THERE was a ghastly scream and then a roar as it shuddered to a halt and coughed up one last soggy load. The washing machine was dead.

No big deal, you might think. But in just a few days, the gathering mounds of laundry confirm that we probably wash clothes way too often.

I recall an elderly friend bemoan that all her grandchildren ever seemed to do was shower and deposit clothes in the laundry pile.

Perhaps it’s just too easy. I’m old enough to remember my mother hauling out the twin tub and the ensuing energetic rigmarole. And twin tubs were state of the art, a far cry from the wringer and the mangle.

But perhaps the future is not ever whiter whites and an easy supply of clean clothing at the touch of a washer-drier’s button. Perhaps the future is clothes that don’t need to be washed at all.

A band of eco-fashion companies are now locked in battle in the war on washing. Pangaia is one startup that promises this detergent-free dream with an off-white seaweed fibre T-shirt treated with peppermint oil. Its natural freshness will apparently save up to 3000 litres of water in its lifetime. It’s a snip at $85 (£67).

Another eco-brand, Unbound Merino, has developed a T-shirt you can wear for weeks without a whiff. And Wool and Prince makes “odour-resistant” boxer shorts and shirts for men, plus a dress that doesn’t need washed for 100 days. Information is not forthcoming on what happens on day 101.

Self-combustion in a cloud of BO?

Mac Bishop, founder of Wool and Prince, was prompted to launch his label after working in the marketing department of big-brand multinational Unilever, which explains on its website that it aims to “meet everyday needs for nutrition, hygiene and personal care with brands that help people feel good, look good and get more out of life”. It’s all about gleaming teeth, shiny hair, clear skin, sparkling lavvies and dead germs. Cleaning up, I think it’s called.

As Bishop points out: “The only way to grow as a laundry detergent brand is to make customers feel as if they need to keep washing their clothes more and more.”

Meanwhile, hygiene obsession has a hugely negative environmental impact. Every wash costs wasted water, gas and electricity.

According to the Clean Home Guide, doing laundry can take up 13,500 gallons of water a year for the average household. Tiny plastic fibres and chemical dyes make their way into domestic sewage systems and introduce hazardous chemicals into the water. Washing and drying a 5kg load of laundry every two days creates nearly 440kg of carbon dioxide emissions in a year.

Oh well. We might be surrounded by mouldering clothing, but at least we’re reducing our carbon footprint, albeit in baby steps.

Refreshing, though, is the news that our 10-year-old machine is repairable and won’t just be consigned to landfill, or wherever it is that dead white goods go.

In the meantime, I’m on to the reserve knicker supply at the back of the drawer and will be wearing some odd sartorial combos if I don’t do a batch of laundry by hand very soon. Sorry … there I go, washing my dirty laundry in public.