In your battle against tough stains, there may be some unintended victims. Conventional laundry methods are relatively unfriendly to the environment, and may have adverse effects on your family's health as well, notes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Greener cleaning methods use less energy and chemicals to get clothes clean, making them safer for you and the world around you. You may be hesitant to try new laundry methods, unsure whether they will work. In truth, it may take some trial and error to achieve perfectly clean clothes. Once you do, however, you'll be making a positive change and looking good doing it.
Items you will need
- Washing machine
- Clothes dryer (optional)
- Clothesline or drying rack
- Eco-friendly detergent
- Vinegar, baking soda and/or club soda
Energy-Efficient Laundry Tips
Wash your clothes in cold water whenever possible. Use a detergent that is designed to work at lower temperatures. Changing your temperature setting can reduce a load's energy use by half. (See References 1)
Fill the washer every time you wash. Avoid washing small or partial loads, which waste more water. If you do wash a small load, lower the water level setting. (See References 1)
Hang a clothesline or set up a drying rack to air-dry your clothes when the weather permits. Air drying is specifically recommended for some fabrics, but it's generally an excellent way to save energy when drying all pieces of clothing.
Avoid over-drying your clothes when you place them in a dryer. Dry towels and heavy materials separately from lighter clothing, and check moisture levels or use the moisture sensor on your machine. Clean your dryer's lint filter and vent regularly to improve air circulation. (See References 1)
Consider replacing your washer and dryer with Energy Star certified appliances, which use up to 50 percent less energy than older models. (See References 1)
Buy concentrated detergent with minimal packaging. This saves on the plastic or paper required to package your product, as well as the water needed to dilute the detergent.
Avoid detergents with added dyes and perfumes. Look for and avoid surfactants like nonylphenol ethoxylate. Also avoid phosphates and brighteners like bleach. These can have negative physical and environmental consequences. (See References 3)
Look for plant-based and biodegradable soaps. Conventional laundry soap is often made with petroleum, a non-renewable resource (See References 3).
Seek out a dry cleaner that advertises "green" or "eco-friendly" cleaning. About 85 percent of dry cleaners use a chemical called perchloroethylene, which can have severe health and environmental consequences (See References 4).
- To brighten clothes and remove stains, add vinegar or baking soda to your wash, or pretreat stains with club soda.
- Drying clothes in direct sun can help lighten dark spots, but it can also fade colors. Take your clothing off the line as soon as it is dry.
- U.S. Department of Energy: Energy Savers --- Laundry
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Green Building --- Laundry Room & Basement
- "Grist"; It's a Wash --- A Review of Six Green Laundry Detergents; Sarah Van Schagen; February 26, 2008
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Design for the Environment --- Frequently Asked Questions About Drycleaning
- Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images