Your laundry can be an energy (and money) sapping room – it’s used almost daily in most family homes!!
The washing machine and drier are two of the top 3 appliances in the home for energy usage. Add to this the amount of water that is consumed and the potentially harmful chemicals that we wash into our clothes and down the drains and it’s clear there’s usually room for improvement!! Read on for some practical eco friendly laundry tips that you can use to save money and time AND reduce the chemical load on your family.
1. Choose a Non Toxic Washing Powder
Washing powders and liquids contain an array of chemicals designed to tackle dirt and stains. Some of the worst of these include synthetic perfumes and fragrances, phosphates, optical brighteners and petrochemicals which are bad for our skin and overall health and detrimental to waterways and marine life too.
One of the challenges when choosing a washing powder is that there is no requirement for companies to print a full list of ingredients on their packaging. The good news is that many do, so you can see exactly what you’re buying. Some don’t provide any information at all and a few sneaky ones provide ‘highlights’, listing only a few of the ingredients they don’t contain. This is an attempt to make you think you’re buying something ‘eco’ when you’re probably not…..
If a brand doesn’t make it easy for you to find out what the ingredients are, then I suggest you choose another brand that is more forthcoming and transparent.
Thankfully, there is a great selection of washing powders available to us now that do not contain any of the above mentioned ‘nasties’ and we have some great options on Green Elephant including Wendyls and Tru Earth.
Perhaps one of the most sustainable options when it comes to laundry is soapnuts. The nuts are the fruit of a tree (so there’s absolutely nothing synthetic about them) and they contain saponin, natures own ‘soap’. They’re very easy to use and when they are spent (after 3-4 washes) they go on the compost. They are a true zero waste laundry solution!!
2. Stain Remover Bars
Just like laundry powders, many of the stain remover products available at the supermarket contain toxic ingredients including bleaches and dyes. A much more natural and safe choice is to use a soap bar or stain remover bar containing only natural ingredients.
The sun is also very effective at removing stains – especially on white clothing or bedding. So, hanging your clothes out to dry has double benefits!!
3. Stainless Steel Clothes Pegs
Plastic clothes pegs break quickly because of the harsh New Zealand sun. And what happens when they break…?? They go in the trash, which ends up in landfill where the pegs stay. Forever.
A more sustainable option is to choose sturdy stainless steel pegs. They are super strong so will keep your laundry on the line even on blustery days (no more knickers ending up on a bush…) and they should last a lifetime. Another option that is better than plastic is wooden pegs. They will last longer than plastic pegs and if they do distort or break for any reason, the wooden part can be composted and the stainless steel hinge recycled.
4. Air Dry
It’s no secret that tumble driers are gas guzzlers. Yep – an average load can cost $1 so drying one load of washing per day racks up to $365 per year. This is a lot when there is an alternative that is completely free….!!
Air drying your clothes outside not only gives them a beautiful fresh smell but has the added benefits of exposure to sunlight which helps keep our whites white without the need for optical brighteners. And did I mention that it’s free….??!!
5. Use Vinegar Instead of Fabric Softener
Fabric softeners are used to make our clothes feel ‘fluffy’, get rid of static and wrinkles and to impart a potent fragrance into them. But the EWG recommends that you ditch them completely. Fabric softeners leave a chemical residue on your clothes that can cause irritation (and worse). Try adding half a cup of white vinegar to your wash during the rinse cycle, fragranced with your favourite essential oil if you like.
6. Wash Less Often
How many times do you wear jeans or use a towel before it gets thrown in the laundry basket..?? It’s been recommended by Levi’s that the less you wash your jeans, the better. But what about your other clothes..?? With the exception of underwear (a non-negotiable daily clean), the less you can wash them, the better. This will not only prolong their life but save you money and time by reducing the loads of washing you have to do.
This is the easiest of our eco friendly laundry tips to implement – next time you are on auto pilot and throw something into the laundry basket, just think about whether it could be worn again before needing a wash. I’m not recommending you wear dirty clothes, but if you wear clothes UNTIL they are dirty before throwing them in the wash, your clothes will last longer and there will be less loads of washing to do. #Winning!!
7. Wash at Lower Temps
Up to 90% of the energy used by your washing machine goes towards heating the water – so washing clothes on a hot cycle can use up to ten times more energy than a cold wash!! All clothes can be washed at lower temperatures despite what the label says (it’s the other way around that you need to be careful of). So to save energy and lower your power bill, it makes sense to wash at cooler temperatures if possible.
8. Wash Full Loads
There are some clever machines out there that can sense the size of a load and use less water accordingly. But if your machine doesn’t do this, it makes much more sense to only put a wash on when you have enough laundry to fill the washing machine. This makes the most of the water and energy you’ll be using which is much more efficient than doing several small loads.
The laundry is the powerhouse of most family homes and is a busy production line so there’s no wonder it’s a high consumer of energy. But by following some of our eco friendly laundry tips, making small changes to how you wash and dry your clothes and what you use to wash them, you can not only save money, but reduce the chemical load on your family too!!