Global Warming – Hand Wash Your Clothes

  1. The Greeks have taken the fine art of “recycling” their everyday work clothes to a level not seen since the inception of the washing stone. Do NOT, under any circumstances, take any form of public transportation in Athens during the Summer months without first getting A) so drunk that your senses fail you or B) ammonia capsules to jam into your nostrils.
    (Personal disclaimer: In the 5+ years I spent there back in the late 80’s-early 90’s, I chose the former. 😉 )

  2. Jeez,
    I’m going to guess that our good researcher is not French – the name has more of a Spanish influence I suspect.
    The basic concept of hand vs. mechanical wash may be, er, awash (sorry) with misconceptions.
    A few years ago a Danish academic (as I recall) ran some analysis on dishwasher use and concluded that a typical water usage efficient modern dishwasher used something like 11 ltrs per wash cycle whereas people hand washing typically used somewhere between 9ltrs and 15ltrs – or more if they leave a tap running for rinsing purposes.
    It occurs to me that a ‘greener’ suggestion would be to abandon crockery washing altogether and simply lick the plate clean then dry it on ones rarely washed organic cotton T shirt. Alternatively avoid crockery based (all materials) food serving and simply throw what would have eaten straight into the mandatory composting toilet.
    Maybe we could be provided with a figure for how many days one might wear a cotton T shirt without washing it compared to production costs vs. wash cost savings and come up with a balanced view of a cost effective lifecycle for the T shirt that avoided ever washing it.
    I sometimes wonder whether Australia is more susceptible to being infected with silly ideas from around the world or whether the ideas start there and spread outwards.

  3. My wife, Andra, didn’t like the idea of getting rid of the washer and dryer. She also wants me to wear clean clothes… What a concept!! I think I’ve read somewhere that most of these schemes hit women the hardest.
    Wasn’t someone saying that the mainstream environmentalists want to continue with our technology?
    How can anyone, no matter their political persuasion, take any of this garbage seriously?

  4. I used to be able to use the same pair of socks for a week. I’d knead them a bit in the morning to loosen up the fibers.
    I did wash my gym clothes more frequently than once a semester.

  5. It seems to me that we could all live a life of luxury and comfort if we just didn’t live as long. We could cram all our carbon footprint into, let’s say, 30 years. As we turned 30 an implant in our hand would light up and we would be sent off to a place, let’s call it Sancutary, where we are told we all renew but in reality we are just killed. At least we would have had a great 30 years.

  6. I guess this thread will do (green cotton thread?)
    How many readers are in New Hampshire (besides Bruce)? Even if you aren’t, I think several other states have the same sort of program, and some are linked together through consulting firms.
    NH (New Hampshire, not Northern Hemisphere) has the New Hampshire Climate Change Policy Task Force looking into the matter and producing various recommendations and what not. From what I’ve seen, it should be call the “Conservation Planning Task Force” because the document are long on measuring CO2 release around the state and how to reduce it. There’s very little climatology except for a tacit acceptance that it’s all CO2.
    Just released at http://www.des.state.nh.us/ard/climatechange/ActionPlan/index.html is:

    The New Hampshire Climate Change Policy Task Force will be holding a series of Public Listening Sessions beginning on the Seacoast September 15th and ending in the North Country on September 29th. These events will be held around the state and are open to the public. Homeowners as well as renters, businesspeople, municipal officials, legislators and conservation organizations are all encouraged to attend.
    Each event will include a presentation by DES staff, who will provide an overview of the Task Force’s process and its progress. The central purpose of these Listening Sessions, however, will be to offer residents an opportunity to provide the Task Force with input regarding how New Hampshire can address climate change and energy issues while strengthening the New Hampshire economy. The Task Force is especially looking for input on actions relative to education, energy efficiency, renewable energy and transportation.

    I expect to write a new web page or two with my input though talking about the science when they’re “Especially looking for input on promising actions relative to education, energy efficiency, renewable energy and transportation.” I have nothing against conservation, especially when gasoline is selling for $3.60/gal, but I’m happy to leave the conservation activism to others.

  7. “How can anyone, no matter their political persuasion, take any of this garbage seriously?”
    Unfortunately these people do take this stuff seriously. When was the last time you visited a college campus and stood within ten feet of these folks?

  8. And whats next that causes global warming ?Riding a snow sled .I can see how the medal sled rutters,don’t laugh i’m 47 now ,can heat up the atmosphire by at least 1 trillionith of a degree.Guess we will have to resort to green snow sleds. Now,as Larry the cable guy says, that’s funny i don’t care who you are.

