Laundry Justice

  • Paddock, Jessica R (Principal Investigator)
  • Harrison, Lizzie (Co-Investigator)
  • Bartley, Lara Luna (Researcher)
  • Craft, Rhiannon (Researcher)
  • Richter, Katharina (Collaborator)
  • Williams, Keir S A (Collaborator)

Project Details


While using a washing-machine is a highly routinised domestic practice, its environmental implications have extensive detrimental environmental effects. Washing machines require high inputs of energy, water and detergents; leaching chemicals and microplastics into the environment through waste water effluent. At the same time due to sharp rises in energy prices, falling real wages, and ruinous levels of economic disparity, doing laundry in this way is becoming unaffordable for a growing proportion of the people in the UK.

For the vehicle dwelling community of Bristol – who are living in the most part off-grid in urban and semi-rural areas within and around the city – the lack of easy access to laundry facilities, running water or wastewater drainage is nothing new. Without connected utilities, vehicle dwellers have had to adapt their laundry practices and garment care. However, much of this knowledge remains hidden in this largely underground (often marginalised) network.

The project will gather and celebrate the evolving knowledge and wisdom of Bristol’s vehicle dwellers around laundry practice to expand our horizons of what is possible in relation to living well with our clothing and environment. It takes seriously the practical knowledge of vehicle dwellers and working in an embodied and creative way, in order to interpret and disseminate their findings.

The Laundry Justice Project will explore:

- What are the laundry needs of Bristol’s vehicle dwelling community?

- In what ways have Bristol’s vehicle dwelling community adapted their laundry practice through lack of connected utilities?

- What can we learn from vehicle dwelling communities about ‘alternative’ laundry practices, given the current energy crisis and the unfolding climate breakdown?

- How might paying attention to these hidden practices redefine norms around garment care and how might this contribute to personal and community resilience?

The project will answer these questions by collecting stories from local vehicle dwellers about the challenges and opportunities of off-grid laundry practices, as well as the adaptations that have emerged. This may include practical everyday routines and practices, as well as alternative perspectives and systems of value relating to notions of dirt and cleanliness.

Three key methods will be used to compile rich accounts of laundry practices: participatory workshops, thematic analysis, and creative modes for reflection and dissemination.

Washing Together – Participatory Workshops and Interviews

The project will conduct participatory workshops with small groups of research participants, using a hand-operated washing machine as a “critical object” to elicit and record discussions and stories about their laundry practices at the JamJar Venue. The Bristol Vehicles for Change network will be used to recruit thirty people living in vehicles for these workshops.

Making together (Airing Our Laundry) – Thematic Analysis and Critical Making

As a team, they will compile the workshop materials and jointly code the initial themes that emerged from the interactive workshops. They will share these themes in a 1 day participatory workshop in June 2023 with professional circus performers from the Vehicle Dwelling community. During the workshops the themes will provide prompts to be explored through creative practice – the performers and researchers will respond by developing experimental circus performances.

Sharing & Reflecting Together

The performances will be filmed during the workshop day, forming the centre of a Laundry Justice Toolkit, designed to spark discussions about methods of clothing maintenance, hygiene inequalities, notions of cleanliness, individual resiliency, and low-impact laundry options. Throughout the research and dissemination phases the project team will reflect on and document a creative case study of the research’s methodological procedure.
Effective start/end date23/01/2331/07/23

Structured keywords

  • Environment and Society
  • SPAIS Global Insecurities Centre
  • Bristol Poverty Institute
  • Cabot Institute Environmental Change Research


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