No stain, no pain – A multidisciplinary review of factors underlying domestic laundering
Review article, 2022
Today's washing appliances are much more efficient than those of a decade ago, but the environmental benefits of this efficiency are counteracted by shifts in consumer behavior. Initiatives to reverse these shifts have often proven futile, indicating a basic lack of clarity on why we clean our clothes. This article is an explorative review with the aim of identifying dominant factors that shape how we do our laundry. The results can be used both as an introduction to laundry research in general, as well as a baseline for future interdisciplinary research. Three guiding principles are presented that describe the most influential factors underlying laundering: (1) technology changes conventions, while social context dictates technology acceptance; (2) technological solutions are often suggested to influence consumers, but individual concerns seem to override the effect of such interventions; (3) consumers are guided by social conventions, rooted in underlying psychological dynamics (e.g. moral dimensions of cleanliness). Looking at these principles it is understandable why interventions for sustainability are failing. Many interventions address only a part of a principle while disregarding other parts. For example, consumers are often informed of the importance of sustainability (e.g. “washing at lower temperature is good for the environment”), while questions of social belonging are left out (e.g. “many of your neighbors and friends wash at lower temperature”). To increase the possibility of a lasting change, it would be beneficial if instead all of the three principles could be addressed given the specific consumer group of interest.