Easy Eco: Laundry

Easy Eco Laundry Blog Header

Despite the record-breaking rainfall in Washington the last two months, it’s Spring. Which, for a lot of people, means it’s time to Spring Clean! This yearly ritual allows everyone to make their space a little more habitable for the warmer seasons. However, these massive cleanings and de-clutterings often come with quite the eco-footprint. So, in an effort to help you make the world a better place, we’re writing a series of blog posts filled with tips on how to be more eco-friendly on a daily basis. Today’s post focuses on the Laundry Room.

First and foremost: The Machines!

Now, I understand swapping out your current washer and dryer isn’t exactly easy, but if eco-friendliness is your end goal, it has to be mentioned. Top-load dryers are notorious for using way more water than the newer, front-load machines, and Energy Star-rated appliances use even less water. If you are in the market for new appliances, there are a couple things to look for:

Washing Machine: Look for a front-load machine with an endorsement from Energy Star. And look closely at the “water factor” of the machine; this tells you how many gallons the machine uses per wash cycle. The lower, the better, environmentally speaking.

Dryer: Again, be sure the machine has the Energy Star endorsement so you know you’re buying an efficient machine. The EPA currently recommends using a heat pump dryer or condensing dryer because they use less energy to dry your clothes. An important feature to look for is a moisture sensor, which monitors the moisture levels in your load and adjusts the dry-time accordingly.

Love the idea of getting eco-friendly machines, but at a place in life where that isn’t even remotely feasible? Try some of these easier ways to improve your laundry regimen:

  • Never wash on hot or warm cycles. Almost all the energy your machine uses goes toward heating the water. Your clothes will get plenty clean swashing around in detergent-filled water, regardless of the temperature.
  • Line-Dry when possible. This might not seem feasible in Washington, but keep this in mind: your clothes line doesn’t have to be outside. Set up the rack close (but not too close) to a heating vent, and hang items you don’t need dry right away.
  • Hit the Laundromat! Commercial machines are designed to be more cost-effective, so they tend to use less energy. If you have a top-loading machine and a laundromat down the block, the laundromat might be the choice for you.

The Cleaning Supplies

One of the hottest trends on the eco-friendly DIY circuit is making your own laundry detergent. While this has been touted as an effective way to clean clothes and pinch pennies, there are those that remain skeptical. Most DIY recipes consist of borax, washing soda, and a bar of soap. But the point skeptics make is simple: soap is not a replacement for detergent. It’s a chemistry thing, so if your inner-Walter White has been piqued find out more information here.

Detergent. While making your own detergent might not be the best solution, you should definitely switch your current detergent to a more eco-friendly, natural option. Natural detergents pack a punch without added chemicals or fragrances, plus most are designed for optimum performance in cold water!

Dryer Sheets. If you have to use them, use a sheet more than once. It’ll still do the trick, and could cut your dryer sheet bill in half. Additionally, they have a number of uses outside of your dryer. However, if you can, you should ditch them all together. Try alternatives like dryer balls, reusable dryer sheets, or you could even ball up some tin foil and use that (I’ve also seen people suggest using a tennis ball).

Fabric Softener. Instead of using fabric softener off the shelf, many people have reported positive results from subbing a 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Just throw it in at the start of the rinse cycle. Don’t want to wait? If you have a top-load machine you can look into fabric softener balls.

Quick Tips and Money-Saving Tricks

Now that we have addressed the energy-wasting machines and chemically-charged cleaning agents, let’s look at a few other ways to shrink your laundry’s eco-footprint:

  • The Important Question: Does this need to be washed? It is a simple enough question, but how many times have you picked something up off the floor and thrown it in the hamper to avoid refolding it? I definitely never, ever do that, ever, but I have a buddy who is awful at it. Items like underwear and socks, yes, wash after one use. But jeans, sweatshirts, and that flannel that I know you have? They don’t need to be washed every time.
  • Load it up. Stop washing half loads. Stop washing single items. Wait until you have a full load, and then run the washing machine.
  • Dry Responsibly. Check your dryer periodically and pull out the items that are already dry. They won’t get any dryer, and they just steal heat from bigger items that require more energy to dry. If you don’t want to constantly check your dryer, set it for half the time, remove the items, and then run a short cycle to finish the remaining items off.
  • Oh, the Iron-y. Yes, ironing your clothes is great for that crisp, clean look, but is it necessary? Sure, but on those days where you aren’t attending a wedding or being interviewed for a job, skip the ironing. It uses energy, and deteriorates the fabric.

Hopefully you see one or two tips you’ll be able to implement in order to make a positive change in your laundry experience! Every little bit counts, so even if you can’t make the big changes, the little ones still add up. Look out for the next blog in this series, where we’ll be looking at ways to reduce your eco-footprint in the kitchen!

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