Let's talk about laundry - We all do it, in fact many of us put a wash on more than four times a week.

But are we guilty of washing when we don't need to? Our research has revealed that as a nation, we're ruining over £440M worth of clothing due to over-washing. 


We're on a mission to get Brits to cut down on these wasted washes once and for all.

Brits Washing Habits Revealed

It’s been revealed that over two thirds (69%) of Brits say they wash their clothes even when they haven’t worn them and over half (56%) saying we wash our clothes even if they are not visibly dirty. And it seems that those aged between 24 – 35 are the biggest culprits, with 85% admitting to using their washing machine when it’s not a full load, highlighting their over-washing tendencies.

What activities urge Brits to wash after one wear?

Almost a third (32%) of UK adults would wash their clothes after one wear if it was an item they had worn to work, with 3 in 10 (30%) of us admitting to owning the classic ‘corner chair’ where clothes are chucked and left to fester after just one wear.

How do we decide if something needs a wash?

Over half (56%) of respondents admit that giving an item a sniff is one of the ways they determine if an item needs to be washed, whereas creases and shape of an item are something we care much less about, with only 15% using this as a method to decide if something needs to go in the wash basket.

Sarah Schaefer, Vice-President Sustainability EMEA and Asia Pacific, Electrolux Group comments:

"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 & misshaping. This is why we want to put a stop to what we’re calling ‘wasted washes’ & prolong the lifespan of the clothes we own. Overall, our study highlights that by pausing for a moment & 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 & you can still keep clothes fresh and clean.”

The Study

For hygiene, comfort and peace of mind, it makes sense that we machine wash our clothes. However, washing taboos often lead to us over-wash, costing us in four critical ways:

1. misuse of our time

2. over-spending on washing

3. damaging our clothes by reducing their life expectancy

4. harming the environment with energy and water use

We’ve partnered with Newson Consultancy in a unique study to uncover the tell-tale signs of when clothes actually need to be washed.

How It Worked

Bringing science outside the lab, we worked with a real family to stress test six different fabrics. Our participants carried out their regular daily routine wearing their items of clothing - whether that be for cooking, working or exercising. Following this, they then carried out an assessment on each item, giving it a score of 1 – 5 based on look, feel and smell. We called this the ‘Fresh Test’.

The clothes were then sent off to our washing facility where, by using our formula, were either washed in a machine or using one of our less ‘traditional’ methods (air dry, spot clean, or steam refresh).

The cleaned items were then delivered back to our participants, where they carried out a secondary Fresh Test, seeing if they could also discover which items had been refreshed, compared to put in the washing machine.

The Results

1. Participants believed that 9 out of 10 refreshed items had been machine-washed.

2. 100% of the clothes that underwent the refresh cycle looked cleaner, 100% felt cleaner to the touch and 90% smelled cleaner

3. Refreshed items improved for smell on average even more than machine-washed items.

a. When scoring items out of 5 (5 being completely fresh), items improved by 50%. This was from an average score of 2.5 prior to the refreshing being carried out, to a 5 afterwards.

Key Insights

  • Only two garments did not improve on an area of the Fresh Test conducted by our scientists:

- One out of four cotton shirts did not improve for look; and one pair of four tested jeans did not improve for feel.

- The cotton shirt was machine-washed, the jeans were refreshed. Showing how both refreshing & machine washing improve freshness.

  • Two items didn’t improve on the Fresh Test for our participants, but this was because they had rated them 5/5 (completely fresh) for look & smell respectively so there was no room to improve.

- This shows how many of us chuck our clothes in the wash without them actually needing it.

  • The silk & nylon garments in our study weren't suitable for tumble drying, therefore deemed unsuitable for steaming by our cleaners.

- The nylon was pressed (under sofa cushions), which improved the feel of it instead.

  • Bicarbonate of soda was found to remove sweat smells, but could not remove artificial smells, i.e., strong antiperspirant.

How To Refresh Your Clothes

Step 1

Can you see any marks?

Step 2

Does the item smell?

Step 3

Does it feel worn?

Refresh With Steam

Freshening up a garment that isn’t soiled doesn’t take a full wash cycle. In fact, it doesn’t need to be washed at all!

The main benefits of a steam refresh are:

· Faster – It makes your clothes feel fresh and removes odours in just 25 minutes – which is a lot faster than a regular wash cycle.

· Saves water – A steam cycle uses 96% less water compared to using the delicates washing program, helping to save on bills.

· Less wrinkles - Steaming helps to reduce creases, making it a perfect option for quickly freshening up shirts and blouses without the need to get the iron out.

*96% less water based on internal test with a 1 kg load on the steam programme vs the delicates programme.

What a Steam Washing Machine does

The steam cycle on a washing machine releases hot vapour into the machine drum which relaxes the fibres of the laundry fabrics. This helps to remove odours and reduce creases.

Steam refreshing can also help to remove any allergens from clothes including pollen and dust mites as well as killing any germs and bacteria that may be present. This provides a highly hygienic clean.

Almost all fabrics can be suitably steam refreshed apart from any waxed fabrics, suede, or leather.

However, if in any doubt it is always recommended to check the garments washing care label beforehand.

Find out more about steam refresh here: AEG Washing Machines with Steam Refresh

Spot Cleaning Tips

1. It’s important to spot clean on an absorbent surface, to prevent any marks spreading to other areas of the fabric. Don’t forget to try to spot clean before the mark sets if possible.

2. Use a colour-free cloth to dab or rub the fabric (microfibre cloths can lose colour which will appear on clothes).

3. Dampen the area (spray or with a cloth) and add a tiny amount of detergent with a cloth or toothbrush; you don’t want to leave a soapy residue. For a very visible or tough stain like lipstick, you may directly apply a small amount of detergent. You may find it handy to keep an old drink bottle full of detergent by the washing machine to assist you with spot cleans, as this is easier to handle than a big bottle.

4. It’s best to dab, rather than rub, when spot cleaning - rubbing could push the dirt through the fabric. For tough stains that need some friction, rubbing will be unavoidable and you may have to get a toothbrush out.

5. You can run one of your old toothbrushes through the washing machine rather than buying one especially and keep it by the washing machine for spot cleans. The toothbrush head can be gentle or firm, depending on the toughness of the stain and type of fabric – avoid toothbrushes on delicates like cashmere, wool, or silk.

6. To spot clean wool and silk: make a solution first and get it bubbly, then dab it on only rubbing if essential.

7. For sweat: use bicarbonate of soda to make a paste by mixing a teaspoon of bicarb with just enough water & gently rub it into the affected area on the REVERSE side of the garment. This is so you won’t see any residue marks when you put the item back on. Leave the paste on the fabric until it has dried (around 1hr or leave to set for longer for strong odours), then brush off.

8. For stubborn marks, e.g., from turmeric or lipstick, unless you catch it immediately, you may consider a pre-wash stain remover. Test for colour fastness first and check fabric suitability.

9. Use gloves if you have sensitive skin and are handling detergents!

10. Keep all of your spot cleaning bits and bobs next to the washing machine to make it really easy to achieve a refresh and avoid the temptation to just chuck everything in the machine!

We hope these tips help keep stains at bay and check out our Washing Machine buying guide for more information.