The washing machine, and the many ways in which owners can cut its running costs, are the subject of the latest of a series of articles published by The Guardian as part of a challenge to encourage people to look at how they can adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.
Against a backdrop of innovations which have brought about a 31 per cent improvement in the energy efficiency of washing machines since 1990, it says, when it's considered that an average machine does 220 washes every year, there is substantial scope for cost – and environmental – savings.
They start when anyone is shopping around for a new machine, it says, and buyers should make the energy efficiency ratings given to each machine one of the criteria they use to make their choice.
It's also important to look for a machine which takes the right-sized load for your individual needs, it says. Capacities range from 5.5 to 11kg, so matching the right one with the amount you wash is an important cost-saving measure.
Equally, it then says you should always try to wash a full load each time, as this is more economical than having excess capacity every time you switch it on.
A well-known tip – but again, one which many people don't follow – is to wash at a relatively low temperature, ideally 30 degrees Centigrade, as this can cut energy use by up to 40 per cent. In addition, modern detergents are designed to work more efficiently at such lower temperatures, the article notes.
Finally, another step often ignored is to remember to switch the washing machine off after use. Even when it isn't being used, power is still needed to illuminate the lights in the display.
The Guardian's 'Live Better Challenge', sponsored by food and chemicals giant Unilever, is designed to raise awareness of the ways in which people can live more sustainably.