  9. I can just see Babs and her Hollywood friends, stooped and huddled over their washboards (in the Olympic-sized swimming pool overlooking the pristine Malibu shoreline), diligently hand washing their $30,000+ dresses and hanging them up on the line to dry…
    And in other news, the Sun rose in the West today and Al Gore went on the air and said “Just kidding! You can use all the oil, coal and gas you want! Oh, and here’s all your carbon scam, er, off-set money back!”

  10. The problem is not the washing machine it is the Tumble dryer, which uses many times the Kilo watts of a washing machine. In the entirety of my life I have never used a dryer and there are many other people who always hang their wash out in the breeze to dry it.

  11. This just in – the 1960s policy “Shower with your Steady” has been extended to mesh with the 21st century. Now it’s “Shower with your kid brother.” Al Gore was asked for his comment, and even he said “Eww.”

  12. Yes and while were at it, let’s euthanize all our pet’s as they are a needless drain .
    Do these people actually get paid for this crap???? If so, by whom and for what purpose?

  13. Wonder if this guy put anythought into the very real environmental effects of large scale cotton production? Anyone ever been to Lubbock, Texas in the winter or spring?

  14. Ah, rain, sleet, sub-zero temps and, of course, the wonderful scent of diesel infused smog in your wash…
    Oh, that’s why you have to wear your t-shirts more than once. Laundry day depends on your local forecast and season.

  15. Those morons seems to have forgotten that marijuana, hemp, was criminalised because of the immense pressure that cotton manufacturer put on the lawmakers, because hemp fiber was enormously superior to cotton in most aspects. Hemp can grow just about everywhere, in very harsh condition, yields a fiber that outlast cotton by 10 to 20 times, use very little water (another ressource to save) compared to cotton which requires large amount of irrigation. Furthermore, hemp is so fast growing that very few plants can rival with it in terms of carbon absorption. From the top of my head, I think hemp can also produce in one season the same amount of paper-producing fibers than the product of 5, or is it 10 years of tree growth. Furthermore, the hemp fiber requires much less processing to get rid of the lignine which binds the cellulose fiber in wood. So, all in all, hemp is the solution. For rope fabrication, it can almost rival synthetic, have a very long life, with zero or negative carbon footprint.
    Note also that I am not a drug user, that I was never stoned (nor drunk) in my life and that I don’t particularly enjoy potheads, just as I don’t enjoy drunkards.
    But the fact is, hemp is an amazing fiber. The de-criminalisation of hemp probably have many-fold advantage over the alledgedly significant measure that can apply to the use of cotton.
    If I were naive, I’d say that there is another thing that the moron who wrote the article does not understand, but being rather cynical, I am deeply convinced that they do in fact understand that perfectly: they discount the value of time. Hanging clothes on the line, outside, takes time. Time is money, or quality of life. Who wants to waste their precious time doing stupid things like hanging clothes? If the benefits of sun-dried clothes are a value to you, well, then, you’re free to hang them to dry. But if not, then, why waste your time?
    But the ideological watermelons (green on the outside, red on the inside) do understand that perfectly. They don’t really give a hoot about the earth, what they want is to control your life, your time. And walking around in a smelly t-shirt, and the idea of convincing people to spend enormous amount of time doing makework time-wasting chores makes their neurons orgasm.
    I remember seeing a reality show that was set in England, as they lived a hundred years ago. A *huge* percentage of the wife’s and kids time was consumed by the laundering activity. Boiling clothes, agitating them, ironing them.
    You have to do manual laundry to appreciate the huge service the modern laundry equipment brings to mankind…

  16. Mike Bryant,
    Women! I tell you what. You try and save the planet a little, but no, they are more concerned about you wearing clean underwear. You know, according to the Good Book, a woman got us into this mess. Looks like they are at it again!

