How to Save Energy in the Laundry

Three Parts:WashingDryingOther ways to minimize laundry energy use

Laundries are big energy suckers, from the washing machine to the dryer. It is possible to reduce this impact by following some simple ideas that won't cause too much change in your regular laundry tasks.

Part 1
Washing

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    Prefer the cold water cycle. When washing your clothes, the cold water cycle is the best option in most cases. Get a detergent capable of handling cold washes; most eco-friendly detergents are designed this way.
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    Wash full loads. Only wash when there are enough clothes to fill your washing machine. This makes the most of each load.
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    Wash lightly soiled items the quick way. Either washed lightly soiled items using the "quick" cycle on low water, or try your hand at washing them in the tub with a few quick scrubs of your own.
    • Where possible, cut the wash cycle down to less than 10 minutes for each load
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    Use a good quality detergent to take out stains. That way, no pre-soaking is necessary.
    • Use laundry softener in the wash unless you like the feel of rough towels to dry with. Some people do, so choose what feels best.
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    Wash less laundry. Yes, this is personal, and yes, you should change your underwear every day like mom said. Still, if you try (and teach your family to do the same), you can cut down on the amount of laundry you produce.
    • Avoid changing clothes multiple times per day.
    • Wear outer clothing, like pants, skirts, and jackets, more than once before washing it, if you don't spill anything on it. As a bonus, they'll last longer too.
    • Wear the same pajamas for a few nights in a row before washing.
    • Hang towels to dry after each use and you can use them for multiple showers. Get each family member a different color or a different hook, if you need to.

Part 2
Drying

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    Hang the clothes outside to dry. Where possible, avoid using the dryer and hang your clothes out to dry. A powered clothes dryer is one of the least energy-efficient appliances in any household, whereas a clothesline or clothes rack is naturally solar powered. Line drying ensures really clean and beautiful smelling clothes and linens. It also is a great way to end a cold wash, as the sun bleaches any germs right out of the fabrics.
    • Did you know you can put sheets on the bed while they're still wet? It sounds a bit strange, but cotton sheets are thin fabric, and they will dry very quickly if left uncovered.
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    • While people often used clothespins to hang on a line, you can save time and energy and dry more clothes if you put them on hangers, then place them on the line and hold them in place with a clothespin to anchor the hanger to the line
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    • If you are hanging clothes outside, hang the heavy items at the ends of the line and smaller, shorter items in the middle
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    Dry clothing indoors, as needed. A folding indoor clothes rack is enough for a load of socks and underwear. It's indoors, so won't get you in trouble with the apartment complex or homeowners' association, and it will dry laundry even if it's raining outside.
    • Dry your clothes on clothing rods in doorways.
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    • Air dry socks and underwear even if you don't like to air dry the rest. It's easier on the elastic, and it doesn't matter if your underwear is wrinkled.
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    • When hang drying towels, fold them in half and pin to hangers.
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    Invest in clothes hangers and clothes pins. Hang heavy items with hoods or long sleeves upside down using clothes pins to dry them faster.
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    Shut the door to the room where you are hang drying your clothes. This will keep the area warmer and the items will dry faster.
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    Pin socks to hangers with clothespins. They'll dry well and this is a great way to keep the mates together.
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    Hang dry sheets and blankets when possible. However, they must be checked, and when dry to touch on outside folds, then turn them wrong side out and dry the other layers.
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    Use the drying to increase indoor humidity. For dry climates, indoor drying is a great way to increase humidity in the wintertime in your house.
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    Check your clothes occasionally to make sure they are getting dry, at the end of the day. You do not want to hang them too closely together or they might not dry as well.
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    Choose an energy efficient dryer if you must use one. If you like putting clothes through the dryer because this gets rid of wrinkles and softens fabric, put them in for just a few minutes and take them out damp and hang them up for the rest of the drying. You'll get the same effect and save energy.

Part 3
Other ways to minimize laundry energy use

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    Get an energy-efficient machine. Front-loaders have had a lot of good press in recent years about their efficiency but they can have two drawbacks - they are pricey and when they break, they can be harder to fix. For some people, bending down to reach in is also a problem. If you can afford a good quality one and you can place it somewhere accessible, they make a great energy-efficient choice. If not, look for quality top loaders with good energy ratings. The later models are competing well with their energy-efficient front-loader cousins and may well be just as good.
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    Look into natural washing solutions for stains. Rather than using harsh chemicals that can harm you and the environment, look in wikiHow's clothing stain removal suggestions for many great natural product suggestions for washing out problems without creating any more.
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    Look for iron-free solutions. To lessen the ironing, fold clothes directly out of a dryer and they will not wrinkle. Fold clothes directly from the clothesline and pack away immediately. Look for wrinkle-free clothing options, provided they are eco-friendly. And don't bother ironing weekend wear, if you're wearing it around the house and garden.

Tips

  • Get a clothes horse for the rainy days and hang it up for indoor drying. Always keep well away from open heat sources, however, in case of fire hazards.
  • Upgrade old washing machines; they use a lot more energy than the newer ones.
  • Use a spin dryer which use a small fraction of the energy that tumble dryers use.

Warnings

  • If you do not check on your clothes when hang drying indoors, and you hang them too close together (no closer than 2 inches apart) then you may end up with wet spots that do not dry or develop an odor of mildew.

Things You'll Need

  • Energy efficient washing machine
  • Clothesline
  • Pegs or clothespins
  • Natural washing powders
  • Natural washing solutions for stubborn stains

Article Info

Categories: Laundry | Sustainable Living