10 Eco-Friendly Laundry Tips
If you're doing several loads of laundry every week, the water, energy, and products (not to mention costs!) will really start to add up. To reduce the environmental impact laundry has, while saving you money on your utility bill at the same time, follow these eco-friendly laundry tips. Simple switches like using cold water rather than hot and changing your detergent can have a big impact when multiplied across the dozens of loads of laundry you do every year. Then, ditch the chemical-filled dryer sheets (don't worry, there are eco-friendly alternatives!) and try mixing up some DIY homemade cleaning solutions. With these eco-friendly laundry secrets up your sleeve, your clothes will come out looking (and smelling!) just as fresh—but the process will be gentler on both your clothing and the environment.
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Control the Temperature
About 90 percent of the energy associated with doing laundry involves just heating up the water. The solution: Turn that dial to cold.
Wash Full Loads
Even the most energy-efficient loads use 40 gallons of water. Reducing the number of loads you do each week will save water and money. If you find yourself doing eight or more loads of laundry each week, skipping just one will save over 10 percent on your laundry costs.
Upgrade To Energy Efficient Washer and Dryer
This is not permission to go out and replace your current machine that’s running just fine. (But nice try!) If you’re in the market for a new washer or dryer, buying an energy efficient model can save both water and energy, and lower your bills.
Switch to Natural Detergents and Stain Removers
Natural products tend to be free of chlorine bleach, synthetic fragrance, dyes, and optical brighteners. What's in them? They’re usually plant (not petroleum) based, contain biodegradable surfactants, and are often specifically formulated to perform well in cold water. Be sure to read the fine print when shopping.
Choose Non-Chlorine Bleach
Use in the home isn’t quite as detrimental for the environment as industrial use (like bleaching paper), but chlorine bleach can irritate skin and eyes. Most non-chlorine bleach is hydrogen peroxide. You can buy branded versions, or just stick to the 3 percent version sold in drug stores. And doing so will really add up. In fact, if every U.S. household replaced just one 64–ounce bottle of chlorine bleach with non-chlorine bleach, we could prevent 11.6 million pounds of chlorine from entering our environment.
Rethink Dryer Sheets
The chemicals–including synthetic fragrances—found in conventional dryer sheets and fabric softeners are similar to what is found in conventional detergents. They’re largely questionable for human health and the environment. Plus, don’t even think about recycling those dryer sheets. Either skip them entirely or choose eco-friendly ones like Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day lavender dryer sheets ($7, amazon.com).
Or, break up with the dryer sheets altogether and opt for reusable wool dryer balls ($19, parachute.com). If you miss the scent of dryer sheets, just add a couple drops of essential oil to the dryer ball before tossing in the machine.
Hang Clothes to Dry
Keeping your clothes out of a dryer extends their life, reduces energy use, and cuts costs. Whether indoors or outside, line drying can be done year round. Just don’t put dark colors in bright sunlight or they’ll fade. Bonus: Indoor rack drying during the winter doubles as a humidifier. Opt for a foldable drying rack ($37, containerstore.com) that can be tucked away when not in use, and a rack specifically designed for delicates and lingerie ($10, containerstore.com).
Cut Down on Drying Time
The dryer uses a lot of energy—so anything you can do to cut down on drying time will help the environment and your electric bill. For starters, remember to clean the lint trap in your dryer after every use and make sure the vent isn't clogged with lint, which can make it take longer for clothes to dry. Consider tossing a few wool dryer balls in with your sheets or towels, as they will help absorb moisture, speeding up drying time.
Sort Your Laundry by Weight
Most of us know to sort our laundry by color, but you should also be sorting it by weight. This way, items with similar drying times are grouped together. Heavy towels will all dry evenly in one load, while lightweight clothing items will finish drying with a shorter drying cycle.
Make Your Own Laundry Products
The only real way to know what’s going into your laundry is to whip up your own solutions. Use safe-for-the-environment ingredients that are already in your pantry like vinegar, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda. Many of these DIY formulas have been used for generations and get the job done.
For more information, visit practicallygreen.com.