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The average American family does 8 to 10 loads of laundry per week. At about 31 gallons of water per load, this is no small feat. In fact, laundry consumes almost 20 percent of the average household’s water usage, making the wash an important area to tackle in your pursuit of a more sustainable home.
Aside from water usage, doing the laundry takes a considerable amount of energy and materials. Think of the products we typically need to run the laundry; many of them are single use–Tide pods, dryer sheets, etc. Single use products not only fill landfills, but also end up costing us more money.
Making your laundry habits more eco-friendly not only save you money but can also save the planet.
In this article you will learn several tips and DIY hacks to help you make your next load of laundry more sustainable.
- Pre-treat stains – Pre-treating any stains ensures you get them out the first time, minimizing the number of times you need to run the wash. Just make sure you pick the appropriate treatment for the job. Organic stains from things like grass, blood, and foods do well with stain removers formulated with enzymes. Oils and fats do well with gels and even basic dish soap (like my favorite Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds).
- Use cold water – Washing your clothes in cold water saves you money, saves the planet, and keeps your clothes in better condition. About 90% of the energy your washing machine uses goes to heating the water. According to the organization Cold Water Saves, running just 80% of your loads in cold water could cut 842 points of CO2 emissions over the course of a year. Skipping the hot water altogether could save you over $200 a year in utility costs. Plus, hot water doesn’t actually make your clothes any cleaner (it’s the detergent that does that).
- Make your own laundry detergent – Making your own laundry detergent is easy and reduces the amount of plastic that needs to be disposed of each time you run out. Most laundry detergent recipes call for a mixture of water softeners (washing soda, borax) and soap. This can be problematic for your clothing, as soap is made with fat and oils that can make fabrics oily and dingy over time. Instead, we replace the soap with a plant-based detergent (like the household cleaning workhorse Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds.)
Laundry Detergent Recipe
1.5 part Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds
1 part washing soda
6 parts water
Mix together well until the washing soda dissolves. Use as you would laundry detergent by filling the soap dispenser of your washing machine.
- Fill the washing machine – This may seem like an obvious one but it’s worth saying: wait until you have a full load to run the washing machine! This reduces the number of loads you need to run overall. Remember, regardless of how many pounds of clothes you put in, your washing machine is going to use about 30 gallons of water. Make them count.
- Let it air dry – Line-drying your clothes will keep them in better shape for longer, and it is better for the environment. Running the clothes dryer uses a considerable amount of energy–the typical dryer uses about 3000 watts of energy per cycle. I keep this drying rack by my washing machine to easily hang clothes as I work. During the summer, we put out a clothes line on the back porch. It’s cute and quaint.
- Swap out the dryer sheets – Swap out single-use dryer sheets for wool laundry balls to soften fabrics and cut down time in the dryer. The balls work by bouncing around in the dryer, separating and fluffing your clothes so they dry faster with less wrinkles.
- Dry with lavender satchel – Missing the scent your dryer sheets lent to your clothes, linens and towels? Try throwing in a dryer-safe lavender satchel instead. I love these lavender dryer bags from Trader Joe’s for making my bed sheets smell like a luxury hotel experience.