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Can I Use Rainwater to Wash My Clothes?

can i use rainwater to wash my clothes

Nowadays many people are trying to be a lot more eco-friendly. You may have noticed the increase in recycling efforts and the crackdown on fast fashion. But something that we all use excessive amounts on that we can easily cut back on is water.

Using freshwater for everything consumes a lot of energy, making the situation worse for our planet. So what are the alternatives? Some hotels have started to request that their clients reuse their towels and bedding more. Simply by reusing the fabrics they can save a lot of water and energy.

But what can you do at home? Well, using rainwater for as many things as possible is a great way to cut down on your water intake. You can definitely use rainwater to wash your clothes. Rainwater will actually help the longevity of your clothes due to the lack of minerals in the water.

Is Rainwater Dirty?

The last thing that you want when washing your clothes is to actually make them dirtier. For example, if you are handwashing something you would change the water once it becomes blackened from the dirt. You would not continue to wash your clothes in it. So, why would you use anything other than fresh water?

Well, the fact of the matter is that rainwater is not actually dirty. Actually, the rainwater that you collect is as clean, or as dirty, as the container that you collect it in! So, if you collect the rainwater in a clean barrel then you will have clean water. 

Of course, depending on the area in which you live there may be small amounts of pollutants in the water. However, these are usually negligible. To ensure that the rainwater is as clean as possible you should place your barrel away from plants, trees and buildings. This will stop any dirt or contaminants from mixing with the water before it ends up in your container. 

If you are unsure about how clean the rainwater is that you have collected you can always filter or boil it. This will then ensure that it is as clean as it can be.

We recommend using a rain barrel that is leak-proof and has a high capacity if you utilize rainwater for many daily chores. This collapsible rain barrel by Vingli is high-quality, portable, and reusable. It comes in 50, 66, and 100 gallon tanks.

Laundry With Rainwater

When washing clothes in a washing machine, hard water is used. Therefore, more soap must be used to keep clothes soft because of the minerals found in hard water. Rainwater is naturally soft and is better for the environment when washing clothes.

You don’t actually need a washtub to wash laundry with rainwater. You can use a rain barrel that gravity-feeds rainwater to a washing machine in a basement. You can also fill your washing machine with buckets full of rainwater.

In order to follow the best laundry hygiene practices, you must know laundry care practices such as sorting laundry, temperature, and ironing when using rainwater to wash laundry.

One of the main benefits of using rainwater to wash clothes is that it helps the environment. It can also reduce your monthly water bill.

Is Rainwater Dirty For Clothes?

So, if rainwater is so clean can it be used for clothes? The simple answer is yes. Rainwater is not dirty for clothes, in fact, it contains a lot less limescale than the water that comes out of your kitchen sink. This reduction in limescale is actually good for the fabrics and means that you can use less washing detergent. 

This is because the water that most people have in their homes is hard water whereas rainwater is actually soft water. Hard water contains a lot of minerals (such as iron, magnesium etc.) whereas soft water does not. These minerals decrease the efficacy of soap, meaning that by using rainwater to clean your clothes you will need a lot less soap.

The washing machine is one of the most water-consuming appliances in the house. So, if you are able to cut down on the amount of fresh water that you are using for it, meaning that you use rainwater instead, you will do both your water bill and the environment a huge favor.

What Does Rainwater Do to Your Clothes?

Rainwater will actually help with the longevity of your clothes. So, if you start using rainwater to do your loads of laundry you may just find that your fabrics are drying softer and that your clothes last a lot longer – even with cheaper fabrics which would normally shrink, distort or even ruin in the washing machine. 

That is because the lack of minerals found in rainwater causes the washing process to be much more gentle. It is precisely this gentleness that helps keep your clothes in good condition. 

However, if you have collected rainwater in a dirty barrel, or your rainwater collection is in a location under a tree or building then you may have contaminated water. These contaminants can be anything from pesticides to bird poop and even just dirt.

In these instances, if you do not treat your water properly before using it to wash your clothes, you may find that they come out of the washing machine just as dirty as they went in. 

The contaminants from this rainwater can actually have the opposite effect and ruin the fabric of your clothes. To prevent this you should always check how clean your collected water is before using it. Then, if needed, filter it to remove any impurities.

If you are still unsure about its cleanliness you can boil it. Then you can be safe in the knowledge that it will be pure soft water with which to wash your clothes.

Should You Rewash Clothes if They Get Rained On?

This is a matter of preference. However, you will not need to wash your clothes are they get rained on. If you are standing under a tree or at the edge of a roof then you may have sap, petals or even dirt landing on your clothes (as the water will hit these objects before hitting your clothes).

In these instances, you will want to rewash your clothes, but this is due to the pollutants, not the rainwater itself.

Some parts of the world also have other pollutants in their rainwater, such as sand. If you notice that there is a thin layer of dirt, or what appears to be sand, on your car or patio after a rainstorm then this is a good indication that you should at the very least filter your rainwater before you use it. 

Additionally, if you live in an area where there is a lot of pollution then the rainwater may be contaminated as it falls from the sky. Here, too, you will want to rewash your clothes simply to get rid of this. If you are at all unsure of the water’s cleanliness, take the time to clean it as this will only be beneficial.

However, if you live in an area where the air is clean then the rainwater will only help to soften your clothes. There is no need to rewash your clothes if they get rained on. You can simply leave them to dry and you will not have any issues. 

When You Shouldn’t Use Rainwater to Wash Your Clothes

In some cases, it is not recommended to wash laundry with rainwater.

You should not use rainwater to wash laundry if you or one of your family members fall into any of the following categories:

  1. People with skin allergies, skin diseases, or allergy-prone skin
  2. Young children (younger children are more likely to put clothes in their mouths)
  3. People who are immunocompromised
  4. Hospitalized patients whose laundry is washed at home
  5. People receiving hospital care at home
  6. People living next to agricultural or industrial sites

Final Thoughts

Rainwater is a fantastic natural source. It is a form of natural, clean soft water that has many benefits not provided by the hard water that is connected to the vast majority of people’s homes. Soft water does not contain any minerals, such as magnesium or limescale, and so will be a lot softer and gentler on your clothes when used to wash them.

However, if you are collecting the rainwater yourself you should ensure that you do so correctly. Only ever use a clean container to collect the water, as this will contaminate it and you will need to clean it by filtering or boiling.

You should also only collect water away from buildings, other structures and trees. The less the rainwater touches the better. This will ensure that there are no unknowns in your water, making it as clean as possible. You can then use the clean rainwater to wash your clothes, save energy and help the environment.

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