5 Ways to Be More Eco-Friendly When Doing Laundry
When it comes to the environment, the mundane things often matter the most. Take laundry. Between water, energy, and the effect of products on the ecosystem, doing your laundry touches upon most of the major environmental issues of our day.
This, of course, makes the laundry room an excellent place to start greening your household habits. Here are five things you can do that will make a positive difference right away:
1. Use cold water when possible. If you’ve never washed your clothes with cold water, consider giving it a try. Most people who do can’t tell the difference. Washing in cold water instead of hot saves nearly 90 percent of the energy your washing machine uses. While hot water has been shown to remove allergens such as dust mites and animal dander from bedding, by washing just your sheets, towels and heavily soiled loads in hot and doing the rest in cold you’ll give the environment and your budget a break.
2. Watch your lint.You probably already know that your dryer runs much more efficiently – and burns far less energy - when you clean the lint trap before each load. However, the lint trap doesn’t catch all the lint. A little bit from each load blows out the screen into the vent. If you don’t clean your dryer vent regularly the lint can build up to the point where it obstructs air flow. This will cause your dryer to work harder, so that it burns more energy and doesn’t dry your clothes as efficiently. You and our planet will both be happier with clean dryer vents. Since lint is a fire hazard, clean vents are safer, too.
Another thing you need to know about lint: a recent study found that synthetic filaments from laundry lint are accumulating in the ocean and could potentially cause problems in the marine environment. You can minimize your contribution to this situation by washing on gentle and choosing natural-fiber clothing.
3. Dry smart. The typical family uses 1000 kilowatts of electricity each year drying their clothes – costing an average of $96. After your water heater, this makes your standard clothes dryer the most energy-intensive appliance in your home. Here are a few things you can do for energy-smart drying:
- Spin your clothes well before drying. The more water you can remove before your clothes hit the dryer, the less it will have to run to dry them.
- Do several loads of laundry one after another. The residual heat from one load will carry over to the next. Don’t forget to empty your lint trap between loads!
- If your dryer has a moisture sensor, use it to prevent over drying your clothes.
- If you run smaller loads and/or really want to save energy, look into clothes-dryer alternatives such as hang drying, countertop spin dryers and “vapper” style dryers. These options have the added benefit of being gentler on fabrics, which helps your favorite clothes last longer.
4. Choose eco-friendly detergent.Not all laundry detergents are the same. Some are much safer for the environment than others. Here are some things to look for when shopping for laundry detergent:
- Concentrated formulas. These require far less packaging and burn less fuel to distribute while packing the same punch as regular detergents.
- Recycled packaging.
- Safe ingredients. Conventional detergents often contain endocrine disruptors and other harmful chemicals. Avoid nasty ingredients such as nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE), phosphates, and bleach. For a more complete list, refer to Mother Earth Living’s guide, for detergent ingredients to avoid.
Also, beware of green claims that aren’t backed up. Oddly, most “green” laundry detergents are no more transparent about their ingredient lists than conventional detergents, opting instead for vague ingredient descriptions such as “surfactants.” Look for laundry products that disclose what’s in them, or make your own laundry detergent from ingredients you know are safe.
5. Don’t run your machine half empty.It’s far more efficient to run a full load, so save up your duds until you can fill a machine. If this doesn’t work for you, consider purchasing an alternative to a standard washing machine. You may find that a mini washing machine does the trick, and it will burn far less energy – even zero, if you choose a hand-crank model!
Next time you do laundry, don’t just throw your clothes in and forget about it. Take some of these suggestions to heart. It will make you feel so much better about the clothes you wear!
Corey Tournet is the owner of The Laundry Alternative, a company that is committed to providing innovative, energy efficient, and inexpensive washing machines, and dryers.
Guest Blogger These columns are the work of our guest bloggers who want to share their expert green opinions on a range of topics.