I’ve realized that so many weekly activities I do have significant environmental effects that I never considered in the past. From cooking to doing laundry to cleaning, I’m slowly analyzing these activities and making small changes that will help keep my household more environmentally friendly. I started in the kitchen, and you can check out my blog post about cutting out single-use plastics here. For this post, I’m focusing on 5 eco-friendly tips for doing laundry and sharing the simple changes I’ve made that I believe are realistic and achievable for almost any household to incorporate.
1. Turn Down the Heat
Did you know that the majority of energy used from doing laundry is associated with just heating up the water? By washing your clothes on cold or tap cold, you can save so much energy, and an added bonus, you won’t have to worry about shrinking any of your clothes!
2. Ditch the Dryer Sheets
Many dryer sheets are chalk full of chemicals that are not only harmful to the environment, but for your health as well. The chemicals used to make the fragrance in dryer sheets coat your clothes with a film of artificial, and often toxic chemical perfumes. This article does a good job of explaining health risks involved with dryer sheets if you want to read more. My favorite solution to this problem are wool dryer balls like these ones. Not only are these absolutely adorable, they will keep your clothes free from static, help dry them faster to save energy, and you can even add drops of essential oils to them if you want to maintain that fresh, clean smell. These also make awesome gifts, I recently bought my mom some for mother’s day and she has loved using them as well! Another good alternative to dryer sheets/ fabric softener is to use a quarter cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle, which will soften clothes without leaving a smell (haven’t tried this myself but know several people who have). This is a particularly good option if you’re trying out my next tip...
3. Ditch Drying Altogether
Another alternative to dryer sheets is to skip the dryer entirely and opt to line dry. I’ve started doing this with select loads to save energy (and money since it cuts down on your electric bill), and have also found other benefits, such as maintaining the quality and color of fabrics and avoiding pilling on materials like cotton and polyester. I don’t have a line to dry my clothes on yet, so instead I just hang my laundry from chairs, towel rods, on hangers, etc. and try to keep any darker colored clothes away from direct sunlight to avoid fading the color.
4. Discover Detergent Alternatives
Similar to dryer sheets, many laundry detergents contain harmful chemicals that you don’t want to be wearing all day. There are definitely some eco-friendly, natural detergent options to choose from that do not have chlorine bleach, synthetic fragrance, dyes, etc. and instead are plant (not petroleum) based. These natural options often contain biodegradable ingredients, and are formulated to perform well in cold water. However, I’ve found an even better option. My newest laundry obsession is these washer balls that I found on Amazon. They completely cut out the need for detergent! I originally got them because I have sensitive skin and was allergic to several liquid detergents I tried, and have been using them to replace detergent for about 2 months now. My laundry has come out just as clean as when I use detergent, with a subtly clean smell versus a strong perfume scent. (If you still want that scent, adding essential oils on the wool dryer balls work well!) I would recommend getting 2 washer balls to put in for medium to large loads, and they will work on any temperature setting. The company suggests putting them in the sun once a month for a couple hours to reactivate them, but other than that there is no upkeep, and they should last for 1,500 washings! For those of you curious about the science behind it, I’m not completely sure how it works, I just know there are small ceramic balls inside of them that perform different functions. Below are the descriptions that I pulled from the company’s website.
-Alkali balls increase the pH levels in water to the same level of detergents to help remove dirt and oils.
-Far Infrared balls break up water molecules to increase molecular motion and decrease surface tension, allowing dirt to be easily removed.
-Anti-Microbial balls eliminate mold and pathogenic organisms.
-Chlorine Removal balls eliminate the chlorine compound in water to protect fabrics from oxidation.
The reviews on Amazon are mixed, but mostly positive, and like I said these have worked great for me! It solved my allergy problem, and helps me avoid buying detergent packaged in single-use plastics and containing potentially harmful chemicals.
5. Wash Full Loads
The average American family washes nearly 400 loads of laundry every year. Even with the new high-efficiency washing machines that use 14-25 gallons of water per load, that’s a lot of water (at least 5,600 gallons)! Older washing machine models can use up to 40 gallons per load. Reducing the number of loads you do each week will save not only water, but money as well. I have mainly dark clothes, so my white loads tend to be less full. If I don’t have enough to do a complete load, I’ll try to wait as long as possible, or fill the load with other household items that need to be washed like shower and dish towels.
Have you experimented with eco-friendly laundry habits? If so, let me know what’s worked and what hasn’t in the comments below!
As always, 20% of profits from every purchase of Clam & Clasp handcrafted seashell jewelry are donated to non-profits focused on ocean conservation and keeping our planet clean and healthy. You can learn more and check out our partners here.