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Greening Your Laundry Routine

By Edited Nov 23, 2013 0 2

Green is definitely in. But in reality people shouldn't green their routines because it is what everyone else is doing, but rather because it a good thing for your family, the environment, and even your pocket book. The laundry room is one location where a lot of money is spent, there are a lot of chemicals used that just aren't good for us, and all together it is bad for the environment. But you can make changes. Start making small ones today and you can make a huge difference.

If you are going to buy a new washer and/or dryer.
If you are one of the few people who needs a new washer and or dryer (or you have some extra money for a new one) then it is a good idea to shop around. Now a days spending extra on a washer or dryer that uses less energy and less water can save you a lot of money in the long run. Do a little comparative shopping (without a sales guy). Check reviews online and look for ones that will save these precious resources and help out your pocket book at the same time.

Tips for saving resources without buying a new washer or dryer.
While many of us would love to replace our current washer and dryer with something more efficient, not all of us can. If that is the case there are some things that you can do to help save your resources.

  • Fill the washer to its largest load size if you have lots of laundry. It is better to run a large load then two small loads.
  • If doing a smaller load use your washer's water setting to use less water.
  • Wash in cold water. Most of us grew up learning different clothes and colors to wash in different temperatures. However, you can wash all your clothes in cold water and save on not heating the water up. It works just as well as warm and hot water without the hassel or expense.
  • Set your dryer at a lower temperature (if possible) and a lower amount of time. It is always better to go back and turn it back on rather then to over dry your clothes and have to pay for the energy that is required during that time.
  • Whenever possible dry clothes outside or hung up. It saves a lot of energy when you aren't using the dryer. See Tips For Drying Your Clothes Without a Dryer for more information.

Evaluate your cleaning supplies.
There are usually a wide range of chemicals that we use in the laundry room. They include laundry detergent, fabric softener, fabric softener sheets, bleach, and stain removing products. Most of these are really bad for our families and the environment. Some are worse then others.
  • Laundry detergent- Of the chemicals used in the laundry room laundry detergent is really the least of your worries. It has some harsh chemicals and most have a few bad things in them, but it is the best chemical in the room.
  • Fabric softener- Liquid fabric softener may make your clothes softer and smell nicer, but it is really bad for your household. The chemicals used to soften the fabric stay in the fabric. Then they heat up in the dryer becoming air borne. They are bad for the lungs and in many cases the skin as well. All in all, it is a good idea to loose the fabric softener all together.
  • Fabric softener sheets- Fabric softener sheets are actually made with the same types of chemicals that liquid fabric softener is made with. They are just made into sheets and used in the dryer. They get warm and release the same chemicals into the air, polluting your indoor air quality.
  • Bleach- This common household chemical is actually really scary. It combines with organic matter to produce toxic waste and yet we use it to aid us with all sorts of cleaning. It should be removed from the house hold altogether.
  • Spot cleaners- Most spot cleaners are stronger versions of laundry detergent. They have a few more chemicals to aid in punching it up a notch and getting rid of stains. However, there are lots safer alternatives.

Laundry detergent.
This isn't one of the really bad things we use in our household on a regular bases and choosing to keep it around can be a lot easier then eliminating it. You do have a few options in making it a slightly better choice and you can remove it from your life and produce an alternative that works just as well.
  1. Use less of it. Companies that sell laundry detergent want you to believe that you have to use an entire cap full in order to get your clothes clean. However it makes it hard to rinse out and it doesn't clean better this way. Using 1/3 to 1/2 a cap full will get the job done just as well, eliminate residue in your clothing (giving them longer life), and help out the environment in and out of your home. Plus you will be saving money!
  2. Buy a greener option. Now there are more and more companies producing "green" laundry detergent. Many of these don't list the ingredients (they don't have to) and they aren't necessarily completely "green", but they are better for the environment then their counterparts. You can pick up one of these and give it a try. Many get the same results as other laundry detergents. They are, however, a bit more expensive. You can also use a portion of the recommended amount just as you would with regular detergent.
  3. You can also use a small amount of castille soap. Castille soap is available in a liquid or a solid and is an all natural soap product made from all plant oils (used to be just olive oil, but now many are made from a wide range of plants). Using a couple of tablespoons of this will get your clothes clean and you will have done a very green thing. You can shred solid types and just use liquid types as is.
  4. Finally you can make your own. There are a variety of ways you can do this and choosing one isn't that hard. See Making Your Own Laundry Detergent for more information.

Fabric softener and fabric softener sheets.
These are truly the worst chemicals in the laundry room. As such finding alternatives to soft fabric is definitely a must. You have a few different options for softer fabric without the harsh chemicals.
  1. Buy a greener option. There are some greener options out on the market now a days. You can purchase one of these though it will be more expensive then the more harmful counterpart. You can also use less of it by diluting it with water or by using 1/2 the recommended amount.
  2. Make your own. In a medium bowl mix 2 cups of water and 1 cup of vinegar. Slowly add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the mix. Use 1 cup in each wash. This works well and allows you to throw it in the beginning with no hassle. In addition to softening your fabrics it will also help make them smell clean and fresh and help remove stains.
  3. Use vinegar. Distilled white vinegar is definitely a green cleaning option that should be used all over the house. It is also a good fabric softener. Just add 1/4 cup to the final rinse and it will get the job done. If you don't have a washer that will distribute the vinegar into the last rinse then consider buying a Downy ball. They are made to put Downy fabric softener in and release it in the rinse cycle. However, they also work for vinegar and eliminate trying to catch the rinse cycle.
  4. If line drying then throw your clothes in the dryer for ten minutes to add a little fluff to them. Do your sheets and towels for fifteen.
  5. A pair of dryer balls are also a great way to add a little extra fluffing to the dryer. This makes your clothes much softer. Don't want to pay extra for something like that? Get a pair of tennis balls instead, they will do the same thing!

Bleach should be avoided at all costs. Whiten and brighten your fabric with an oxygen based cleaner or better yet throw a 1/2 cup of vinegar or a 1/2 cup of baking soda in the washer with the wash. If your clothes are really bad you can add both! If you want to know more about why bleach shouldn't be used then see the article Why You Should Stop Using Bleach.

Stain removers.
Often we buy stain removers because we like the idea of spraying it down and throwing it in. With a little work you can scrub stains clean using the same detergent you normally use. Another option is Fels-nappa which is a solid castille soap. Use it to scrub up your stains. It is a little more work, but also lots cheaper and lots healthier.

You can green your laundry routine as little or as much as you want. Each little step can make a big difference in the health of your family, the health of planet, and even your budget. Take a step in the right direction, it will make a difference.


Apr 16, 2012 5:31am
When people think about going green they always think that it'll take huge action but it doesn't. A few small steps soon adds up over time. I enjoyed reading your article.
Apr 16, 2012 10:04am
Well...it can certainly make a huge difference if you do major changes, but the truth is most people can't/don't have time/won't make huge changes and a bunch of easy and simple steps can really add up. I am glad that you have enjoyed this article. I have more green articles in the plans. :-D
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