So you have a hamper full of dirty clothes and it's time to throw them in the wash — no problem, right? Well, think again. While your washer and dryer are highly convenient, they both use a ton of energy. In fact, one load of laundry uses around 15 to 30 gallons of water, and if you have an older washing machine, it can use up to 54 gallons of water — and that's just water usage. The amount of electricity washers and dryers use is even worse, with washing machines ringing in at 255 watts per hour and dryers coming in at a whopping 2,790 watts per hour. By comparison, that's over 12 times the amount of energy your refrigerator uses and is similar to the amount of an air conditioner, which is a known energy sucker. So, what do you do to be more sustainable while also keeping your clothes fresh and clean? Luckily, there are a handful of ways to be more eco-conscious when it comes to your laundry, and if you're interested in greening up your next load, we've got some helpful tips ahead.
1. Rewear Your Clothes, and Do Fewer Loads
It might sound like a no-brainer, but doing fewer loads of laundry is a big way to reduce your carbon footprint. We're not saying to turn your underwear inside out or to rewear your socks after you worked out in them, but just to be aware of the clothes you can wear more than once — like jeans, shirts, and jackets. In fact, the more you wash your clothes, the quicker they wear out, so keep that in mind the next time you throw them in the hamper. All it takes is a quick inspection and sniff test to see if something can get a few more wears before washing, which is usually the case!
2. Skip the Dryer
Like we mentioned earlier, dryers use a ton of energy, so instead of drying your clothes every time you stick them in the wash, why not hang them out to line dry instead? Not only will this save your clothes from potentially shrinking, but it'll keep them in better condition due to less wear and tear.
3. Opt For Cold Water Instead of Hot
Water heating uses up a ton of energy, and if your clothes don't require a warm load to be washed (most don't), this is a great way to save energy (and lower your electric bill!).
4. Pick Up Some Dryer Balls
Dryer balls are life-changing, and everyone needs them! The wool balls help absorb moisture, so that you can cut down on dry time and even run your dryer on a lower heat setting. Not to mention, they help soften your clothes and de-wrinkle them, so you can say goodbye to toxic dryer sheets for good.
5. Switch to Nontoxic Alternatives
Some laundry detergents, stain removers, and even dryer sheets can contain harmful chemicals that can hurt the environment (and yourself). To be extra careful, it's best to shop for eco-friendly detergents that contain vegetable-based ingredients over petroleum-based. To do this, make sure to look at the label of the detergent before you buy it, and if the bottle is biodegradable, even better! Did we mention you can use a cup of white vinegar as a replacement for your fabric softener, too? It reacts with the PH of soap to leave clothes soft and clean.
6. Handwash Your Clothes Instead
While it might sound like a pain in the you-know-what, handwashing clothes uses less water and is a great option if you don't have a full load. However, if you're not looking to handwash, there are other options such as pedal washers and laundry plungers that'll get the job done. These alternatives are especially great if you live in an apartment building without a washing machine — because who wants to make a special trip to the laundromat?
7. Skip the Dry Cleaners
The next time you buy a clothing item that requires dry cleaning, think: do you really need it? Dry cleaners can use harsh chemicals that have been linked to health issues like cancer and fertility issues. Instead, try out wet cleaning or liquid carbon dioxide cleaning, which are both green alternatives to dry cleaning.
8. Invest in High-Efficiency Laundry Machines
If you have the luxury to buy yourself a new machine, we highly recommend a high-efficiency laundry machine. HE machines use 20 to 66 percent less water than traditional washers and about 20 to 50 percent of the energy of a traditional washer and dryer. Because of this, HE machines will save you money in the long run while protecting the environment — a win-win!
9. Purchase a Microplastic Catcher
Like almost everything these days, a lot of our clothes (including gym clothes) contain microplastics. Clothing made with synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic all contain plastic in them, and when washed, microplastics get released. Currently, the filters inside our washing machines don't catch microplastics, and as a result, the plastics get washed into our sewage treatment systems and later into our rivers and oceans. To stop this, microplastic catchers are a great option and come in forms like laundry balls and filters.
10. Ditch the Iron
Ironing uses a ton of energy and can easily be eliminated by hanging your clothes directly after a wash or in your bathroom while you're taking a shower. The steam de-wrinkles them, so much so that you'd think they were iron-pressed!