By Natalia Hook
If you’re looking for environmentally friendly home ideas beyond just recycling, look no further than your laundry room. Everyone knows doing laundry is tedious, but many people aren’t aware of the toll it takes on the environment. Consider the water and energy usage, as well as the chemical composition of most detergents and fabric softeners. Yikes! But hold your hampers. There’s hope! These eight eco-friendly laundry tips will help you clean up your act and be kinder to the environment while you wash and dry.
1. Only Wash Full Loads
If you’re going to do a load of laundry, make it count. Get the maximum benefit of the water, electricity, and cleanser you’re using by doing a full load. Make sure to check out the guidelines for your specific washing machine. High efficiency (HE) machines and older models will differ in optimal load size. Don’t try to overfill any machine—it will make washing less efficient, and you may just end up doing it over. If you’re at a laundromat, choose your machine’s size based on your load size—there are often larger washers for bedding and extra large loads.
2. Use Cold Water
Most of the energy that’s drawn by washing laundry is related to water heating. By using cold water all or most of the time, you’re significantly cutting down energy consumption. Some care instructions may direct you to use warm or hot water, but you’ll be surprised how little difference temperature makes in most wash cycles.
3. Clean the Lint Trap
One super easy way to conserve energy usage while doing laundry is cleaning the dryer lint trap after every load. When the lint trap is blocked, air circulation is poor, and the dryer’s motor isn’t able to cool down properly. Not only does this make it work harder, and use more energy—it’s a fire hazard. So clean that trap out every time you do a load, and clean your dryer vent out at least twice a year.
4. Dry Laundry on a Line or Rack
Air drying your laundry is 100% eco friendly. It uses no energy (other than your own arm muscles!) and will preserve the life of your clothes and linens. Outdoor line drying is obviously easier in warmer temperatures, and you have to be mindful of rainy weather, but the payoff of well aired, fresh laundry is worth it. Take care that dark colors don’t get sun bleached—set up an indoor line, or try a drying rack in smaller spaces. Even if you dry half of your laundry on a line or rack instead of in the dryer, you’re cutting down your energy consumption.
5. Use Concentrated Eco Friendly Laundry Soap
Instead of pumping all kinds of petroleum based detergents and chemicals into the water system, choose environmentally friendly plant based laundry products. These choices are biodegradable and don’t have toxic effects on the environment, or on you and your family. Concentrated formulations take it one step further by reducing packaging—less soap in a smaller bottle washes more loads. Brands to try include Ecos, BioKleen, 7th Generation, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, Ecover, and The Honest Company.
Wondering how to make your own eco friendly laundry detergent? There are lots of recipes, but the simplest is a single ingredient—¾ cup of baking soda per load! For a scented option, add a couple drops of your favorite essential oil.
6. Say Goodbye to Chlorine Bleach
Chlorine bleach is an organochlorine compound, which may sound green, but it’s decidedly not. These compounds are generally not found in nature, and can take hundreds of years to decompose. In addition, multiple studies have linked chlorine bleach use to respiratory and other health issues. Oxygenated bleach, which is basically hydrogen peroxide and water, is much more earth friendly. Alternatively, you can make an eco friendly bleach alternative at home using 3% hydrogen peroxide and lemon juice at a 3:1 ratio. Bonus—you can use either of these options for bathroom and kitchen cleaning, too.
7. Soften with Dryer Balls Instead of Fabric Softener
Liquid fabric softeners and commercially available dryer sheets can be replaced with either plastic or woolen dryer balls. Uh-oh… plastic dryer balls? Think of it this way—two dryer balls, like these cute hedgehogs, will last years and are made of less plastic than a single bottle of liquid fabric softener. Wool dryer balls have zero plastic. Both of these choices are great alternatives to chemical and petroleum laden dryer sheets and liquid fabric softener.
8. Get a High Efficiency Washing Machine and Dryer
If you need to replace your laundry units, or are making a first time purchase, you should go with high efficiency units. Low efficiency machines use between 27 gallons (modern units) and 40 gallons(older units) of water per load of laundry, while an environmentally friendly HE washing machine uses between 10 and 14 gallons per load. HE machines also require less energy, whether gas or electric, to run. They are more expensive than their old fashioned counterparts, but are the greenest washers and dryers, and will literally pay for themselves in energy and water bill savings.
Making just one or two of these changes to your laundry routine is a step toward eco friendly living, and a healthier environment. Along with proper recycling and conscientious shopping, green laundry habits can make a big difference… no matter how tiresome folding those clean clothes may be!
Images used with permission, courtesy of Andronica Meade, Natalia Hook, and www.shutterstock.com