A poll of 2,000 adults found the average washing machine will go through four loads of laundry each week.
But 95 items of clothing will be ruined over the average adult lifetime by washing whites with coloured items or having the machine on a wash setting which was too hot.
It also emerged that despite the huge amount of washing people do, nearly half (42 per cent) don’t consider the environmental impact of their laundry.
Of the 208 loads of washing the typical adult does a year, a quarter won’t be full loads while half will be washed at a temperature of more than 30 degrees.
A spokesman for Ariel, which commissioned the research to launch its #WashColdChallenge, said: "When you have a lot of laundry, it’s easy to switch to autopilot and use the same settings.
"But, despite the huge amount of washing that people are doing, few consider the environmental impact of it – it’s such a small thing every day which could go on to make a huge difference.
"The temperature of a wash makes up to 60 per cent of laundry’s carbon footprint.
“Lowering the temperature of your wash can go a long way to reducing the environmental impact of your laundry.
"If everyone in the UK washed colder, we could save the same amount of CO2 as taking up to half a million cars off the road.”
How to wash clothes
The study also found that while 68 per cent of people always separate their whites and colours, 29 per cent admit they simply throw it all in the same wash together.
And 51 per cent have accidentally put a coloured item into a whitewash.
Other common laundry disasters include putting a tissue through the wash (55 per cent), shrinking an item (35 per cent), and leaving money in pockets (14 per cent).
But 76 per cent admit they just use the same setting on their machine for everything, while one in five (18 per cent) stick with the setting their parents told them to use when they first learned how to use the machine.
Environmentally friendly brits
In a bid to be more environmentally friendly, 66 per cent of those who consider how to be green will only wash when they have a full load, while 65 per will air dry rather than using a tumble drier.
More than half will wash at the lowest possible temperature, although 51 per cent worry that washing at 30 degrees or under won’t clean the clothes properly.
Others polled via OnePoll avoid washing at low temperatures as they just use their usual setting and don’t think about it or don’t think it makes a difference to the environment.
Ariel is encouraging the nation to pledge to turn their laundry temperature down and join the #WashColdChallenge to reduce the UK's carbon footprint now, at www.washcoldchallenge.co.uk.
If it hits 1 million pledges, it will donate £100,000 to WWF to help protect the planet.