Organic laundry: What you need to know about washing your clothes the green way

We all do it – it’s one of the most common household chores and ranks right up there with washing dishes in its never-ending, time consuming, energy draining way. It’s the laundry. But what’s all the fuss about the impacts of laundry on the environment?

Woman hanging clothes to dry

The average household does almost 400 loads of laundry each year, consuming about 13,500 gallons of water according to Energy Star. Anyone with kids might argue that it’s even more than that which is why there are things we need to know when washing your clothes the green way.

Wash in cold water

90 percent of the total of energy used by a typical washing machine is used solely to heat the water; only 10 percent is used to power the motor. Unless clothes and sheets are visibly dirty or have major stains, wash in cold water. The results are usually the same and you will use less energy.

Use green and concentrated laundry detergent

Phosphates in conventional laundry detergents can cause algal blooms that negatively affect our ecosystems and marine life. Look for more eco-friendly detergents by checking the labels for biodegradable and phosphate-free products made from plant- and vegetable-based ingredients (instead of petroleum-based). Concentrated laundry detergents have reduced packaging and a smaller carbon footprint (because more useful product can be shipped using less space and fuel).

Wear it more than once

While this doesn’t go for everything (unmentionables and socks first come to mind), the simplest way to cut back on your laundry’s impact is to just do less of it! Wearing your clothes more than once before tossing them in the dirty pile is the first step in greening your laundry habits.

Update your washer

If you have a top-loading washing machine from the last century, chances are it uses twice as much water per load than a newer machine. Front-loading washing machines (also sometimes called “horizontal axis” machines) bearing the Energy Star logo typically use between 18 and 25 gallons per load, compared to 40 gallons for older machines.

Hang it out to dry

Remember the feeling of crisp, fresh smelling sheets in from drying in the sun? Bring back that lovin’ feelin’ and give it a try, but make sure that your homeowner’s association guidelines allow it. There are upwards of 88 million dryers in the US, each emitting more than a ton of carbon dioxide per year. Think about the impact line drying can make on our environment.

Laundromat outing

Commercial washers and dryers tend to be more efficient than domestic versions, so taking your bundle to the neighborhood Laundromat may use less energy. The bonus is that many newer Laundromats are already making strides towards being green by using solar power to heat the water and by offering eco-friendly laundry detergents.

Other tips for ensuring a green laundry include cleaning out your dryer’s lint trap after every cycle to ensure proper air flow. You can cut your drying time significantly and preserve the wear and tear on your clothes.

Whether using one tip or all, make sure you know how to green your laundry routine to make it less work on us as well as our environment.


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