Keeping our clothes clean takes lots of energy. Electric washers and dryers can account for as much as 25% of your home electricity use. (ECOTEAM, 2003). With these small changes, we can make real energy savings.
Wash in cold
Simply heating the water to wash clothes amounts to 85% of the washing machine's power consumption. The best way to save money and energy is to wash and rinse clothes in cold water. Greasy stains may require hot water, but always rinse with cold water.
Run a full load
Partial loads waste energy and water. Try to run them full.
Use non-toxic detergents and cleaning aids
We don’t know if this will save you energy, but it is still a good idea. Visit our Clean Green page to learn why using non-toxic detergents and other cleaning products is important.
Use laundry detergents made from natural, readily biodegradable ingredients. Avoid perfumes, bleach, dyes and phosphates. These brands are good: Seventh Generation, Life Tree, Sun & Earth, Ecover and OXO-Brite. Almost all major chains (including Wal-Mart and Jewel) carry some eco-friendly alternatives. Jewel stocks their options in the organic/natural aisle. Trader Joe's has a private label liquid detergent that Darcy Costello likes. Soup to Nuts in Geneva has a fair selection. But Woodman's (at the corner of Orchard Road and Oak Street in North Aurora) has the best selection by far -- at reasonable prices too.
Laundry Detergent Booster
Use ½ cup baking soda with your regular laundry detergent to get clothes cleaner, fresher, brighter. Batavia's water is hard (approximately 25 grains per gallon.) If you don't have a water softener, add the 1/4 to 1/2 cup of baking soda to the water first. Let it sit 10 minutes and then add the soap and laundry.
Use a chlorine-free, natural bleaching mineral. In the stores, these are sold under Oxo Brite and Country Save non chlorine. The safest option is 1/2 cup of lemon juice added to the rinse cycle. The sun does a good job bleaching too.
Use 1 cup of white vinegar in the rinse cycle to soften clothes, remove odors and residual detergent.
Use dishwashing liquid for spot removal.
Hang the clothes out to dry on the line.
According to Co-Op American, the clothes dryer is the second largest electricity using appliance in your home consuming about 88 kwh/mo for a family of four. For the average user at Batavia's current rates, it costs approximately $9 per month to dry your clothes.
We could save energy and money by hanging the laundry out to dry. There are lots of options. You can run the line indoors or outdoors. My neighbors just bought a retractable line from Wal-Mart that works well. I bought a nice covered line from Walgreens about 5 years ago for less than $5. Ace Hardware has a couple of options including a 5 line retractable model that runs out 7 feet costing only $11. There are the umbrella pop-up models you can order on the internet.
This is the only part about laundry that I like – hanging the clothes out to dry. My family appreciates the smell and feel of the clothes when they come in. The exception is towels. They can get stiff.
At a minimum, clean your dryer filter before every load.
Only wash dirty clothes
Resist the tendency to throw clothes in the hamper unless they are truly dirty. Hang them up after each wearing. Eliminate small spots with a wet clothe and a little soap.
Consider energy saving appliances
When it is time to replace your old washer, consider purchasing one that saves on energy. The government rates appliances based on energy consumption and the data is online at www.energystar.gov. ENERGY STAR does not label clothes dryers since there is little difference in the energy use between models.