6 Sustainable Laundry Tips and Swaps That Reduce Waste and Save Money
Looking for some easy, sustainable laundry swaps to help improve your everyday environmental impact? Start with these tips and picks.
So you want to make your home more eco-friendly. Your sustainable journey doesn't need to be perfect, or immediate—so why not take things one room at a time? Now that you have the kitchen covered, it's time to turn your focus to the laundry room. An often forgotten space that can have a hefty environmental impact.
"The average American family does 300 loads of laundry per year, and each load can require up to 23 gallons of water," said Laura Wittig in an episode of Good Together. "So as you can imagine, that type of usage really adds up."
If you're looking to employ a more mindful approach to your washer/dryer routine, there are a few simple ways to reduce your footprint without sacrificing in the cleanliness (or coziness) of your wardrobe. And, of course, there are a few sustainable swaps to improve your routine—just make sure to finish any existing products first.
How to Make Your Laundry Routine More Sustainable
1. Wash Your Clothes Less
This one's a no-brainer. As previously mentioned, the average American family does 300 loads of laundry per year. The solution to saving water in your own household? Wash less.
Though certain clothing items (like underwear) do require wash with every wear, the majority of your wardrobe can stand to be thrown on more than you think before it's time for a wash cycle. Also, always make sure you have a full load before washing.
2. Wash on the Cold Setting
Once you have a must-wash load, keep an eye on the machine settings to limit energy use. Washing clothes on the cold setting will lessen your footprint significantly, as the majority of the machine's energetic waste comes from heating the water.
"Washing clothes on the cold water setting is actually going to lessen your carbon footprint pretty significantly, as 90% of the energy used by the washing machine during your laundry cycle is going towards heating the water," Wittig says.
Washing in cold water also helps your clothing stay in good condition for longer: "Not only are we increasing our carbon footprint by using hot water, but it's also making our clothes less vibrant; we're just not going to be able to wear them for as long," Wittig adds. "It's really a lose-lose situation."
With that being said, there are some situations where using hot water may be required. According to Zachary Pozniak, the mechanical engineer turned luxury dry cleaner and laundry content creator behind Jeeves, it's a better option for sanitation and stain removal.
"Hot water does clean better—it's going to allow that chemistry to work at a higher efficiency, and it's going to be much better for stain removal. It's kind of like any type of cleaning product. So I would say use it sparingly with something that's really soiled," he says. "If you have a couple of pieces that are really dirty, put them to the side—put your stain removers on it, wash it with hot water with a high-quality detergent, and you're good."
3. Look Into Alternative Drying Methods
As with the above, ditching the dryer whenever possible is a quick step to a more energetically mindful laundry room. Line-dry if you have room outside, or invest in a drying rack for use inside your home. If this step intimidates you, consider this: continents like Asia and Europe operate almost entirely without dryers.
According to Pozniak, synthetic fabrics come out of the washer basically dry to the touch: "Throw them on a hanging rack and they'll be dry within the hour," he says. Things like towels and anything with a larger weave may require tumbling action, but that doesn't mean they need heat to come out soft to the touch.
For a nice in-between, he recommends first line-drying to get rid of some of the water. Then you can tumble dry without heat.
"From switching from hot to cold, you can use very little energy in your dryer by just having that tumbling action," he says. "Throw some tennis balls or dryer balls in there to help keep some space. Some things just need to be kind of fluffed up and agitated a little bit."
Now that you've considered the tips, here are three eco-friendly laundry swaps to help make your laundry room a cleaner place.
3 Sustainable Laundry Swaps to Try
1. Reusable Dryer Balls Instead of Disposable Dryer Sheets
Keeping clothes soft and free of wrinkles is almost as important as keeping them clean. But between disposable dryer sheets (crafted from chemical-coated polyester) and plastic bottles filled with water-laden fabric softener, the mainstream methods demand an eco-alternative.
Wool dryer balls are a great eco-solution: They soften clothes, reduce wrinkles and static, and are good for more than 1,000 loads. They also reduce drying time by up to 40%.
"There's nothing worse than getting your sheets out and your fitted sheet is half dry, your top sheet is a complete mess, and your duvet cover is perfect," Pozniak says. Having some type of ball in there is going to help them stay separated and allow everything to dry more evenly, reducing the amount of time they're in the dryer.
2. Microfiber Catching Laundry Balls Instead of Contributing to the Microplastic Problem
Just in case you haven't heard: Your clothing comes with microplastics. Left to standard devices, synthetic microfibers (about 10-12 million per load) are free to break off of your clothes and into your washing machine and, ultimately, our waterways. Broken microfibers also contribute to clothing degradation, meaning that your favorite pieces have shorter lifespans.
Keep your clothes and the environment in better shape with these microfiber-catching balls, which collect the fuzzy and fiber so that the waste can be reduced and disposed of properly.
3. Natural Detergent Instead of Plastic Bottles and Chemical Formulas
Traditional laundry detergents feature formulas that ramp up your water footprint, are housed in plastic, contribute to your home's greywater, and leave chemical residue on your clothing.
Take the obvious step and opt for a natural option that comes in sustainable packaging. Dropps favors plant-based ingredients and natural enzymes, and the laundry pods come in a biodegradable box that helps to limit your consumption of single-use plastics.
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