When you're separating whites and colors or measuring out scoopfuls of detergent, are you also thinking about your laundry's impact on the planet? The average household washes 400 loads of laundry each year and consumes nearly 13,500 gallons of water in the same amount of time.
Needless to say, your laundry room has loads of potential for reducing your family's energy and water use and, by default, its environmental footprint. In addition, the earth-friendly laundry regime you'll adopt after reading the following list of tips will reduce your monthly utility bills.
GREEN CLOTHES WASHING TIPS
Wash in Cold Water: Specialized detergents are making it easier than ever to wash your laundry in cold water. And since 90 percent of the energy used for washing clothes goes to heating the water, turning the dial to ‘cold' will also save you $100 or more every year.
Turn Down your Water Heater: Most homes only need a setting of 120 degrees (Fahrenheit). Reducing your hot water temperature will save energy when you use either hot or warm wash cycles.
Wash Full Loads: By washing only full loads of laundry, you'll ensure your machine operates at its peak efficiency, and you won't be wasting water. Washing one large load instead of two small ones also requires less energy. If you really need to wash just a few items and have a newer washing machine, utilize its “load size selector” feature that uses less water for smaller loads.
Use Chlorine-Free Bleach: When choosing store-bought whiteners, look for products marked “non-chlorine bleach,” which means they're made with either hydrogen peroxide or sodium per-carbonate, an environment-friendly mixture of washing soda and hydrogen peroxide that breaks down into oxygen, water, and soda ash. A list of eco-friendly bleaches and stain removers can be found at the bottom of this page.
Do Less Laundry: Some clothing items can be worn several times before they need to be washed; underwear and socks not included, of course. The United Nations Environment Programme found that those who wore their jeans at least three times before washing them in cold water consumed up to five times less energy.
Use Green Laundry Detergent: Look for biodegradable and phosphate-free detergents that are made from plant- and vegetable-based ingredients, which are better for the planet and gentler on your skin. A list of eco-friendly detergents can be found at the bottom of this page.
Replace your Fabric Softeners: A cup of white vinegar added to your washer during the rinse cycle will naturally balance the pH of the soap, which will then leave your clothes soft, but without any chemical residue.
Go to the Laundromat: Not only do commercial washers and dryers tend to be more efficient than domestic versions, but more and more Laundromats are also embracing alternative energy.
Purchase an Energy Star-Certified Washer: Energy Star washers use at least 40 percent less energy and up to 65 percent less water than standard versions. Energy Star washers also spin water from clothes better, which lessens their drying time and saves more energy. The EPA and the US Department of Energy estimate that replacing a ten year old washer with an Energy Star-certified model will save $55 per year on water and energy.