Getting your laundry washed may be far from clean, especially if you use unnatural laundry detergents and inefficient appliances. As a domestic chore, you engage in weekly (sometimes daily!), it can have a big impact on your overall environmental footprint. Thankfully, there are many things you can do to develop an eco laundry routine.
Eco-friendly laundry habits begin with efficient washing machines and dryers that minimize water and energy use and reduce the need for detergents and fabric softeners. So the next time you’re in the market for a new laundry appliance, follow these tips below for choosing the most eco-friendly options.
With a good washing machine, you’re already on the right track to developing a more eco-friendly laundry practice. But whether you’re working with a state-of-the-art washer or are grappling with an older washing machine, there are things you can do to minimize the environmental impact of the wash-up portion of your habits.
Follow these tips for a more eco-friendly laundry practice:
- Choose a front-loading washing machine
- Look for a washer and dryer with the ENERGY STAR label
- Heat your water with solar energy
- Run the machines only when full
- Wear your clothes multiple times
- Wash your laundry with colder water
- Use sustainable laundry detergents and fabric softeners
- Minimize detergent use
- Choose a high spin speed if you live in a humid climate
- Do back-to-back loads to retain heat
- Clean the lint trap and outside vent
- Air dry your laundry when possible
- Separate heavy and light fabrics
- Use automatic, not timed cycles
- Use partial cycles
Choose a front-loading washing machine
Look for a washer and dryer with the ENERGY STAR label
ENERGY STAR qualifies washing machines so look for their logo on any new washer or dryer. These Washers & Dryers lists should give you some idea of what’s best. Additionally, for efficiency, washing machines should be replaced when they’re 10 years old.
When shopping for a new washer, look for one that has a high-speed spin cycle to get the most water out of a load before drying. Also, be sure to choose a model that allows you to control the water level and temperature. A new dryer should come with features like a moisture sensor (allowing it to shut off automatically once clothes are dry) and a perma-press cycle (for cooling the air down during the final stages of the laundry).
In addition, to be sure you purchase the most efficient model, look for the ENERGY STAR label. Clothes dryers with ENERGY STAR certification consume approximately 20% less energy compared to conventional models.
Heat your water with solar energy
If you’re considering renewable energy, check out solar hot water heaters which produce hot water without conventional energy. They have the fastest payback period of any renewable energy system and will provide hot water for laundry, dishwashing, showers, pools, hot tubs, and more.
Run the machines only when full
When washing, be sure to run the machines only when full. This helps to maintain maximum efficiency since the amount of energy used to wash a load of laundry varies a little depending on the total amount of laundry in the machine.
Wear your clothes multiple times
You can often wear a pair of jeans or a T-shirt two or even three times before it needs washing. Doing so can reduce your energy consumption for laundry significantly. To don’t throw it into the washing machine unless it is stained or smelly.
Wash your laundry with colder water
Between 80% and 90% of the energy consumed to wash a load of laundry goes to heating the water. When you wash in cold water, you’re effectively reducing your energy consumption by 80% to 90%.
Use sustainable laundry detergents and fabric softeners
The chemicals you use to get your laundry clean is equally important to the energy you consume. Look for eco laundry detergents and natural fabric softeners to minimize the toxins you’re putting into the environment or make your own fabric softeners or eco detergents. From a sustainability perspective, besides the importance of using natural detergents, it must be noted that laundry involving synthetic fabrics significantly contributes to the release of microplastics into the environment.
Minimize detergent use
By using too much detergent, your washer will be weighted down by bubbles, making it run less efficiently, so use only enough detergent as necessary.
Choose a high spin speed if you live in a humid climate
If you live in a humid climate where it takes a long time for things to dry (either on the line or in the dryer), use the highest possible spin speed on your washing machine to squeeze as much moisture as possible out of the laundry before drying. If, however, you live in a dry climate and are hanging our laundry to dry indoors (which will reduce your need for a humidifier), this tip can be ignored!
Do back-to-back loads to retain heat
Choose one day as laundry day and do back-to-back loads of laundry in both the washer and the dryer. This will help to retain any heat used for the loads, reducing the total energy you use.
Clean the lint trap and outside vent
Your lint trap allows air to circulate through your dryer, and the more it’s clogged, the less efficient it is. It is therefore very important to clean out your lint trap before every load you put into the dryer, especially after drying towels and sheets (which give off a lot of lint).
Your dryer should be properly vented to the outside to ensure efficiency, but be sure that this vent is also free of debris and lint to improve circulation.
Air dry your laundry when possible
Separate heavy and light fabrics
Since it takes more time for heavy fabrics to dry, separate these into a separate load from the lightweight items.
Use automatic, not timed cycles
If your dryer is equipped with a moisture sensor and an automatic drying cycle, use that instead of a timed dry cycle as this will ensure only as much energy as is absolutely required is used to complete the cycle. A time dry cycle, on the other hand, will keep on heating your laundry even after it’s completely dry.
Use partial cycles
If you’re worried about fabric stiffness, try putting your laundry in the dryer for 5 minutes to quickly fluff the clothes, and then line dry the load to complete the process. This way you’ll lose less energy but won’t feel like you’re wearing starched jeans or washing with scratchy towels.