Week 8

Lower-Waste Laundry

The average washing machine uses over 40 gallons of water per load (nps.gov)

The dryer uses over 4 times as much energy as the washer (energy.gov)

Scented laundry detergents and dryer sheets contain carcinogens that get into the air through laundry vents (washington.edu)

This week is going to be a challenge and recap in one, because, life. My husband typically does the laundry, so I told him he is off the hook this week. We already follow some pretty green laundry practices, but we can always do better.

Here are a few tips I’ve found that I will follow when I’m doing this week’s laundry, some of which are new and some of which we’ve been doing for a while:

  • Do your laundry at night (or early morning): This tip came from The New York Times Climate Fwd email, which is a great resource if you don’t already subscribe. Running your appliances at off times puts less strain on the energy grid. This also means not doing your dishes, laundry and baking a cake all at the same time. I started the laundry at 7:30 on Saturday morning, and waited until Sunday morning to do the last load.
  • Use the right settings: Our washer and dryer came with our house, and are not the newest models. We used to wash our clothes at the “energy saver” setting, but that used warm water. We switched to always using cold and have not noticed any downsides. This week, I also changed the spin setting to “hang dry,” which should mean they are good and rung out and will need less time to dry. For the dryer, I’m honestly not sure which setting is the most energy efficient, but read that the moisture-sensing setting is best, so will try that. It’s also very important to clean out the lint trap between loads, or the dryer has to work harder to dry the clothes.
  • Line dry as much as possible: It’s December in Minnesota, so drying clothes outside is not an option. We lost our bamboo drying rack in a previous move, so until we buy a new one, I am draping whatever I can over the ironing board, shower curtain rod and various hooks I can find around the house. And adding a drying rack to our shopping list this weekend!
  • Use eco-friendly laundry products: I am excited to finally use my bulk laundry detergent that I got at Tare Market. I only need to use one tablespoon per load, and best of all, there’s no plastic container to dispose of when we run out! For drying, my mother-in-law got us some wool dryer balls for Christmas several years ago, and they still work great. No more dryer sheets in this house!
  • Only wash things that are actually dirty: As Americans, we have a tendency to obsess over cleanliness. But just because you wore something once DOES NOT MEAN IT’S DIRTY. Does it pass the sniff test? Does it have any visible spots or stains? If not, put it back in the closet or drawer and not in the hamper. I was extra conscious of this all week, especially with pants, outer layers, pajamas and towels that can almost always be used multiple times before washing. I draw the line at underwear and socks.
Dryer balls and bulk laundry soap

So how did it go? More or less it went just fine. I learned that it does take a little more planning; if you’re washing something you want to wear the same day, for example, line drying isn’t going to cut it. We fit a week’s worth of laundry for four people into three loads, which is about typical for us. Ideally, we could cut down the number of loads by being even more conscious of wearing things until they are truly dirty.

I also learned that dryer lint is not compostable because of all the synthetic fibers in our clothes. So, a long-term goal will be to pay closer attention to what our clothes are made of and buy only 100% cotton or wool, which may not be possible but is a good thing to be mindful of nonetheless. I also want to look more into how to conserve or reuse the wash water, but that is for another week.

That’s it for now. What challenge should I tackle next week?

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