The "washing clothes" cycle never seems to stop. The constant route from wash basket to washing machine to washing line uses vast amounts of water and power, while most dry cleaners use toxic chemicals. Washing dirty clothes and linens is a basic necessity, but it need not cost the earth. Follow these tips to help keep the planet looking as well as your wardrobe:

Lighten the load - use the washing machines less by spot-cleaning and hand-washing your garments. Use cold water washes, as a machine can use up to 40 gallons of water per load.

Purchase a sustainable washing machine with a good energy rating.

Think about using your waste wash water - a greywater recycling system collects used water from the washing machine, shower and bath and recycles it for use in the garden or for flushing toilets.

Choose your powder wisely - most detergents contain phosphates, which can cause overgrowth of algae in water, and is harmful to aquatic life. It is better to buy plant-based and fragrance-free washing agents.

Reduce your dry cleaning - it is very harmful to your clothes and the environment because of the chemicals used. If you do use the service hang the clothes outdoors (out of the bag) to reduce the amount of solvent you bring into your home. Always save your dry-cleaning bags, clips and hangers to bring back and reuse next time.

Avoid using tumbledryers as they are power hungry and produce a lot of C02. Look out for "A" rated ones. They may be expensive and although better in terms of energy usage, still consume about three times as much energy as a similarly classified washing machine per kg of dry clothes. Instead use clothes lines outdoors and if the weather is bad a clothes horse indoors.

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