Keeping your laundry and the environment clean

Does anyone actually like doing laundry? I don’t mind the sorting and washing part, but I can’t be alone in how long it actually takes me to put away the basket of folded clothing.

I have been trying to make switches in our home to leave a smaller footprint in our cleaning and household chores. I’m honestly shocked by what I’m reading about laundry! In our household, we do about 5-6 loads of laundry per week – and that’s just for two adults. Needless to say, for families that are larger than two people – and I’d assume – those with children, 5-6 loads of laundry per week would be a light week! So what are some of the problems with conventional laundering?

Per the National Parks Service:

  • The average residential washing machine uses 40+ gallons of water per load and household dryers can make up 6% of energy use in your home. By comparison, if you have an Energy Star rated machine, it can use up to 40% less water.
  • Scented laundry detergents and dryer sheets contain chemicals and emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which are classified as carcinogens.

Per Mind Body Green:

  • Detergents can have a negative impact on aquatic life. While water is treated before it is released back into our regional watersheds, detergents can still be hazardous for aquatic life.
  • Natural fabric softeners are often derived from palm oil (which has a negative track record tied to deforestation) and chemical fabric softeners can cause respiratory issues.
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

The good news is that there are many inexpensive and easy ways to shift your laundry habits to be more eco-conscious.

  • Wash your clothing in cold water. 90% of the energy used by your washing machine is used to heat the water – not to run the motor. Your clothes will still be cleaned in cold water and some clothing items like darks, colors and silky fabrics actually wash better in cold water. Still wash your towels in warm or hot water.
  • Use a natural fabric softener. We switched over to wool dryer balls – you need a good number to effectively tumble a large load (we keep six in the dryer) to take the place of fabric sheets. If you add fabric softener to your washer for scent, consider adding 1/2 c. white vinegar to your laundry instead.
  • Use a green laundry detergent. A detergent that is fragrance free and dye free and concentrated is best. This website sums up some of the things you should steer clear of in detergents. Bonus points if your detergent is biodegradable and has recyclable packaging.
  • Hang your clothing out to dry. This isn’t allowed by some homeowners association, but one of the easiest ways to cut down on chemical use and energy use is to allow nature to dry your clothes. You can actually extend the life of your clothes without running through the dryer, too.
  • Wash certain items less frequently. This one is a bit tougher for me to swallow as I have always followed a wash and wear philosophy for most of my clothing, but maybe I need to rethink that. It makes sense how a shift like this could drastically reduce your laundry load size and extend the life of your clothing. The infographic below shows one approach to how often certain items of clothing should be washed. I’m still going to wash my bras everytime I wear them – sorry, Good Housekeeping.
  • Like I mentioned before, we use wool dryer balls. I’ve linked to the kind we use at home.
  • Our household just made the switch to Dropps – a subscription detergent service that ships fragrance free and dye free detergents for laundry (and also for your dishwasher) straight to your door in fully recyclable packaging. Dropps asks you a few questions about how often you do laundry each week and suggests a subscription package perfect for you. We picked the Couples option, where we will receive 140 pods (1 pod/large load of laundry) on a quarterly basis. The cost for us will work out to be about $8/month. I haven’t noticed any difference in how clean our clothing is after switching over from using All Free and Clear pods.
  • If you sign up for a subscription to Dropps using this link, you can get $10 off a new subscription. (Full disclosure, I get a coupon, too when you sign up!). I recommend signing up for their emails and waiting for a coupon code to come through – I got 25% off my first order by waiting a few days.

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