You, your laundry and the environment....
When thinking about doing laundry and how to least impact the environment, the main things we need to reduce are energy consumption and pollution. Follow these tips to get you on this path, as well as to protect the health of you and your family.
Reduce Energy Consumption:
As far as energy is concerned, about 90% of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water. (Info from The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office of the U.S. Department of Energy.) To reduce the amount of energy used for washing clothes—use less water and use cooler water. Unless you're dealing with oily stains, the warm or cold water setting on your machine will generally do a good job of cleaning your clothes. Switching the temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load's energy use in half.
Every Day Laundry Tips
• Wash your clothes in cold water using cold-water detergents whenever possible.
• Wash and dry full loads. If washing a small load, use the appropriate water-level setting.
• Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight clothes.
• Don't over-dry your clothes. If your machine has a moisture sensor, use it.
• Clean the lint filter in the dryer after every load to improve air circulation.
• Use the cool-down cycle to allow the clothes to finish drying with the residual heat in the dryer. • Periodically inspect your dryer vent to ensure it is not blocked. This saves energy and may prevent fire.
• Consider air-drying clothes on clothes lines or drying racks.
Long-Term Savings Laundry Tips
• Look for the ENERGY STAR® and EnergyGuide labels. ENERGY STAR clothes washers clean clothes using 50% less energy than standard washers. Most full-sized ENERGY STAR washers use 18-25 gallons of water per load, compared to the 40 gallons used by a standard machine. ENERGY STAR models also spin the clothes better, resulting in less drying time.
• When shopping for a new dryer, look for one with a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off the machine when your clothes are dry.
Both laundry detergents themselves, as well as their packaging, cause large amounts of pollution. Recently, there has been a move toward concentrated detergents in the mainstream markets. This is a good step because not only does it result in less packaging, but it also reduces the impact of transporting it to the consumer. But, there is also the problem of chemicals in detergents, which flow into our sewer systems. Do you really want harsh chemicals in the sewer system OR hanging on your body? There are several things to do to combat this. First of all you can choose detergents that are:
• Free of dye
• Fragrance-free (or use essential oils for fragrance)
• Not made from petroleum-based chemicals
There are many eco-friendly detergents to choose from (or you can be really ambitious and make your own). One detergent that has received great reviews is Dropps. They are packaged in half-ounce biodegradable pacs, that dissolve completely in your washer. They're 6x concentrated so they really reduce the water used in manufacturing and in transporting. They're free of enzymes, phosphates, chorine and NPEs. They aren’t yet widely distributed, but you can order them online:
And skip the fabric softener!!! Fabric softeners are just chock-full of chemicals, the list of which is just too long to go into here. You can skip the softener and still get soft clothes by adding a ¼ cup baking soda and/or white vinegar to the wash. Instead of fabric softener sheets in the dryer, you can use dryer balls, which softens fabrics naturally. They tumble in the dryer to lift and separate laundry allowing hot air to flow more efficiently. The soft tips massage fabrics to naturally fluff up and soften without using any chemicals. (You can order them direct from Kitchen Collection.)
This article is featured in A Carnival of Environmental Issues. Visit the carnival to read other great articles!
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