Design & Sustainability on

The Dirt on Laundry: Ideas on Lightening Your Load

— By: The Team at Nau

In his 2008 Ted Talk, Hans Rosling argued that the washing machine was the single greatest invention of the industrial revolution. Instead of spending hours every day collecting water, hand washing along an antiquated washboard, and hanging each garment on a clothesline, we were now free to read more books, learn new languages, go to school, and—yes—contribute to greenhouse gases.

While the washing machine has freed us up to enjoy a few (hundred) extra cups of coffee in the morning, it has also contributed significantly to the environmental footprint of a garment. Some say that over the course of a garment’s lifetime, up to 82% of energy use, 66% of solid waste, and over 50% of air emissions come from washing and drying. Surprisingly, more water and energy are used during consumer care than in production.  That’s why, at Nau, we design our clothes to thrive using low-impact cleaning methods.

To make sure your Nau clothing lives a long life, we’ve compiled a few ideas to lighten your load.  By following such practices, you not only guarantee your garment’s long life, you also join us in minimizing their impact on the earth.

Wear it longer.
Underwear aside, hear us out: In 2003, the average American household washed 392 loads of laundry. Now multiply that by 40 —the average number of gallons of water the modern washing machine uses to wash a full load (high efficiency washers use between 15-20 gallons per load). If the average American reduced their load by just 30%, each household would cut their yearly water use by almost 5,000 gallons.

At Nau, we take this idea a step further and use a muted color palette that easily hides dirt or wear. Jamie and Josie recommend the “sniff” test, which really needs no explanation.

Reduce your temp.

At Nau, we design our clothes to be washed in cold water, which not only gets them clean, but saves energy. We also recommend waiting until you have a full load to be the most efficient.


Use non-toxic laundry detergents.
Unlike synthetic detergents that contain surfactants made from petrochemicals, non-toxic laundry products use readily biodegradable ingredients made from natural materials like corn and coconut oils. Plus, all modern detergents are designed to perform under cold temperatures.

Hand wash your clothes.
Maybe not with a washboard, but with a good pair of hands, a bathtub, and some Method liquid laundry soap. We’re also big fans of this bike-powered washing machine (although we’ve never tried it).

Line dry.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that all residential clothes dryers in the U.S. annually consume about 43 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and 445 million therms of natural gas. That adds up to 32 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year.

But using wind and sun will get the job done. And it’s free. That’s why we designed all of our clothes to look great—especially when line dried.
Want to learn more about caring for your Nau clothing? Visit Product Care.


Words by Leighann Franson.