  17. Yes, I’m just so sure that women would love to do all they can to save the planet. So let’s see how enthusiastic they are when the future reality sets in and the planet saving starts with ending any possible career. Stay at home, Mom; your whole day will be spent in tasks aimed at saving the planet.
    • Hand wash clothing since washers are a waste of electricity (the generation of which causes pollution).
    • Line dry the laundry since dryers are a waste of electricity (the generation of which causes pollution). If it’s raining or snowing, hang the drying wash in various rooms of the house/apartment.
    • Disposable diapers are a blight on the environment; hand wash and line dry these as well.
    • Hand wash dishes since dishwashers are also a waste of electricity (the generation of which causes pollution).
    • If she’s lucky and you live only a couple miles from the grocery store she can get herself some healthy exercise by walking to the store and return with fresh food for a couple days (unused portions can be kept in the icebox – refrigerators are a waste of electricity (the generation of which causes pollution)). Then she can spend several hours preparing a meal from the fresh foods. Can’t be having any frozen meals as these are an exhorbitant luxury; besides, they wouldn’t last long in the icebox.
    • And so it goes, back to a “simpler” era.
    Imagine a lifetime of such drudgery, all to save the planet. Of course the elite Lords and Ladies (Gore or Di Caprio, for example) would never experience such misery – that’s why they have serfs saving them from the cruel real world. Of course in the real world, where families can’t afford servants {or carbon offsets}, a lifetime won’t be quite that long anymore. Just watch the life expectancy in a green world keep shrinking back to levels last seen in the early 20th century – under 50 years.
    The sad thing is that most people that believe the stories that are told about AGW are innocent victims, including the naive rank and file environmentalists.

  18. Just a note that the machines in the upper end of the washing machine scale have a truly respectable ‘Dry Cycle’. Ours is basically a self-balancing centrifuge.
    On a load of small laundry (say, dishtowels and socks only), it seems to be able to reach a pretty perfect balance. The resulting laundry can’t quite completely skip drying/hanging, but it is quite close. A spin-dried hand towel isn’t wet enough to use as ‘damp’.

  19. “I live in an HOA”
    I hope its not too painful James!
    Looks like your fellow homeowners are in need of some green education.

  20. Cotton environmentally friendly??? Look it up: Aral Sea, or better former Aral Sea, to see how “friendly” cotton growing is for the environment.
    My wife asks me where the author lives because she would like to pay him a visit and whack him with her washboard. …

  21. Pingback: Comment on Fight Global Warming - Hand Wash Your Clothes by Leon … | Buy Clothes

  22. Yes, of course, we should turn off the air conditioning, unplug the computers, the dishwasher, not use the vacuum cleaner, use dry ice to cool the frig (or get rid of it entirely), stop cutting the lawn, etc.
    In other words we should roll ourselves back to the late Middle Ages technologically.

  23. This is a particular bugbear of mine. Tumble dryers aside. Over-washing aside. Over-warm washing aside. Too often washing, etc….
    Perfumes in the form of “fabric conditioners” are a particularly pernicious attack on our immune system and long term health analysis is non-existent.
    In the UK we have a company, Johnston, who label themselves “A family company” but who’s adverts always elicit shouted “A family killing company” in our house. They produce some of the most vile pestilence ever conceived.
    Spray-on in several shades. Plug-in “air freshener” with names such as “open window” seriously – it boggles belief, open a window why don’t you. Stuff to give your taps (faucets)a shine. Stuff to spray on your carpet. A cornucopia of over-indulgent, not to mention poisonous ways to spend your disposable income AND KILL EVERYONE IN YOUR FAMILY.
    There was an advert on TV last year where the makers proclaimed that concentrating their, probably destined to be effluent before some wag decided it would sell, “product” would reduce the numbers of trucks carrying said muck to the supermarket.
    Imagine how many trucks would be needed to carry zero of these, and related boxes of concentrated, lingering death.
    Chemical companies should be on trial for crimes against humanity but would probably claim that in a free market society people are able to purchase as they will.
    As usual education is everything. Just say no.

  24. OK, that seems to be pretty standard common-sense stuff.

    Sorry but it doesn’t. Make more efficient washers and dryers, there, problem solved.
    Besides, you’re not just drying one Tshirt, at least I hope you’re not. You’re drying 20 or more items, so that energy consumption suddenly gets spread across all those items. Also, if you live in an apartment, you don’t have a yard to put up a clothesline. Again the “solutions” ignore a great number of people.

  25. Chemical companies should be on trial for crimes against humanity but would probably claim that in a free market society people are able to purchase as they will.

    Soooo, you don’t wash your clothes?

  26. It seems to me that we could all live a life of luxury and comfort if we just didn’t live as long. We could cram all our carbon footprint into, let’s say, 30 years. As we turned 30 an implant in our hand would light up and we would be sent off to a place, let’s call it Sancutary, where we are told we all renew but in reality we are just killed. At least we would have had a great 30 years.

    As long as I get to play around with Farah Fawcett in her prime… 😉

  27. I suspect that most of the radical environmental movement is populated by luddites in disguise. I doubt that they will be satisfied until humanity’s progress is reversed to stone age levels.

  28. Hang drying your clothes is subject to the same limitations as solar and wind power if you live anywhere but in a tropical climate. From December to March my T-Shirts would have to freeze dry.

