United Kingdom Newsroom

Brits waste £440 million on over washing clothes

  • Research reveals that 71% of UK adults admit to using their washing machine when it’s not a full load and chucking items in even when they aren’t deemed dirty
  • AEG is on a mission to cut down on ‘wasted washes’ by educating the nation on when their clothes really need washing
  • Working with a leading scientist, it carried out a unique study with a real couple to reveal when clothes actually need washing
  • The outcome? A formula to help people save time, energy and water

With the cost-of-living crisis continuing to effect households across the country, research commissioned by AEG, part of Electrolux Group, has revealed that as a nation, we’re ruining over £440 million worth of clothing due to over washing. 

The study, which airs Brits’ laundry habits revealed a shocking 69% of us wash our clothes even when we haven’t worn them. One quarter (25%) will default to a wash if they’ve worn something on the daily commute and 24% will wash clothes they haven’t even worn when unpacking after a holiday.

The research also revealed that half (50%) of people wash their clothes because they smell ‘musty’. Other top reasons for washing clothes after one wear include cooking a smelly dinner (46%), being around an animal (39%) and travelling on a long car journey (26%).

In a bid to help people cut down on ‘wasted washes’, premium appliance brand, AEG, has teamed up with leading scientist Dr Martha Newson on a scientific study that revealed once and for all when clothes actually need washing. The outcome is the development of a simple formula; Fabric + Fresh Test = Action.   

Working with a real couple, Tom and Monica, six different fabrics were worn across the course of the week, with two garments per fabric, while the participants carried out their daily routines, all in a bid to determine when their clothes were really in need of a machine wash.

During the study, the participants led their normal lives and kept a Clothes Diary detailing the cooking, commuting, work and exercise they did while wearing the specific items of clothing. A ‘Fresh Test’ was then carried out on the clothes, to gauge the look, feel and smell of each item with a score out of 5 given for each item.

One item of each fabric was then ‘conventionally washed in a machine, while the other was simply refreshed (aired out, spot cleaned, or steam refreshed) following AEG’s specialist formula.

Dr Martha Newson, at Newson Consultancy commented, “It’s been fascinating to delve into a real couple’s laundry habits. With busy schedules and an active lifestyle Tom and Monica, like so many of us, were defaulting to putting anything and everything in the wash without taking a moment to check if it really needed it. This meant they were putting a wash on at least once a day!

“Through this experiment, we wanted to see if the participants would be able to correctly guess which of their items had been washed in the machine or by using another method. The results are really impressive as they were a very clean and conscientious family: they believed 9 out of 10 refreshed items had been machine-washed! Despite 25% of people surveyed saying they wouldn’t trust a refresh setting on their machine, the refreshed garments that we tested improved for smell on average more than machine-washed items. So, by using our simple formula, we can all prolong the life of our clothes, save energy and even save some money.”

As part of the study, Dr Martha Newson has shared some top tips to care for clothes without the need of a machine wash. “If you notice small dirty marks on sturdy fabrics such as cotton, denim, or nylon, you can put a little detergent directly on the stain and gently rub it off with a cloth or old soft toothbrush. For delicate fabrics like wool, silk, or cashmere, gently dabbing the stain with a mixture of water and detergent is a great alternative to just throwing in the machine.”

Sarah Schaefer, Vice-President Sustainability EMEA and Asia Pacific, Electrolux Group, said, “There is an increasing awareness about our environmental footprint. But we understand that people’s busy lifestyles can make it hard to make more sustainable choices. Not only does it cost more to run a washing machine multiple times a week, but also putting clothes in the machine too frequently can often lead to colour fading, shrinkage and misshaping. This is why we want to put a stop to what we’re calling ‘wasted washes’ and prolong the lifespan of the clothes we own.”

This new take on caring for clothes means that if an item has been worn but is not smelly, you can either air outside or refresh with steam. The Steam Refresh programme on the AEG 9000 Absolute Care 8KG Washing Machine is an energy-efficient way to neutralise odours and reduce creases between washes.

Schaefer adds “One of the technologies we’re proud of is the Steam Refresh function on our AEG 7000, 8000 and 9000 Series Washing Machines. Although people are often nervous about this setting, it saves you time, energy, and money as it uses 96% less water per cycle!

Overall, our study highlights that by pausing for a moment and implementing our Fresh Test on your own clothes, you can take a call on whether they need washing at all and if they do – what type of wash. 

Ultimately this will prevent over-washing, save money and you can still keep clothes fresh and clean.”

As part of the campaign, AEG took to the streets, alongside presenter, Georgie Barrat, to find out about the nation’s laundry habits. To watch the full video, and to find out more, please visit here.