Blog 10/20/10: Green Your Laundry

The average household does almost 400 loads of laundry each year, which consumes 13,500 gallons of water (source: Energy Star).  Switching to an Energy Star-qualified washing machine can save as much as 7,000 gallons of water per year.  An Energy Star-qualified clothes washer can also save you $550 in operating costs over its lifetime.  By cutting your dryer out of the equation, even only part of the time, you will save even more money.  Your dryer checks in at number two on the list of household energy hogs (right after your fridge), costing the average household more than $70 per year in energy (source: US Department of Energy). 

Green Laundry Tips:
1. Wear your clothes more than once before tossing them in the hamper (this doesn’t go for everything, such as intimates and socks).
2. Use green laundry detergent (see homemade recipes below).  Conventional laundry detergents contain ingredients that are not good for you, your clothes, or aquatic ecosystems where the dirty water we wash down the drain ends up.
3. If you don’t make your own detergent, opt for not just green detergent, but concentrated or powdered detergents as they have a smaller carbon footprint.
4. Wash in cold water and only wash full loads of laundry.
5. Skip the dryer and hang the clothes up to dry.  You can get creative in your house if you do not have space outdoors to hang the laundry or if the weather is uncooperative.  Drape sheets and towels over doors, hang up clothes in empty closets and from molding over the doors and closets, and use folding racks for small items.

I have been making my own laundry detergent for over a year now and couldn’t be happier with the results.  Not only is the homemade detergent more cost effective, but it works just as well and you can even pick what scent you want (or unscented, of course).

Here’s my recipe:
3 cups Borax (this is a white powder in a box found in the laundry aisle of most supermarkets)
3 cups Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (another white powder in a box found in the laundry aisle of most supermarkets)
1 bar Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap (I like the lavender scent, but you could use any of the scents or opt for the unscented bar)
Grate the bar of soap on a cheese grater or in a food processor.  Mix all three ingredients together in a large container.  Use ¼ cup per load.
This recipe is safe for high-efficiency machines, so don’t waste your money buying the expensive HE-specific detergent!

If you are not quite ready to make your own laundry detergent, you can at least make your own simple (and non-toxic) fabric softener.  Here are a couple of different “recipes”:
×    Add ¼ cup of baking soda to the wash cycle of the washing machine (this really works!)
×    Add ¼ cup of white vinegar to the washing machine
×    Soak a rag in white vinegar and throw it in the dryer with your load (I have never tried these two vinegar tips, but heard they work well)

Post your own laundry tips below!

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