Is the eco-friendly mode of your washing machine or dishwasher really effective?

Todos hemos visto en nuestra lavadora o lavaplatos el botón de modo eco. Descubre de una vez por todas en qué consiste y cómo acaba influyendo en el bienestar de nuestro bolsillo y de nuestro planeta.

The eco mode of a washing machine or dishwasher is an economical programme, focused on saving resources and its efficient management.

Studies by a consumer association in Spain concluded that the eco mode is capable of reducing electricity consumption by 33% and water consumption by 36% compared to a normal laundry cycle.

However, the study also highlighted the efficacy, duration or rinsing of a wash in the echo programme.

For example:

  • the average duration of an echo programme was 39 minutes longer than that of a normal programme.
  • lowering the water temperature (in dishwashers below 50ºC and in washing machines at 40ºC) means saving electricity, although it does not clean as well as higher temperatures (stains and persistent food scraps may not be completely eliminated).

 

Energy labelling is the key

The energy labelling of the appliance is the true reference when it comes to knowing the efficiency of a washing machine or a dishwasher.

The energy efficiency of a dishwasher or washing machine is determined by several factors, including the amount/pressure of water, the energy consumed and the length of the cycle.

In a short programme much more water is used, and more electrical power and electricity consumption are required. Short programmes are certainly not the most efficient. 

However, it may be the case that a normal programme of a highly efficient appliance (label A) ends up being significantly more efficient than an appliance in eco mode.

From March 2021 all appliances must be accompanied by a guide that reports on the use of energy and water, as well as aspects such as noise or capacity. Thanks to this guide we will be able to know clearly the use of resources in each programme, being able to assess whether the eco programme is really worthwhile for us.

Finally, it is important to emphasize the maintenance of appliances, since only a washing machine or dishwasher in an optimal state maintain the consumption parameters of its specifications. In addition, breakdowns are avoided and the life of the device is extended.

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But is eco mode eco-friendly too?

The eco mode refers to economics and not to ecology Eco represents a saving in energy and water expenditure, although aspects of the quality of washing may be affected. But is this type of washing also sustainable?

From the point of view of efficiency, savings in energy and water consumption is a point in favour of sustainability. In addition, cold programmes extend the life of garments and tableware, glassware and cutlery.

Also, in the case of clothing, they prevent the release of colour pigments and microfibres, polluting elements that are eliminated through the drain and end up in the oceans, where they can remain for decades.

However, in an ecological washing other factors come into play:

  • Organic products: biodegradable products, if possible without sulphates, phosphates, or EDTA. It is recommended that their containers or packaging generate as little waste as possible. They are usually similar in price to non-organic products.
  • Proper loading of appliances: completely fill dishwashers and washing machines, while always following the manufacturer's instructions to take advantage of the washing as much as possible.
  • Pre-treatment of garments: in case of stubborn stains, garments need to be treated before washing, since washing at low temperature will have more difficulty in removing dirt. There are some eco-friendly products for difficult stains that can be applied before washing.
  • Brief previous rinsing of the crockery: if we opt for a programme with a temperature of less than 50ºC, it is possible that some food scraps will not be completely eliminated. In such cases, a short cold rinse is recommended before putting the item in the dishwasher.
  • Avoid using a tumble dryer: save energy by hanging the garments out.
  • Beware of microplastics: if the clothes you wash are synthetic, use bags that retain microplastics.
  • Obsolescence and the right to repair: we have already talked about maintenance, but from the point of view of sustainability there is more to add. The European Union (EU) has launched initiatives to safeguard the interests of consumers and to combat planned obsolescence and the impossibility of repairing certain appliances. Extending the life of appliances through their design or the possibility of repair reduces the generation of waste.

By way of conclusion, we can say that the eco mode refers to savings, but taking into account other variables we can also make it ecological.

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