Washers, dryers and dry cleaning make doing laundry easy, but they can be tough on the environment. With a few simple changes, you can reduce your environmental impact and trim your utility bills.
If laundry day doesn’t seem like a big deal, consider this: On average, an American household washes almost 400 loads of laundry a year, according to Energy Star.
Your laundry days add up, so it’s worth thinking about how you can minimize your household’s impact.
1. Master your machines
The less energy and water you use when washing your clothes, the better. Use your washer's energy-saver setting if available. Washing your clothes with cold water will both slash energy costs (as you no longer have to pay to get the water hot!) and keep your clothes brighter longer - a double bargain for the earth and for your pocketbook. Also, cleaning your lint tray will keep your dryer working efficiently.
When it comes to loading your laundry machines, make sure you’re working with full loads. Filling your washer and dryer with clothes will help laundry day fly by faster and reduce energy use at the same time.
2. Get creative with laundry gadgets
Consider investing in some nifty gadgets that will reduce your drying time, like these dryer balls by Nellie’s All-Natural. Toss a pair of eco-friendly dryer balls in with your load, and you’ll keep your clothes soft while cutting drying time by 25 percent.
Choosing dryer balls rather than disposable dryer sheets will also help you cut down on waste; think of the used dryer sheets you toss in the trash each week. For extra eco-points, consider using a clothesline or a drying rack rather than switching on your drying machine. In time, you might realize that you don’t need a dryer at all.
3. Upgrade the right way
When you need to buy a new machine, choose a washer that carries the Energy Star label. According to the Energy Star website, families that invest in an Energy Star product can cut their energy costs by about one-third, and their water costs by more than half. Each year, this adds up to savings of $135.
Energy Star doesn’t label dryers, but you can still make an efficient choice by picking a machine with a moisture sensor. These high-tech appliances will automatically shut off when clothes are dry, controlling your energy bill and protecting your clothes from the wear and tear of over-drying.
4. Opt for green dry cleaning options
Dry cleaning isn’t really a "dry" process. Clothes are immersed in chemical solvents in order to remove stains, dried in laundry machines, then pressed and shaped. Many of us dry-clean our clothes each week, particularly if we wear suits to work each day. Yet dry cleaning is typically water and energy intensive.
Eighty percent of the nation’s dry cleaners still use the liquid solvent percholoroethylene, known as ‘perc’. Perc serves as an efficient cleaning agent, but it’s listed as a hazardous air pollutant and possible carcinogen by the U.S. EPA.
As concern over perc’s toxicity grows, green dry cleaners are becoming increasingly popular. There are businesses that provide wet cleaning, an option that is U.S. EPA-recognized as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional dry cleaning. Some regular dry cleaners have been providing wet cleaning services for years, as a choice for chemically sensitive customers.