When I was researching washing machines a few years back (the 40 year old Kenmore finally gave up the ghost and had to be replaced) I was astounded to learn that in most American households, the washing machine is nearly the biggest appliance energy hog, second only to the refrigerator.
I would provide a reference, but I can't remember where I read it, and I think things are probably changing now that washers have become more efficient and televisions have become bigger and less efficient! Nevertheless, this statistic totally blew my mind, and once again left me feeling a tad bit like a visitor from the planet Krypton.
I really couldn't figure out how something that is used so infrequently could consume so much energy. Then I read that the average American household does nearly 400 loads of laundry per year! Four Hundred Loads!?!?! To say I was incredulous would be an understatement. I mean, I know that I live alone and everything, but even when I was a kid our family of 3 only did 2-3 loads per week, and that was in a tiny washer made in the 1960's!
Anyhow, an old friend from college was complaining recently that she was always doing laundry, so I decided to ask her about it. She said that between her and her partner they averaged 2-3 loads per day. Yup, you read that right, PER DAY!
"Well, you see, we each go through three changes of clothes a day... there are work clothes, and working out clothes, and hanging out around the house clothes... and then there's night shirts for each of us, and towels... and once a week we have to do the bedding... so that's one load for the sheets, one for the mattress cover, and three for the blankets..."
Is this just me, or does anyone else out there find this level of obsession with laundry to be ridiculous? I mean, forget the environmental burden it places on the planet... what about the toll it takes in terms of life energy? I asked her if she didn't think that was a tad bit over the top and her response was something like "I'm willing to sacrifice a lot for the sake of the environment, but I'm not willing to live in filth."
The thing is, I don't think she's alone. I mean when I was reading washing machine reviews, there was a woman complaining about some machine she had purchased, saying things like "well, it does a good job on the simple stuff... you know, things that you pick up off the floor that nobody can remember if it's dirty or not..."
OK... now, I guess this would put me in the category of crazed radical, but it seems to me that if you can't tell whether it's dirty or not, it is, by definition NOT DIRTY! Has the detergent industry succeeded in convincing people that human skin is somehow toxic, and anything that might have come in contact with it for a few minutes must be cleaned and sanitized?
I guess this makes me an extremist, but I still adhere to the apparently outdated notion that if it doesn't look dirty, or smell dirty, or look stretched out of shape, it doesn't need to be washed!
I mean, it could be that Americans are just adhering to the old "cleanliness is next to Godliness" line of thinking. But if that were true, you'd think there would be some consistency to their behavior. But a recent study found that less than half of the people using the public restrooms in Grand Central station washed their hands afterwards! EEEEWWWWW!!!
So let me get this straight, Americans are apparently terrified of germs when it comes to laundry but can't be bothered where fecal matter is concerned?
But wait... it gets even stranger... I saw a report on the news a while back about people who have been dubbed "Tide Bandits." Apparently, criminals have actually started stealing Tide laundry detergent and selling on the black market to fund their nefarious activities. I shit you not...
Anyhow... I guess this sort of thing is just inevitable in a society that revolves around selling people things. You convince people that they are surrounded by scary out of control things like ring around the collar and body odor... and then you can sell them gallons upon gallons of chemically laden crap guaranteed to protect people from the horror of appearing human in front of their neighbors and co-workers.
And what's the approach of the typical environmentalist on this stuff... let's see, we need to buy more efficient machines, and buy "eco" products, or better yet, make your own cleansers. Don't get me wrong, I think all of those things are good things to do, it's just that it sort of strikes me that it would be much simpler if people just waited until things were dirty to wash them.
I suppose there's no point in even broaching the subject of line drying...
I dunno, maybe I'm just a filthy hippie or something. What do you think? Have people gotten out of control with their laundry habits, or is this just me?