Washing clothes the sustainable way no longer means beating your clothes with a rock down at the local creek. Laundry is one of the most energy-intensive chores in the average household, so try these easy tips for a green laundry next time you're faced with a mountain of dirty clothes. And remember, there are also ways to reduce the impact of your dry cleaning.
1. Avoid Doing Laundry at all Costs
Hate doing laundry? Then don't do it. (That was easy, right?) If you clothes aren't truly dirty and don't smell, consider wearing them a second or even third time before tossing them in the laundry bin. A coat rack in your bedroom may the greatest green laundry innovation ever: Just hang up your clothes where they can air out and are easy to grab the next time you're getting dressed.
2. Fill 'er upNow that you've waited until the last possible minute to do your laundry, go ahead and load up the washing machine -- all the way up. Doing full loads in both the washer and the dryer is the most efficient and energy-saving way to wash clothes -- and it saves you time, too.
3. Green Laundry: Nice and Cold
About 90 percent of the energy used in washing clothes is the result of heating the water, according to most experts. Washing in cold water is not only more energy-saving, it's also better for your clothes. At the very least, save the hot water cycle for your whites, and wash dark and colored clothes in cold water.
4. Some Suds Are DudsWith a bewildering array of detergents in most stores, it's easy to get confused. Look for detergents that have few or no phosphates. Eco-friendly detergents like Cot’n Wash, Seventh Generation and Country Save usually contain no phosphates and aren't made from petroleum products (surprisingly, many commercial detergents are). Most fabric softeners and dryer sheets are a waste of money -- and some contain harsh chemicals that can irritate the skin. One cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle is a smart, inexpensive fabric softener -- it's also a great stain remover and fabric brightener.
5. On the Line
6. White OutChlorine bleach is a powerful caustic agent that has been associated with diseases like cancer; it's also blamed for environmental problems like ozone layer damage. If you need to get your white their whitest, try using a hydroxide-powered bleach like Country Save.
7. Machine Age
Not everyone's in the market for a new washing machine or dryer -- and keeping your existing machines instead of buying new ones is a pretty green laundry choice. But if it's really time to upgrade, spend a little more cash for an energy-saving machine that's Energy Star-rated. It will probably be a front-loading washing machine, which uses about half the water, and needs half the detergent, of a regular top-loading machine.
8. Pig Iron
No sane person really enjoys ironing. It's the worst kind of drudgery, it uses a lot of energy, and most of the time it isn't necessary. Here's a tip: Hang up shirts when they're still wet; the weight of the water in the fabric will pull the wrinkles out. Folding clothes while they're still warm from the dryer is another way to avoid wrinkles -- and the chore of ironing.