Laundry – Are we doing too much of it?

basket of laundry waiting to be folded Two stacks of neatly folded laundry

I’ve been thinking a lot about laundry lately, and it’s not entirely because I always seem to be faced with piles that need to be washed, folded, or put away (although yes, that is my reality!)….no, laundry has been on my mind because I think I am slowly coming to the realization that I’m doing too much of it. Let me explain. While pregnant with my daughter, I became aware of the world of ethical, environmentally-responsible children’s clothing made from natural materials, in large part due to this very blog. I started to make careful and thoughtful purchases, and to look into the companies behind the clothes themselves. I prioritized natural fibers, small and ethical production, and companies who were transparent about their practices and environmentally-minded. Eventually these same priorities started taking hold in my wardrobe as well.

Once in our home, I treated these garments with what seemed to be utmost care: eco-friendly detergent, cold water wash, hanging to dry (with the exception of large items, like sheets and towels, which we don’t have a great way to hang in our city apartment)…the whole bit. But it turns out I’ve been missing one big thing: I’m simply going through the motions of this carefully-considered washing routine too often! In doing some reading I’ve come across varying statistics, but they all seem to point in the same direction, which is that well more than half of the carbon footprint of the clothes we buy and wear comes after purchase as we wash, dry, and iron our garments. Our culture has become a bit obsessed with cleanliness, and this preoccupation consumes enormous amounts of energy, water, and chemicals to satisfy. And not only is there environmental impact from the wash cycle itself, but there’s impact to the clothing as well – more washing means that it breaks down more quickly.

Without thinking too much about it, I instructed my kids to place their pajamas into the hamper after wearing them for a single night. Second and third layers almost always ended up in the hamper as well, even though they hadn’t really become dirty at all (my kids wear undershirts six so months of the year as a first layer). So many pairs of pants, so many tops, untold numbers of pinafores and dresses, all accumulating and then going through the wash cycle without really needing to. And all this was happening as my husband and I often wore clothes, especially pajamas, jeans, and sweaters, multiple times before washing. Does this ring true for anyone else?

All this to say that I’ve started to pay more careful attention to what’s in our hampers, especially the two in my kids’ rooms. Socks, underwear, and undershirts still are washed after every wearing. But pajamas have moved to every few days (assuming my kids don’t wear them for breakfast) and anything that’s a second or third layer gets a careful look for visible dirt/food/remnants of art projects…if it still looks and smells clean, we’ll give it another wear before washing. I’m find I’m doing less laundry, which is wonderful on so many fronts.

What about you? Does wearing, or having your children wear, something more than once make you cringe? Was the environmental impact of doing laundry already on your radar? I’d love to hear how other families are thinking about this laundry issue!

Shannon x

PS: Photos of actual laundry piles from the other morning for added emphasis. I know I can’t be alone in this, but there is always so much laundry!

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