20 Tips for Green Laundry
One thing we all have in common is our clothing, along with the need to get it clean. It’s estimated that Americans do more than 600 million loads of laundry every week. That adds up to a heavy load of stress on the environment, in the form of excess water use, energy consumption for heat, and chemicals from various laundry products. That doesn’t make for very green laundry habits.
Because the green home builders at Tommy Williams Homes in Gainesville are always seeking ways to reduce our environmental impact, we thought we’d share with you these suggestions on how to have green laundry loads.
- Wait until you have a full load before washing. This does not mean you should stuff the washer. Soap has far less to do with cleaning clothes than with the friction of the clothes rubbing against each other. Therefore, fill the washer no more than three-quarters full, and adjust the water level accordingly.
- Everything you wear doesn’t need to be washed after a single use, especially if it was only for a few hours. Underwear, socks, work clothes, and gym clothes, yes; outerwear that isn’t stained or soiled can go longer between washings.
- To freshen clothing between washings, either hang in fresh air for a few hours or spray lightly with vodka to remove odors.
- To clean cloth face masks, either spray thoroughly with a disinfectant containing 70 percent alcohol and dry in the sun, or use tongs to hold them above a pot of boiling water for at least two minutes, or until the mask is damp, then sun dry.
- Wash clothes in cold water. This not only prolongs the life of the fabric, but is necessary with enzymatic laundry detergents, which lose their effectiveness in warm or hot water. And it saves energy: 90 percent of energy use associated with washing comes from heating the water.
- Dry your clothes only until they’re damp dry and hang to complete drying. This not only saves energy, but is better for the clothes if they’re not subjected to prolonged heating and tumbling.
- Clean the dryer’s lint trap before every load because the dryer will work less efficiently if it’s overloaded with lint.
- The same is true of the dryer’s exhaust vent, so clean it at least once every three months. This means from the outside and inside. Pull the machine out from the wall, detach the dryer vent and vacuum it out. This will also help prevent a common cause of household fires.
- If your homeowner’s association allows it, consider drying clothes outdoors. For those who’ve never had the experience of slipping into a bed made with fresh air-dried linens, trust us: No dryer sheet on the market comes close to that fragrance.
- If the HOA won’t allow it, or you prefer not to have an outdoor clothesline, consider an indoor fold-away dryer rack for some items.
- Many of the toxic chemicals contained in laundry detergent are flushed into the environment where they can harm marine life and other animals. As an alternative, the Internet is full of recipes for “homemade laundry detergent.”
- Failing that, at least consider the newer environmentally conscious laundry detergents. Or consider washing products that are better for the earth as well as for people with chemical sensitivities.
- And look for powdered detergent available in cardboard boxes as opposed to the liquid in plastic bottles.
- If you elect to use liquid laundry detergent, use as little as possible to get clothes clean. A good rule of thumb is one tablespoon for a small load, two for a medium-sized load, and three for a full load. Ignore the lines on the bottle cap (assuming you can even see them).
- Wool dryer balls are as effective as dryer fabric softener sheets at removing static without chemicals. If you prefer fragrance, add few drops of your favorite essential oil to the balls.
- Oxygen-based bleaches are gentler on the environment than chlorine bleach.
- Rubbing alcohol makes a great stain remover. It even removes ink if you soak the spot with it.
- The same dishwashing liquid that removes grease from dishes will also lift grease spots from clothes. Just spot clean with a dab of the soap.
- Vinegar will not only freshen fabric, it also works as a softener. Try it especially when laundering sheets and towels. (And no, there’s no vinegar odor left behind.)
- Check the user guide that came with your washer to ensure that these alternatives are acceptable. Some manufacturers recommend against vinegar or bleach which might damage some components or seals.
By the way, if you’re interested in the latest in green technology, you owe it to yourself to check out our beautiful net-zero homes. Interest rates have reached record lows so there’s never been a better time to buy from Tommy Williams Homes, Gainesville’s award-winning green builder.