Each load of laundry requires a lot of water and energy. And not just from you, but the environment too. The average washing machine uses about 45 gallons of water per load and each family does over 300 loads of laundry each year. That means that each household uses at least 13500 gallons of water every year to clean their clothes.
There are some ways that you and your family can alter your laundry routine to make the chore easier on the environment. One of the more obvious changes would be to update your washing machine and dryer to an Energy Star rated efficient machine. However, purchasing new machines is expensive and not always an option.

Therefore, some other options are included to provide ideas for cost effective ways to update your laundry routine.

  • Wear clothes longer between washing. For clothes like jeans, t-shirts, sweaters, etc., wearing an item more than once before washing can significantly cut down on the amount of laundry done. The United Nations Environment Programme found that five times less energy is consumed by those who wear their jeans at least three times before washing, only use cold water, and skip the dryer and iron.
  • Wash clothing by hand. There are a lot of handy tools, such as a laundry plunger, that can make washing your clothes by hand pretty easy. You could even bring them into the shower with you. By hand washing your clothing, you use less water and get a good sense of just how much laundry you go through regularly.
  • Skip the dryer and use a clothes line. About 80% of the energy used in the laundry process comes from the dryer and each unit emits more than a ton of carbon dioxide each year. Therefore, completely cutting out the machine will really make a difference. Plus it'll help your clothes last longer since line drying causing less wear and tear than a dryer.
  • Use concentrated and biodegradable laundry soap. Concentrated laundry detergent have reduced packaging and a smaller carbon footprint since more product can be shipped using less space and fuel. You'll also get more bang for your buck. Just make sure the detergent is compatible for your machine.
  • Or even better, make your own laundry detergent. Last week's post included recipes for all kinds of homemade cleaning products, including a laundry detergent. Using that recipe will cut out any chemicals that may be found in detergent and will use ingredients that you already have in your pantry.
  • Avoid using chlorine bleach. When mixed with other cleaning products or chemicals, bleach can create toxic fumes and it's not much better on its own. Unless you absolutely need bright white clothes, drying clothes in the sun can work well enough, especially when combined with non-chlorine whiteners or eco-friendly bleaching methods.
  • Only wash full loads. Only doing laundry when you have a full load is a simple way to optimize each cycle. If you can't wait to do a full load, at least make sure to change the load size settings or if you only have a few items, just hand wash them.
  • Only wash with cold water. The majority of the energy used by a washing machine goes into heating the water. Therefore, using only cold water will cut down on energy costs significantly. Plus your clothes will come out just as clean. If you have extra dirty items or some tricky stains, you can always soak them for a little bit before washing them in a cold water cycle.
  • Skip the dryer sheets. Dryer sheets don't actually do a whole lot for your laundry. They're just an extra this to manufacture, purchase, and dispose of. Dryer sheets contain cancer causing chemicals and neurotoxins and leave remnants on your clothing. Plus they can break down the fibers of your clothing and shorten the life of your fabrics. Skipping them altogether is probably the best bet and your laundry won't even know the difference.
  • Head to the Laundromat. Laundromats generally have commercial washing machines which are often larger and more efficient. You can generally fit more into a load too, which means less loads overall.
  • Avoid Permanent Press. This setting is meant for fabric that has been chemically process to resist wrinkles and hold its shape and uses more water than other settings. If you can't avoid buying clothing that requires permanent press, try using a regular setting and then drying them for 5-10 minutes and letting them air dry.
  • Ditch the dry cleaner. Dry cleaners use a chemical, called perchloroethylene (perc), which has been shown to be dangerous to our health. Perc has been linked to numerous cancers, like bladder, esophageal, and cervical cancers, can reduce fertility, and causes eye, nose, throat, and skin irritation. Try to reduce or eliminate your use of dry cleaners, if you can. Hand-washing most delicates that typically require dry cleaning will work just as well.