Going Green: The Laundry Guide

Oh…the laundry, it’s of those chores that is literally never ending. As soon as you are caught up with all the washing and drying and folding and hanging there’s at least two more loads waiting to be done.
Think about all the loads of laundry you do for you and your family (the average American family does almost 300 loads per year) . Now think about all the people in the world who use washers and dryers to clean their clothes and just how much energy it uses.  That’s a lot of energy and a lot of our most precious resource, water, going down the drain. Today I’m going to share some ideas with you on how make your laundry routine  more sustainable and hopefully inspire you to forget about that dryer and let your clothes dry out  in the breeze.

The Wash Cycle

Before we get into the nitty gritty of line drying let’s talk a little about the washing machine. There are plenty of ways to conserve energy and save money with the washer. Newer energy star models use up to 70% less energy than older models. If you were looking for an excuse to finally upgrade your washer, you’re welcome! If you are like me and still use an old washing machine and will probably continue to until it breaks down to the point of no repair- it’s okay, up to 90%  of the energy used  to wash your clothes is spent on heating the water. This makes it especially easy to cut down. Just use only cold water to wash. In my opinion cold water works just as well as hot. If you are using hot water you might as well be flushing your money down the toilet. Make sure your are only running the washing machine with full loads to save the most energy.

The Scoop on Soap

Laundry soap contains a lot of chemicals that while effective to clean and remove stains aren’t healthy for people or the environment. You can buy eco friendly laundry detergent but it can be expensive compared to traditional laundry soap. Making your own laundry detergent is a great way to save money and cut back on the amount of nasty chemicals entering your home. Check out my recipe for homemade detergent. There are a ton of recipes out there on the web that are fun to try out. Why not try whipping up a batch of your own homemade soap? You’ll know exactly what’s in it and have control over the ingredients.
 Now, a quick word about fabric softener. It’s nasty stuff. Fabric softener contains chemicals such as: Alpha-Terpineol, Benzyl Acetate, Camphor, Chloroform, Ethyl Acetate and many more ingredients that I don‘t know how to pronounce or know why they are in softener in the first place. I don’t know about you but I would really prefer not to have poisonous chemicals known to cause cancer rubbing up against my skin all day.  The solution to this is either skip softener all together or use plain white vinegar in your rinse cycle. I like to fill up my  Downy ball with white vinegar and toss it in with each load. It’s super inexpensive and I promise your clothes won’t smell like vinegar once they dry.

Airing your Clean Laundry

Now that your clothes are freshly washed and you’ve saved a ton of energy and money with the wash cycle lets talk about getting all those clothes dry. Sustainably .
Did you know if every American family ditched the dryer and air dried their clothes enough energy would be saved that two power plants could close?

There are many types of laundry lines to choose from. The most basic way is just attach a rope from point A to point B and pin your clothes up. They make retractable lines too if you don’t like the idea of having a line up all the time. I have a portable umbrella rack in my yard. It’s awesome. I can easily fit an entire load up to dry at once and I can take it down when I need to. Clothes lines have come along way. They are so many models available for indoor and outdoor use. There is literally a different type of clothesline for just about every situation you can think of.

The great thing about drying my clothes outside is they feel so fresh and smell great. On hot summer days they dry quickly. The sun is powerful. It will help lighten stains and brighten your whites. Here’s a tip: turn your clothes inside out to prevent fading on your colored items or hang them in the shade.  If you are worried about pinch marks from the clothes pins, hang your clothes by the hems and the shirts by the arm pits to prevent marks.

Bringing it Indoors:

 What if you live in an apartment or don’t have a yard where you can hang your clothes up? Are you like me and live in the Pacific Northwest where it seems to rain about 360 days per year? Try a drying rack. You can place it on your balcony or a place where some sun beams will hit it. There are new fancy drying racks that you can attach to your wall and hide behind a painting.
Another way I have successfully air dried my laundry indoors is by installing a tension rod above my bathtub in between my wall and the shower curtain. You can hang your clothes above the tub when you are not using the shower to dry.
If you have a basement or spare bedroom consider installing a laundry line in those rooms.

Getting rid of “That Crispy Feeling”

A common complaint about air drying your clothes is that they have that crunchy crispy feeling once they are dry. Using vinegar in the rinse cycle like I suggested previously will help prevent this. Personally, once I put my clothes on the stiff feeling seems to diminish right away. If it’s something that really bothers you, you can put your clothes in the dryer for 5 minutes after taking them off the line and they will feel soft and fluffy once again.

Well there you have it folks, my basic tips for energy conservation and money saving while doing one of our most necessary and least fun daily chores: the laundry. I hope you will be able take something away from this article and apply it your daily life. Isn’t it funny how when we do things that are the best for the environment  it also seems  to have a positive impact on our health and save us money?  I like that. It makes me think that perhaps it’s the way we should have done it all along.

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5 Responses to Going Green: The Laundry Guide

  1. Kajira says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Kajira says:

    thanks for sharing. will have to try a homemade detergent and vinegar. i usually dry my clothes in my room because i never know how will they smell when i put them outside (maybe like manure or sth even more horrible).
    do you ever iron your clothes? and i would like your opinion on another thing (if it is not too personal) – how often do you change bed sheets? i can't decide on the importance of hygiene. when i googled it, i found many posts claiming that you should change them like at least once a week, otherwise you are dirty, lazy and unhealthy. i'm afraid that's a corporation myth (to buy more detergent etc.) but i couldn't judge cause i'm not a professional on that matter. i usually change sheets every three weeks but i'm still concerned about the ecological aspect.

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  3. Hi Kajira,
    I never thought about the smell from the air outside! I hope I don't walk around smelling like horse do do or something! haha. I never iron. I'm a jeans and t shirt kind of girl and don't have to wear business attire for work so I'm not worried about a few wrinkles. I wash my sheets every week or two. They are white so if there are even a little bit dirty it really shows. I think it's just personal preference. When I lived alone I only washed them about once a month.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    thank you for sharing the info

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  5. Pingback: Creating a Sustainable Home | Crafty Little Gnome

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