Green Laundry Tips to Save the Earth, Your Money, and your Fancy Jeans

November 28, 2012 | By | 4 Replies More

Green Laundry Tips

Nice, as long as you’re not displaying your “unmentionables”

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. Living in a way that’s environmentally responsible doesn’t require us to be extremists. It doesn’t require us to completely deprive ourselves, either. The reality is that we all have to be able to live in this world we’ve created. That means we have to do all sorts of things that use energy and pollute the Earth every day. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t make small changes in our mundane chores, making them greener.  Speaking of mundane, ever think about doing laundry more responsibly? I never gave it much thought until I did a little research and found lots of opportunities to make changes. Some of these green laundry tips may seem obvious, but I would be willing to bet that most of us don’t do them.

1. Do only full loads of laundry: It takes as much mechanical energy to wash a couple of things as it does to wash a full load. Many washers have a capacity that’s measured in pounds. Just for kicks, weigh a typical load. Then, you’ll have an idea of how much your washer can handle.

Green Laundry Tips2. Turn down the heat: Most energy used for washing a load of laundry comes from heating up the water. Wash your clothes in cold water, possibly warm water if they are heavily soiled. Always use cold for the rinse cycle, since this has no effect on how clean the clothes get. I was raised believing you had to wash whites and underwear in scalding hot water. Why? They’re just clothes that happen to be up against your clean booty. Unless there’s something I don’t know about, you can wash them in cold water, too. Not only will this save energy, but it’s easier on your clothing.

3. Use a short wash cycle: Most actual cleansing is done in the first 10 minutes of the wash cycle, so those extra minutes in the super-long wash cycle are just wasted.

4. Use an earth-friendly, concentrated detergent: Many of the chemicals used in conventional detergents can end up in our groundwater as poisons and they can cause skin irritations and aggravate allergies. There’s a lot of missing information out there since manufacturers aren’t required to list in detail all of the ingredients they use. Check out this post for some details and a very pragmatic experiment comparing some “eco-friendly” detergents: http://grist.org/article/its-a-wash/ The winner? Seventh Generation Free & Clear.

5. Make sure your dryer’s lint trap is cleared out after every load: A full lint trap will reduce air circulation, and your dryer’s performance will suffer. You’ll have to run the dryer longer to get your clothes dry.

6. Make sure the outside dryer exhaust vent is clear: This will optimize airflow and improve dryer performance.

7. Don’t overdry: This is a waste of energy, and it’s tough on your clothes. Dry everything until it is just dry, then remove promptly and fold or hang. Use your auto-dry feature if you have one. It will automatically end the dry cycle when clothes are dry.

Green Laundry Tips

Rack for drying delicates

8. Air dry when possible: Experiment with line drying when weather permits and if you have the space. Sheets and towels are a good start, and they’ll smell delicious. I own a drying rack for my delicate items that sits in my laundry area. Or, if something comes out of the dryer a little damp, it goes on the rack instead of back into the dryer for another go round. My pricey jeans always get dried on the rack. They’ll stay looking good for much longer.

9. Shun traditional fabric softeners: You may wonder how fabric softeners work. Special chemicals and sometimes even animal tallow (ewwww!) coat the fibers, making the fabric feel softer. These coatings can build up over time and, especially for towels, decrease their absorbency. They also contain strong synthetic perfumes that are potential allergens.

TIP: Add ½ cup plain white vinegar to your rinse cycle instead of using a conventional fabric softener. It’s inexpensive, non-toxic, and it works.

TIP: Get some heavy-duty aluminum foil and wad up three large sheets of it to form balls. Toss them into your dryer with the damp clothes for a non-toxic way to control static cling. Plus, they can be reused many times.

Can you share any of your own green laundry tips?

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Category: Green Living

Comments (4)

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  1. Noreen Farrell says:

    Hi! It’s your mother here….GREAT article and am learning so much from my daughter…after receiving your news at our Christmas visit regarding fabric softner sheets, I reasearched the quandry myself. Having a disdain for the use of animal by products, I found an alternative in 100% handmade Wool Dryer Balls from “A Little Green Bee”. They were inexpensive and, after using them for the first time yesterday, work just fine. They also claim to decrease drying time by keeping clothing articles loftier for air circulation. It’s a WINNER!

  2. Chet Farrell says:

    Well, I have seen your site and find it amazing. It looks and reads wonderfully. Keep up the hard work. I was not sure just what you were doing when we all talked about the project at Christmas time. But now I see what you are going after and I like it very much!!
    I agree with your mother, it’s a winner!

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