Green Tips: Greening Your Cleaning Routine

Green Tips | February 15, 2019

Doing laundry is a chore,  but did you know that it is also a burden on our planet? The average American generates 500 pounds of laundry every year. Every second in the US, there are 100,000 loads of laundry spinning, and in the process 560 billion gallons of water are being used. That’s the same amount of water that flows over Niagara Falls every 11 days. Add in the chemicals that make up detergents and stain removers and the amount of power used to heat water and run dryers, residential laundry generates 8.29% of total residential carbon emissions.  

Make this dirty job a little less dirty by trying out some of our Green Laundry Tips.

Wash your clothes in cold water. About 90% of the energy your washer uses is to heat water. However, you don’t really need hot water every wash to get your clothes clean. Using cold water instead can eliminate about 350 pounds of carbon dioxide and save you about $40 a year in utility costs. Start slow by only washing in hot once a month. Got really dirty or smelly clothes? Try mixing in a half-cup of white vinegar or borax to get smells out!

Fill that washer. Make sure you do a full load each time you run your washing machine.  Washing machines can use more than 40 gallons of water per load! Avoid wasting water and energy and wait to run the machine until you have a full load.

Upgrade your machine. If you need a new washer, consider an energy-efficient one. Front-loading washing machines that have been certified by Energy Star typically use between 18 and 25 gallons of water per load, compared to 40 gallons for older machines.

Use eco-friendly detergents and stain removers. Avoid laundry soap that contains chlorine bleach, synthetic fragrance, dyes, or brighteners. Consider a plant-based rather than petroleum-based detergent. The EPA offers this listing of safe laundry products. The non-profit Environmental Working Group has this Healthy Cleaning Guide that can help you find green detergents. You can also try making your own using this recipe list.

Forget the dryer sheets. Traditional dryer sheets often contain chemicals like limonene, acetaldehyde, and butane, as well as hidden fragrances. These toxic chemicals are emitted into the air through dryer vents and contribute to air pollution. They also can cause skin irritation.

Line-dry your clothing. Dryers emit more than a ton of carbon per year because of the energy it takes to run them. You can avoid these emissions by air-drying your clothes either indoors or in your backyard or balcony. In the winter, an indoor clothing rack can add much-needed humidity to the usually dry air. Skipping the dryer will also help your clothes last longer because high heat can dull colors or thin out fabrics.

Skip dry cleaning. Conventional dry cleaning is considered un-green because of the chemicals it uses. Research has linked perchloroethylene (also called “perc”), to health issues including cancer. Try to avoid dry cleaning by buying clothing that doesn’t require it. A lot of clothing that we dry clean can be hand washed quite safely, including fine fabrics like cashmere and lambswool. You can also look for eco-friendly dry cleaners that use liquid carbon dioxide instead of perc.

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