Washers and dryers use a lot of energy - the dryer is second only to the refrigerator in energy use for the typical household's appliances - but it doesn't have to be that way. Now that spring is in the air, there are plenty of ways to launder your clothes in a more eco-friendly fashion. Here are some tips:
- If your neighborhood association permits one, use a clothesline. According to the New York Times, if all Americans line-dried for just half a year, it would save 3.3 percent of the country’s total residential output of carbon dioxide, experts say. Pinned to a line outside, your clothes will smell like a spring day. Apartment dwellers don't have to be left out, though. Indoor clotheslines and drying racks are a good alternative for small loads (I have one that fits in my shower).
- When you wash your clothing, use cold water whenever possible. It uses less energy than warm or hot.
- Disposable dryer sheets can amount to a lot of waste. Some people swear by using tennis balls to fluff your clothes (but this is a practice that the Soap and Detergent Association discourages.) A safe bet is dryer balls, which look a little bit like dog toys. Here's one place to buy them.
4. When you use your dryer, make sure you clean out the lint trap before each use. A dirty lint screen can cause your dryer to use up to 30 percent more energy - and it can be a fire hazard.
5. Try a laundry detergent that's vegetable-based. Grist has done a thorough review of several green laundry detergents out there.
6. Try to minimize the waste that comes from your laundry products. Instead of buying giant gallons of detergent, go for the concentrate. You could also try Dropps, which come in pre-measured, dissolveable pouches.
7. Hydrogen peroxide is a cheap and safe alternative to bleach (which is bad for our lungs, our rivers and our oceans), and it can brighten your whites in the laundry.
8. Many other household items can make good laundry agents - like asprin, which can remove yellow armpit stains from white shirts. You'll save money by not buying additional stain cleaners. Find other DIY stain solutions here.
9. When ironing, save time (and therefore, energy) by putting a sheet of aluminum foil on the board. It will reflect back the heat and iron both sides of the fabric at once. Another green way to minimize wrinkles is to hang lightly-wrinkled garments in the back of your bathroom door while you shower. The steam will smooth out the wrinkles.
10. Forget the Febreeze. Try an all-natural sachet of lavender or other pleasant scents in stinky shoes, or drawers of clothing.