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27 ways to be greener in the laundry


  1. Keep your washing machine running efficiently. Run a regular cycle without clothes or detergent, adding in a large bottle of cheap white vinegar into the drum. The vinegar will dissolve limescale as well as soap scum, so your clothes will be cleaner with less detergent.
  2. Use cold water to do your laundry – the majority of the energy used by your washing machine is to heat the water.
  3. Choose ultra concentrated detergents and softeners. These use less packaging, as well as less energy to transport.
  4. If you are not using ultra concentrated products, then buy your washing detergent in bulk – this uses a lot less packaging, and is usually about 30% cheaper.
  5. Use only half as much detergent as recommended. This is all that is necessary for all but the dirtiest loads.
  6. Most commercial laundry detergents are made from petroleum-based products, which deplete a non-renewable resource and create significant pollution during manufacture. Where possible, buy greener alternatives that are plant-based and phosphate-free. Even better, make your own – check out Rhonda’s blog Down-to-Earth for some great recipes.
  7. Laundry balls are an even better option – these reusable balls use oxygen to clean your clothes.
  8. Homemade fabric softener is just as effective as commercial products – mix 1 cup each of washing soda, white vinegar and water. Add 4 – 5 drops of essential oil and store in a screw top bottle. Use as per regular fabric softener.
  9. Presoak very dirty or stained items. This means you can still use cold water and less detergent for the main wash.
  10. Try and only run a cycle when the load is full to save energy.
  11. If you have to run a half full load, and your machine doesn’t have an automatic water sensor, set it manually to use half the water.
  12. Set your spin cycle to the fastest spin possible (except for delicates). This will remove the most water from your clothes, saving drying time.
  13. Line dry your clothes whenever possible. Not only will you save energy and money, but your clothes will last longer as well.
  14. Invest in a portable, foldable line for drying indoors during winter. I have this one, and love it as it can fit a full load.
  15. If you have to use the dryer, then do several loads at one after another. The heat left over from the first load will help to dry the next loads faster.
  16. Heavy items such as jeans and towels take forever in the dryer. Partially dry in the dryer, and then hang to dry over some chairs or a banister. This gives you the best of both worlds. Toss in a dry towel and you will reduce drying time even more.
  17. Try to avoid using dryer sheets as these are incredibly wasteful. If you do use them, reuse them to clean around the house. The slight static charge and the weave of the sheets are great for grabbing hold of dust.
  18. Invest in some dryer balls like these. They can help dry your load 25% faster and remove the need to use fabric softener or dryer sheets. Search them out on the web – I found mine for just $3.95.
  19. Don’t throw away the lint from your dryer. Birds can use it to feather their nests. Place outside near the birdbath or bird feeder.
  20. Don’t throw way your odd socks – they make wonderful cleaning gloves. Put your hand inside, and dust away with a non-toxic cleaning spray. Throw in the washing machine and reuse again and again.
  21. When it is time to replace your laundry basket, look for a wood or wicker basket instead of plastic.
  22. Recycle your wire coat hangers. Most drycleaners gladly accept these.
  23. Ask your drycleaner if they can hang your clothes in cloth garment bags that you provide. These are better for your clothes and for you (they allow them to breathe, dispersing the chemicals), and saves on using more plastic bags.
  24. Use a “green” drycleaner. More and more drycleaners are using greener chemicals in the cleaning process.
  25. Best of all, though, is to minimise drycleaning all together. Spot clean where possible, and air out clothes that are not soiled. Better yet, don’t buy Dry Clean Only clothing.
  26. When it is time to get a new washing machine, invest in a front loader. These are more expensive, but they use significantly less water, less detergent (usually a quarter to half the amount) and less energy and are gentler on your clothes.
  27. When you get a new front loader, get a dual connection model that takes hot water from your hot water system, rather than heating it having the machine heat it, which is much more energy efficient.

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