10 Tips for Environmentally-Friendly Laundry

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Home Improvement

Freshen your clothes naturally.
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Laundry is a never-ending task that involves cleaning clothes, bedding, and towels. It can be a major source of resource usage in the home, especially if you have an older washing machine and dryer. However, there are ways to be environmentally-friendly while still using these appliances. This chapter provides practical tips for saving energy, labor, and laundry products. We’ll focus on using four natural cleaning products – vinegar, salt, baking soda, and lemon juice – that are effective in getting clothes clean and keeping them that way.

10. Saving Water and Energy

A washing machine uses a lot of water and energy to heat it. Standard-size top-loading washers using the highest water-level setting use around 40 to 57 gallons of water per load. Here are some tips to minimize water and energy usage:

Green laundry habits

  • Wash full loads instead of small ones.
  • Adjust water level to accommodate small loads.
  • Don’t overload the washer.
  • Choose a cold-water rinse for your clothes.
  • Don’t keep your dryer in a cold place.
  • Check your dryer exhaust vent periodically.
  • Clean the lint filter in your dryer after every load.
  • Do several loads of laundry at once.

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Eco-facts

In 2003, washing machines were 88% more efficient than they were in 1981.­

9. The Nitty Gritty

­Before moving on, let’s revisit the Terrible Ten Household Cleaning Products:

The list includes drain cleaners, oven cleaners, toilet cleaners, spot removers, silver and other metal polishes, furniture polishes, cleansers and powdered cleaners, window cleaners, bleach, and liquid cleaners. It’s worth noting that detergents are not on the list due to the ongoing debate about the various ingredients they contain and their ecological impact. Phosphates, which were once added to detergents to eliminate problems like soapy buildup, have been banned in some areas of the country and are regulated in others. Consumers should do their homework and opt for green detergents that are made without nonrenewable, petroleum-based chemicals, are biodegradable, plant-derived, and contain no optical brighteners, dyes, or artificial fragrances. It’s also important to note that soaps are made from natural materials like ash and alkali, while detergents are made from synthetic materials.

When it comes to washing clothes, using soap made from “natural” ingredients may not always be the most environmentally friendly option. Soaps can be harder to rinse out of fabric, especially in areas with hard water, while clothes washed with detergents are less prone to this issue. Additionally, standard soap can deteriorate on the shelf, whereas modern detergents are packaged differently and will not degrade. It’s important to consider your laundry needs and determine if soap will suffice.

Drying clothes the old-fashioned way by hanging them out to dry or using a collapsible rack is a great way to incorporate a green process into your household. It requires no additional energy use and can even make fabrics last longer. Drying clothes in the sun can also brighten whites and linens without the need for bleach. If you find hanging laundry daunting, start small with fabrics that don’t wrinkle much, and air dry delicate items like wools and silks. Indoor racks and clotheslines can also humidify your indoor air. While washers and dryers use a lot of energy and water, front-loading washing machines are the most eco-friendly option, using up to 38% less water and 58% less energy than top-loading machines.

If you’re looking for a more energy-efficient washing machine, it’s important to do your research and choose one with an Energy Star certification. However, if you already have a top-loader that works well, it’s not worth replacing it for a front-loader. Consumer Reports and other consumer-based organizations can help you determine what size and type of washer is best for your needs. When it comes to dryers, they all use similar amounts of energy, so there’s no Energy Star label for them. However, you can choose a dryer with a moisture sensor setting to reduce drying time and use it as efficiently as possible. As for cleaning your clothes, baking soda can be added to laundry detergent to make it work better and soften rougher-smelling clothes.

Using natural household items like baking soda, salt, vinegar, and lemon juice can be effective in achieving a cleaner laundry. Baking soda increases the whitening power of bleach, reducing the amount of bleach needed. A mixture of half water and half vinegar can be used as a pre-treatment for common stains, and can also soften water to prevent soapy residue. Salt can remove fresh stains, brighten colors, reduce yellowing, and eliminate mildew. Lemon juice can make laundry smell fresher and can whiten whites when added to a regular load. However, these tips should not be applied to clothes labeled “Dry Clean Only” as dry cleaning uses a hazardous chemical called tetrachloroethylene. While greener dry cleaning methods are being developed, they are not yet widely used.

