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Page last updated icon Page last updated on 24th April 2024

Decoding the Load: 74% of British households don't fully understand laundry labels

  • 32% of Brits believe there are too many laundry label symbols to understand
  • 34% admit to ruining clothes due to not following washing instructions
  • The nation is stuck in a laundry ‘safety zone’ with 42% of households only using two settings on their machine
  • Brits’ lack of laundry knowledge could cost households £165 more per year than if they did fuller loads, used colder washes, and adopted more efficient drying habits
  • 41% of Brits use a smart meter to monitor their laundry energy usage
  • Smart Energy GB and style advisor Susannah Constantine, have re-imagined what common laundry labels could look like if simplified into easy-to-understand icons, to encourage energy efficient washing

The nation is in a state of laundry confusion as data shows three-quarters of Brits (74%) don’t fully understand the symbols on clothing laundry labels and four in 10 (42%) only ever use two settings on their washing machine.

The quick wash has been outed as the nation’s laundry ‘safety zone’, as a new study reveals 59% of people always opt for this cycle. But while a quick wash may seem like the most cost-efficient option, Brits’ lack of laundry knowledge could cost households £165 more per year than if they did fuller loads, used colder washes, and adopted more efficient drying habits.

The study by Smart Energy GB into the nation’s most common washing routines also shows that Brits are creatures of habit, with a third (32%) always using the fastest spin speed. A further 29% never choose a cool wash despite temperature being the main energy drainer for washing machines.

And it seems our washing woes are impacting our energy bills, with 40% of the nation looking for ways to be more energy efficient when doing their laundry. Among smart meter owners, 41% said that the in-home display and smart meter had helped specifically when it comes to laundry management and three in five (60%) of households say their smart meter’s display has been integral to monitoring their energy use at home.

But it’s not just our bills that our lack of knowledge is impacting, it’s taking a toll on our wardrobes too. Over a third (34%) admit that they have ruined clothes by not following the garment washing recommendations with wool revealed as the most common fabric (29%) Brits have accidentally damaged in the wash.

When it comes to laundry know-how, 32% believe there are too many laundry label symbols to understand, and a fifth (20%) have abandoned reading washing labels altogether.

In response to the nationwide laundry label confusion, Smart Energy GB has partnered with style advisor Susannah Constantine to reimagine traditional laundry labels, and Energy Saving Trust to provide useful tips, tricks and hacks to help households wash their clothes more efficiently, saving energy and reducing their bills this summer.

The partnership comes as 40% of Brits are actively looking for ways to be more energy efficient and over three-quarters (79%) are searching for tips and hacks on how they can reduce their household finances.

When seeking advice, data shows over half of Brits (57%) are choosing to rely on the internet for support, while 32% of those under the age of 25 would ask a parent or guardian how to wash specific clothes before even considering the labels.

Commenting on the partnership, Susannah said: “For many people summer is their favourite time of the year but with children off school, families going on holidays, having BBQs or picnics and spending more time out and about, it often means more washing! And it doesn’t help matters that the symbols on laundry labels are so confusing that often we don’t look at them at all. That’s why I’m teaming up with Smart Energy GB to help the nation better manage their laundry habits and energy use, one load at a time, and reduce household bills.”

Laundry tips for the household:

  • Cold washes are just as effective as warm or hot washes: Opt for a 20-30 degree wash where you can to save on energy while keeping clothes fresh. Colder washes are great for protecting materials such as denim and delicates while preventing colour bleeding
  • Treat tough stains with an old-fashioned pre-soak: Treat stains the old-fashioned way and pre-soak garments overnight in a bowl or bucket and follow with your preferred laundry cycle to save excess energy usage than needed
  • Air dry where possible: Air drying is the most cost-effective way of drying a laundry load. This doesn’t have to be outside either. If you don’t have any outside space, try placing your drying rack next to an open window to speed up the process
  • Use a Dehumidifier: When the great British weather isn’t playing ball, a dehumidifier is a useful appliance than can speed up drying times. Simply place it next to a drying rack as a substitute to more energy consuming appliances such as tumble dryers or heated air racks, to help absorb moisture
  • Throw in the towel: If you do need to use your tumble dryer throughout the summer, try throwing in a dry towel to help your clothes dry faster
  • Apply the sniff test: While we all love that fresh just-washed feeling, be mindful that you can get more than one wear out of certain garments to help reduce the number of laundry loads. The sniff test is a good way of telling if something truly needs a clean and if doing a small load, be sure to use a quick cycle to be as efficient as possible

Victoria Bacon, Director at Smart Energy added: “Our research has found that lots of households repeatedly use the same washing settings and could be missing out on ways to reduce their energy use and save money. Tracking your energy usage with a smart meter and in-home display is the best way to see how small changes to your washing routine can benefit your bills. So, we want to arm households with a few simple tricks to be more efficient with their laundry, to help everyone better manage their bills.”

For more information on the Super Smart Home Hacks campaign and to find out more about getting a smart meter installed, search ‘get a smart meter’.