  29. Speaking of science fiction, I always thought that the future would be silver jumpsuits and jetpacks. Then I noticed that in many sci-fi movies, the hero would decide to remain in the past.
    Could the greenies be so disappointed that we don’t have jetpacks yet, that they decided to chuck it all and head for the past?

  30. Hmmm Maybe it’s a climate thing/busyness thing.
    Where I live I’d have to fight way though 2-3 snow pack in winter to hang laundry…that would probably freeze, and eventually, freeze dry though it might take a week. Up north it might take less time, it’s colder and dryer there.
    In summer, assuming it wasn’t actually raining ( hah!) , or so humid mold would grow, or that I was even around long enough to take it in, I’m sure it a viable task ,except I really hate hanging/retreiving laundry at 11pm in the dark which is when after dinner it’s time for such things.
    And speaking of just washing… I’m pretty sure my machine does a less water intensive job than I would over an entire load, and does it faster, and better.
    Busy bodies, away with them.

  31. “For example, washing and tumble drying a dirty T-shirt consumes three-quarters of the energy used in manufacturing and using it…”
    Does anyone else think that they’re actually talking about putting one single dirty T-shirt in the washing machine and then drying it all by itself in the dryer?

  32. Line drying is actually better for the clothes.
    Several precautions are in order however.
    1. No bird feeders within 1/2 mile of the clothesline.
    2. No trees within 50 yards of the clothesline.
    3. No line drying below 35 deg F.
    4. A minimum of 1/2 acre of ant free land is required for the clothesline area.
    5. If there are any pokeberry plants within a mile they must be eradicated.

  33. Yes, I like to line dry my clothes. They smell nice, and it’s easier on the fabric. Of course, you can’t do it every day, but we do it a lot now, and it reduces our energy consumption and bill.
    Nothing earthshaking here, but using a clothesline is a lot easier than the effort it takes to handwash clothes!

  34. Steve in SC: One more item to add to the list of precautions when air drying clothes.
    No Blow flies. Within a thousand miles.
    When I lived in Nigeria, if the clothes dryer was not working, then all clothes that were hung to dry, had to be ironed. Even underpants. Especially underpants.
    Flies would lay eggs in the wet clothes. The eggs would hatch, and if you were wearing them, burrow into the body. Then they feed, grow, and burrow back out.
    After one buddy had an infestation, the clothes dryer was the ONE appliance I ensured that did work. Well, that and the coffee machine. Oh, and the Margarita maker.

  35. David: Your Does anyone else think that they’re actually talking about putting one single dirty T-shirt in the washing machine and then drying it all by itself in the dryer?
    I haven’t actually seen the numbers for T-shirts, but I will assume its a similar situation to styrofoam cups.
    One city in Canada banned the styrofoam, on supposedly energy efficiency grounds. It turned out that paper cups require more energy to make, and even ceramic mugs are not energy competitive if you do not wash a full load of mugs. Even then, the mugs have to be washed in a machine (much more efficient), and not by hand.
    Intuitively, I think the t-shirts falls into the same model. If its not a full load, it takes less energy to make new ones. Especially when using a dryer.

  36. There is absolutely no problem with flies burrowing into your flesh and then burrowing out, as long as you are fighting global warming.
    The Margarita maker is THE one appliance that is most responsible for global warming.
    Actually if the greens let us take our Margaritas back with us to the sixteenth century, it might not be so bad.

  37. I dont know if we should laugh or cry………the following article on this website clearly shows a continuing downward trend in temps.
    There is no global warming.
    Beggars belief.
    James

  38. If I hang my clothes out to dry, I’ll need an ice pick to get them down.
    I have no problem with sending the serious eco-fanatics back in time. They want pre-industrial, they can have pre-industrial. And pre-antibiotic, pre-electric, pre-supermarket, pre-iPod, etc.
    We don’t have to send them that far. If the Time Machine is only temporal and not spatial, a single day should do it. The earth moves at least a million miles each day. That far, and we won’t hear them.

