01 August 2023

Susannah Constantine on how to save money and energy on your laundry

01 August 2023

She’s famed for her forthright style tips, but Susannah Constantine is taking clothing advice in a different direction now – sharing tips on doing laundry more cheaply and effectively.

“If you put your sheets on at 95 degrees for two hours, you’re burning through energy – it’s as bad as driving your car from London to Scotland. It’s insane – I think a lot of people do it wrong,” declares Constantine, who rose to fame alongside Trinny Woodall on TV’s What Not To Wear in the early Noughties.

“But I found if you put the machine on a 20-30 degree cycle, it washes just as well, it’s shorter and it saves money. And because it’s a cooler wash, it makes your clothes last an awful lot longer too.”

Smart Energy GB points out that washing clothes at colder temperatures, with fuller loads, and using more efficient drying habits, could save households up to £165 a year.

Yet, 42% of householders only use two settings on their washing machine, and three-quarters don’t fully understand the symbols on clothing laundry labels, a survey accompanying their new campaign found.

“About 74% of people don’t know what the labels mean, and I am one of those people. I literally look at it, and it’s like double Dutch – I have no idea,” admits mum-of-three Constantine, 61.

“It’s like these labels have been devised at Cape Canaveral – we’re just talking about washing clothes! In our mums’ day, there was none of this sort of complication where you have to decode labels. So most of the time, because they itch as well, I cut them out. And then I’ve got no idea what I’m doing!”

She has teamed up with Smart Energy GB to re-imagine what common laundry labels could look like if simplified, to encourage more energy-efficient washing.

And labels aside, there are lots of ways people can get their clothes clean, while using as little energy as possible. Here are Constantine’s top tips…

Use cooler washesColder washes are just as effective as warm/hot washes, stresses Constantine, who advises using a 20-30 degree wash when possible – adding it was only when she got a smart meter recently that she realised how much energy she was using with hot washes. “And so now I don’t use them,” she says. “I haven’t used a hot, hot wash for a long time…

“Laundry can be quite a minefield, especially when you’re dealing with two daughters and their clothing,” she adds. “So I’ve used cooler washes and it’s absolutely fine – and nothing gets dyed by a black sock, or shrinks.”

Colder washes can also protect materials like denim and delicates, while preventing colour bleeding. Constantine adds: “There’s a lot of synthetic fabrics and fast fashion around now, but even those last longer if you put them on a cooler cycle.”

Apply the sniff test

Most of us are guilty of washing clothes when they’re not really dirty – particularly if there are children in the family, who just chuck clothes in the laundry basket because it’s easier than putting them away. But you can, of course, get more than one wear out of clothes to help reduce laundry loads – Constantine says the ‘sniff test’ is a good way of telling if something truly needs washing.

“It’s like, ‘Oh, I can’t be bothered to put that away, so I’ll just put it in the wash and mum can wash and iron it and put it away for me’,” she observes. “I just say, for goodness sake, just have a sniff. And if they don’t look dirty but they smell dirty, fair enough. But if they look clean, and they smell clean, I ain’t washing it.

“My kids sort of get it, and they’re certainly more conscious now about the amount of electricity that’s being used. The younger generation are so much more conscious about the environment and the damage we’re doing, so often they’ll be telling me put on a cool wash.”

Treat tough stains with a pre-soak

You don’t necessarily need to use a hot wash to get rid of stains, either. Constantine points out you can often treat stains the old-fashioned way by pre-soaking garments overnight in a bowl or bucket, before washing them on your preferred laundry cycle.

“There are some stains you do need the traditional hotter wash for, but often you can just go back to the old-school way of doing a pre-soak,” she explains. “So if you’ve got a dodgy stain on your sheets, you just get the sheet, put it in a little bowl of water with quite a lot of soap suds, soak it for at least an hour and then put it in the washing machine – job done on a cooler heat.”

Air dry if possible

If you’re able to air-dry laundry, this is obviously the most cost-effective approach. Constantine says: “We’re lucky to have a garden, so I’ll hang the washing out. I find when you put towels in the dryer they go crispy and hard, so I hang them out on the washing line.”

Throw in the towelIf you do need to use your tumble dryer, Constantine recommends adding a dry towel to the load to help clothes dry faster. “If it’s raining, I will put the wet clothes in the dryer, but I put a dry towel in as well and that helps soak up the moisture so they dry quicker. That’s my top tip!”

Use a drying rackIf the weather’s bad or you don’t have any outside space to hang out your washing, try placing a drying rack next to an open window to speed up the process, rather than putting clothes on radiators. “I don’t do radiators,” says Constantine. “But I have got one of those little clothing racks, so I’ll open the back door and put it there.”

Use a dehumidifierA dehumidifier, which helps absorb moisture, can speed up drying times when it’s placed next to a drying rack, as a substitute for more energy-consuming appliances. Constantine says: “I have a dehumidifier which I put the other side of my drying rack, and that dries clothes pretty quickly. Dehumidifiers are much, much more economical than a tumble dryer.”

Susannah Constantine has teamed up with Smart Energy GB on their Super Smart Home Hacks campaign to help Brits reduce energy usage and save money by using a smart meter.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox