Going Green With Your Laundry
Heating the water for the washer and then running the dryer takes a large amount of energy, so there’s potential to reduce your impact by greening your laundry practices by following these simple tips.
Washing clothes is a household chore many of us dread and the easiest way to make your laundry greener is by wearing clothes more than once. It’s that simple -- just don’t throw your clothes in the pile every time you wear them and you will have less laundry, therefore making less of an impact. The United Nations Environment Program crunched the numbers and discovered that you can consume up to five times less energy by wearing your jeans at least three times, washing them in cold water and skipping the dryer or the iron.
Another easy way to green your laundry is by using green laundry detergent. Many detergents contain phosphates that remain when the dirty water is drained and then negatively affect ecosystems and marine life. Look at labels to determine if the detergent is readily biodegradable and phosphate-free. Products made from plant and vegetable based ingredients are also better for the planet and often gentler on the skin. Check out this review of six green laundry detergents. Also, choose concentrated laundry detergent because it has less packaging—and more can be shipped at a time using less space and fuel—reducing your carbon footprint. Some major retailers, including Wal-Mart, now sell only concentrated laundry detergent and have a page dedicated to their “Laundry Aisle Makeover.”
Another option is soap nuts, which are made from certain tree seeds, and produce a soapy substance when mixed with water. Or save money by making your own laundry detergent with products found at most grocery stores. Click here for recipes and simple guidelines. Ingredients include soap, borax and washing soda. You can even add essential oils for a fresh fragrance. Fabric softener can also be replaced by one cup of white vinegar. The vinegar balances the pH of the soap, leaving your clothes soft and chemical free.
Older top-loading washing machines typically use 40 gallons of water per load, while new front-loading machines use between 18 and 25. If purchasing a new washer or dryer, choose one with an Energy Star rating. They use 30% less energy and usually have a higher capacity meaning fewer loads. If now is not the time to replace your appliances, there are still things you can do to make your laundry more efficient. First, wash in cold water. Heating the water uses 90 percent more energy, costing $100 or more every year. Many companies such as Tide now make detergent specifically for cold water so your whites will still get white. In addition, only wash a load when you have enough clothes for a full load. If not, many washers have a size selector option, so make sure to choose small.
Here’s another simple way to go green — hang your clothes out to dry. Each dryer emits more than a ton of carbon dioxide per year so skipping it all together or even reducing its usage can make a difference. Here’s advice on making sure your clothes don’t get stiff while drying on the line. If you choose to use the dryer, make sure to clean your lint filter frequently to increase efficiency and shorten drying time. Some dryers have a moisture sensor, allowing the dryer to stop when the clothes are dry, reducing energy waste. Also, try to do several loads at once because the next load will use the leftover heat in the dryer. Instead of dryer sheets, which can shorten the lifetime of your clothes, add dried organic lavender to the dryer for a new scent.
Ironing is another chore many of us hate, so why not skip it? It consumes extra energy and deteriorates fabric. Try hanging up clothes immediately after the wash is done to avoid wrinkles or hang your wrinkled clothes in the bathroom while you shower and let the steam do the rest. Take out easy to wrinkle loads a little early and hang them up to dry, letting gravity straighten them out. Finally, fold your clothes right away to stop them from wrinkling.
Clean clothes feel great, but you can feel even better knowing that you are helping the environment using these green laundry tips!