Love it or hate it, laundry is just one of those chores that has to get done. After all, we all need clean clothes to wear, and nobody likes to see piles of garments taking up space on the bedroom floor. And while doing the laundry can be tedious, getting it done is often the first step to a cleaner and more organized home — and you can feel good about doing it, knowing that there are lots of green solutions that can make this practice more environmentally friendly!
Doing the laundry can often feel wasteful — especially if you burn through bottle after bottle of detergent and use gallons upon gallons of water, while raising your energy bill to boot. Fortunately, we’re here to tell you that doing the laundry can be a more eco-friendly and guilt-free practice, as long as you take a few simple, proactive steps.
Here are six easy and straightforward ways to make your laundry room more eco-friendly:
1.) Upgrade Your Appliances
According to statistics compiled by TreeHugger, the average American household does about 400 loads of laundry each year — and consumes about 13,500 gallons of water in the process. To make matters worse, many old school washing machines and dryers are far from energy efficient; in fact, 90% of a typical washing machine’s energy usage goes to heating the water, while only 10% actually powers the motor.
Fortunately, there are other solutions. For instance, switching from a top-loading washer to a front-loading Energy Star-certified washing machine can help save more than 20 gallons of water per load. That’s 7,000 gallons of water conserved per year — and hundreds of dollars in utilities costs over the lifetime of your appliance.
2.) Increase Your Energy Efficiency By Maximizing Your Machines
In addition to opting for more modern appliances, there are all sorts of ways to make the most of your machines — so that they perform their very best, and at their most efficient:
- Only run full loads. While it can be tempting to toss in a loose article of clothing every now and again, try to resist. It is estimated that a household could save 99 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year by switching to only running full loads of laundry.
- Use cold water as much as possible. Because so much of a washing machine’s energy use goes to heating water, your machine will run much more efficiently if you focus on only using cold water. If every American household switched to only using cold water, it is estimated that this could prevent 34 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
- Keep your machines clean. To ensure that your machines are as efficient as possible, we like to say that it’s imperative that you clean the machines that clean for you. Regularly clean the insides of your washing machine to get rid of unwanted deposits, particularly around the removable parts and the drain. Make sure to regularly clean out the lint trap in your dryer, which can increase the appliance’s energy efficiency.
- Activate the moisture sensor in your dryer. If your dryer comes with a moisture sensor, be sure to use it; this handy feature will automatically end the drying cycle when it senses that clothes are dry, significantly reducing the amount of energy used.
3.) Switch to Air-Drying
While the dryer can be convenient, it is also an energy black hole — in fact, the dryer is the second highest “energy hog” in most households (behind the refrigerator). The more you can take this machine out of the equation, the better off your energy consumption will be. Try to air dry your clothes as often as possible. You can hang a laundry line in your backyard to take advantage of solar energy; opt for a folding bamboo drying rack that can easily be used indoors or out; or even add hooks and hangers in your laundry room for a chic, functional air-drying option. According to TreeHugger, making the switch to line-drying clothes could cut your household’s carbon emissions by 700 pounds each year.
4.) Pick Guilt-Free Laundry Detergents
Have you ever thought about what goes into your favorite laundry detergent? Many conventional detergents contain non-biodegradable environmental toxins like phosphates, parabens, and phthalates. Many detergents are also petroleum-based, and come in plastic containers that contribute to the millions of tons of plastic waste generated each year.
The next time you hit the laundry aisle, be sure to read labels very carefully. Look for detergents that are plant-based, biodegradable, and phosphate-free. For inspiration, check out these handy lists of eco-friendly laundry options from The Spruce and Bigger Better Days. We also have been long-time advocates for buying concentrated products, which allow you to use less each time — saving on packaging waste and trips to the store.
You could also research environmentally friendly detergent alternatives such as soap nuts, or consider whipping up your own DIY laundry solutions with environmentally friendly ingredients that you most likely already have on hand. For instance, vinegar is an eco-friendly workhorse that can easily be substituted for fabric softener; pantry go-tos like borax, lemon juice, vodka, and hydrogen peroxide can also all be used in place of store-bought detergents. For ideas, I recommend these wonderful posts from Love to Know and Sustainable Jungle.
5.) Ditch the Dryer Sheets
While they’re not quite public enemy number one when it comes to clean living and sustainability, dryer sheets are definitely something you want to phase out of your household if possible.
Dryer sheets can cause damage to your clothes, affecting their feel and functionality over time; they also release harmful chemical compounds that can exacerbate asthma, irritate your skin, and which may be linked to negative long-term health effects. On top of that, conventional dryer sheets are single-use products, which can create plenty of unnecessary waste.
Instead of single-use dryer sheets, consider more sustainable, non-toxic alternatives that can actually help your clothes dry more efficiently, including:
6.) Watch What You Wear
As with so many sustainable practices, one of the most effective approaches to “greening” your laundry may be to think about all of the steps you can take to be more eco-friendly outside of the laundry room. There are lots of little actions that can help you make the most of your clothing and linens so that you increase their lifespan, while minimizing the amount of laundry you do — and the amount of harmful chemicals you use each year.
Some important ideas include:
- Avoid ironing. As TreeHugger notes, “not only is ironing a tedious chore, it also consumes energy and can deteriorate fabric.” It may be better to let your clothes hang, rather than breaking out the hot iron.
- Skip the dry cleaner. Dry cleaning is a process that involves countless harmful chemicals, particularly perchloroethylene. Try to minimize your trips to the dry cleaner, or look for green cleaners near you.
- Go for multiple wears. While it may take some getting used to, wearing pants and shirts more than once between loads of laundry is an extremely eco-friendly practice — in fact, simply re-wearing one pair of jeans multiple times may help you consume five-times less energy in total, according to an international study!
- Hand wash what you can. A handwashing in the sink or shower can help protect the integrity of your garment — and allow you to bypass using up energy from your washer and dryer entirely.
Sweeping Dimensions: A Cleaning With a Conscience
Here at Sweeping Dimensions, we focus on handling all sorts of cleaning and housekeeping projects, so you can focus on the other things that matter most to you.
A big part of that is making sure our clients’ wants and needs are met at all times. That’s why we make a point of always having sustainable and environmentally friendly cleaning solutions on hand and ready to use.
We also believe in passing along our green cleaning knowledge, whenever we can. We love to talk about all things cleaning and organizing, including the strategies that can make taking care of your home a more sustainable practice. The more people we can bring together in our mission for a greener world, the better off all of us will be!
So, if you ever have a question about comparing cleaning products, or making a green switch in your home, don’t hesitate to get in touch – I am always happy to talk shop! At SDCS, we are sincerely passionate about these issues, dedicated to finding real solutions, and always eager to keep the conversation going.
Want to set up a green cleaning for your Chicago home? Don’t hesitate to reach out for your FREE service estimate!
Looking to exchange ideas on reusable alternatives to sponges, or share how you’re going to focus on sustainability this year? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch via email or on social media to let us know your thoughts.