  39. Hi guys, how’s it going?
    I just read John’s article, I think he has interesting comments. I just wanted to explain to all of you who are interested that it is not true that one of the outcomes of our research is to suggest that people should go back to handwashing. You can check the source of the article here: http://www.news.qut.edu.au/cgi-bin/WebObjects/News.woa/wa/goNewsPage?newsEventID=20159
    The best way to make your washing cycle more ecological is to wash in cold water, as that typically saves heaps of energy, and do your best when buying detergents (try to get the best ratio of price/environmental-friendliness). I knew that the concept of washing less would create a bit of discussion. The idea is not to wear t-shirts during two or more days before washing them, that’s simply disgusting! Plus it wouldn’t be realistic to think that most people would take it seriously, so what would be the point in suggesting that? The first results of the research show that reusing one of every twenty t-shirts during half a day already makes cotton a “greener” option that polyester. So what this shows is that a tiny little change in your behaviour does have an impact.
    A serious suggestion is to use the tumble dryer less, when possible. I don’t mean to tell you to not use it at all, that’s also unrealistic, but perhaps just tumble dry based on priorities. It’s all pretty common sense, I think a two year old could come up with the same ideas as I have (pretending the contrary I think is bullshit).
    Of course, the idea that the CRDC pays for this research can get people to think it’s biased. Well, every research is biased the same that every person has a bias, however the bias in this one are my personal beliefs rather than economic reasons. Bias is unavoidable, from my point of view, and the only way to avoid its negative consequences is by being transparent.
    Also, I really don’t believe in “don’t do this, don’t do that”. My advise for people is to try to be more aware of what they do when it comes to washing because a tiny change every so often does help.

  40. I couldn’t imagine my wife doing the laundry with the old wash tub. If she had to do that, you’d know every AGW believer in the neighborhood. They’d have knots on their noggins that would make a man cringe just looking at them. LOL

  41. Thanks Mr. Navarro for such a reasonable response. You sound like a really nice guy. However, nobody needs to tell me how to do my laundry. In Texas we call people who do that busybodies.
    Thanks again,
    Mike Bryant

  42. Eh, at least he gives a reasonable response. He just gives advice, doesn’t want to issue orders. “Busybodies” are fine with me so long as they are without legal sanction.
    Now, I don’t think it’s necessary, and I don’t think we have a problem in the first place (either in terms of global warming or “peak oil” or whatever), but I am fine with a difference of opinion so long as it does not want to pick my pocket, run my life, or toss me in the clink.

  43. True Evan, but this drip, drip drip of wheedling, suggestions and advise for me to try to be more aware of what I do, is tiresome. I already have a wife.

  44. While it is difficult for me to type this; with only the one finger not bandaged; on the one hand I can move; and with only one eye not swollen shut; I thought it important that I should share this.
    I had suggested to my wife that she hand-wash clothes in cold water, for the sake of global warming.
    The doctors do expect me to, eventually, to make a full recovery.

  45. Does someone have a list of all the things I must change to satisfy the Green Machine?
    1. Change my lightbulbs to the poisonous ones.
    2. Handwash my clothes. (preferably)
    3. Line dry my clothes. (if there are blowflies, too bad)
    4. Wear my clothes days longer. (but not so long that the albedo increases)
    5. Turn off power to my house.
    6. Donate the money I save on utilities to green organizations.
    7. Buy only white pets. (albedo)
    8. Paint everything white.
    9. Eat only what Dr Pachauri says is OK. (buy lots of curry)
    10. Change transportation to bicycle. (make sure it has a basket for loads)
    11. Do not have children. (that will eliminate grandkids too)
    I am sure I have left out a few things but this is a good start.

  46. “drip, drip drip … I already have a wife.” Mike Bryant
    “A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike;” Proverbs 27:15

  47. Evan,
    [snip]
    Reply: statePoet1775, how many times do I have to ask you not to begin or participate in religious/epistemological discussions on this site? I would also like to admonish Evan Jones for encouraging you. ~ charles the moderator.

  48. Name change to reveal the guilty. I do want to save Evan’s soul, he is such a nice atheist.
    OK Charles. I have been a poor guest. Maybe a thread where you can shunt off types like me. I apologize for causing you grief.
    Sorry, I cheated. One must play by the rules.
    When this CO2 thing is settled, I do hope for the sake of sanity that mankind is innocent or it will be one imagined crisis after another.

  49. Well, I’m currently living in Oz (not where the Wizard is) and somebody decided dryers are a no-no. And their electric dryers are garbage. An hour and a half to dry 4 towels. When I moved here years ago I inquired about gas dryers and no one even knew there were such things. And no one seems to understand you’re supposed to have an exhaust pipe attached and out through a wall. Never saw anyone do that (except me). In the town I live in, most people don’t have dryers and our greener than green council is anti-dryer.

  50. Aaron: Yeah, and when I was in Uni, I would shower and wash my clothes at the same time. And I ate nothing but macaroni and ketchup for the last month of term.
    ahhhh, good times…..

  51. When I lived in Japan the bothersome gusset thieves intent on stealing ladies’ skimpies in a fad known as “panchira” made my eco efforts to dry garments outside a smidgen tricky. Perverts aren’t made nearly enough accountable for their perverse impact on the environment.

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