Alternative to Dry Cleaning

There are some simple solutions to avoid dry cleaning. The first solution is to not buy clothes that require dry cleaning. This will not only save you money on dry cleaning bills but will also reduce your laundry burden. If you have a must-have item that requires dry cleaning, make sure to test a small area of the fabric to ensure that it can handle water and check if it is colorfast. You can use a solution of 4 tablespoons baking soda in cold water to clean some fabrics at home, but be cautious with family heirlooms or important items. Seek a professional opinion before trying to clean them.

Recently, there has been a trend of buying “dryer balls” that claim to work like fabric softeners and dry clothes faster. However, a study by Consumer Reports in February 2008 reported that dryer balls did not work as intended and were not as effective as liquid fabric softeners in reducing drying time or making clothes soft.

2. Should You Use Softeners?

Although there are no warning labels on fabric softeners or dryer sheets, they may contain ingredients that can irritate the skin or cause health issues. Fabric softeners can also reduce the inflammability protectants in children’s clothing. If you want to eliminate static cling, you can use 1/4 to 1/2 cup vinegar in your wash water. However, ask yourself if you really need to use a softener at all. Adding softener to many items is just an unnecessary luxury, and it can reduce the longevity of clothes over time. Parents should read the labels on their children’s clothing to see if fabric softener is recommended or not.

1. Eco-Friendly Alternative to Bleach

As you may have noticed, bleach is included in our list of harmful household items. Nonetheless, it is a common ingredient in many commercial laundry detergents. Pure bleach is still frequently used to achieve that “whiter than white” look when washing clothes.

Fortunately, there is a natural alternative to bleach that is both effective and safe: lemon juice. Whether freshly squeezed or bottled, straight lemon juice can bleach almost any fabric (with the exception of silk) to a brighter, whiter shade. The process involves mixing 1/2 cup of lemon juice with a gallon of very hot water and soaking the clothing in the solution for at least an hour – or even overnight for tougher stains. Afterward, simply pour the mixture into the washing machine and launder as usual.

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FAQ

1. What are some eco-friendly laundry detergents?

There are many eco-friendly laundry detergents available on the market today. Some popular options include Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, and Method. These detergents are made with natural ingredients that are gentle on the environment and your clothes. They are also free from harsh chemicals and fragrances that can irritate sensitive skin. Look for detergents that are labeled as biodegradable, non-toxic, and phosphate-free.

2. How can I reduce the amount of water I use when doing laundry?

One way to reduce the amount of water you use when doing laundry is to only run full loads. This will ensure that you are getting the most out of each wash cycle. Another option is to invest in a high-efficiency washing machine, which uses less water than traditional machines. You can also consider using a washing machine that has a water-saving cycle or setting.

3. What can I do with old clothes that are no longer wearable?

Instead of throwing away old clothes that are no longer wearable, consider repurposing them. You can turn old t-shirts into cleaning rags, or use old socks as dust cloths. You can also donate old clothes to charity or a clothing recycling program. Some retailers even offer incentives for recycling old clothes, such as discounts on future purchases.

4. Should I use fabric softener?

Fabric softener is not necessary for clean clothes, and it can actually be harmful to the environment. Fabric softeners contain chemicals that can be toxic to aquatic life and can contribute to water pollution. Instead, try using a natural alternative, such as vinegar or baking soda, to soften your clothes. These options are not only eco-friendly, but they are also gentle on your skin.

5. Can I wash my clothes in cold water?

Absolutely! Washing your clothes in cold water is an eco-friendly option that can save energy and money. Many detergents are formulated to work just as well in cold water as they do in hot water. You can also consider using a cold water cycle on your washing machine. This will not only reduce your energy consumption, but it will also help to extend the life of your clothes.

6. How can I reduce the amount of energy I use when drying my clothes?

One way to reduce the amount of energy you use when drying your clothes is to use a clothesline or drying rack instead of a dryer. This option is completely free and can save you a significant amount of money on your energy bill. If you do use a dryer, try using wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. These balls are reusable and can help to reduce drying time, which in turn reduces energy consumption.

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