Earth-friendly ways to wash and dry clothes

June 30, 2015

Simple changes in your laundry habits can help you reduce your water and energy consumption – and save money while you're at it.

Earth-friendly ways to wash and dry clothes

Wash in cold water

Eighty per cent of the energy required for a hot wash is used to heat the water, so use a cold wash whenever you can. Washing your clothes in cold water uses approximately 90 per cent less energy than if you use hot water. So what can you do?

Consider buying the most efficient model of washing machine that you can find and afford
Washing machines carry star ratings for both energy and water efficiency. The higher the number of stars (or, in some cases, an "A" for water efficiency), the more efficient the machine. Front-loading machines are generally more efficient than top-loaders.

Choose a capacity appropriate to your needs
For example, if you have a big family or regularly do large loads, you should select a larger machine. Multiple washes in a smaller-capacity washing machine will use more energy and more water.

  • If you're not planning to replace your washing machine anytime soon, instead of doing several smaller loads of laundry during the week, wait to do fewer, but larger, ones. They waste less water and energy.

Check how much water the machine uses per wash – the less the better
Look for models that allow you to vary water levels to match the size of the wash. Alternatively, opt for machines that sense the load size or allow you to set the load size.

Make sure that the machine has a cold wash cycle
Remember you will still need separate hot and cold water tap fittings for connection.

Avoid machines that take cold water only, heating it when hot water is required
This process is usually less efficient than using your piped hot water – especially if your water is heated by gas or solar power (the latter heats your water for free).

Of course, not everyone can buy a new washing machine at the drop of a hat. Which means if you have one in good working order, be mindful about using more cold (and less hot) water when doing the laundry.

Dry wisely

Hang the wash outside
Whenever the weather permits, hang your washing outside to dry. Ultraviolet light from the sun will help eliminate bacteria and dust mites. Even on damp days, choose to use a clothes horse placed under shelter or indoors rather than a dryer.

Shake and smooth out clothes prior to hanging them
This reduces the need for ironing.

Use lower heat settings
A mechanical clothes dryer is energy-hungry and generates significant amounts of greenhouse gases, so use it as little as possible. When you do, switch it to a medium setting rather than high.

Don't overload your machine or over-dry the clothes
Both use unnecessary energy; overloading will also crease your clothes and over-drying will increase wear and shrinking.

Separate loads of heavy and light items
Mixing them will increase the drying time.

Run your machine at night
If you have off-peak electricity, you will save money. Even if you don't, you'll help reduce demand for energy at peak times.

Use the spin cycle more
Use your washing machine spin cycle to dry clothes as much as possible before putting them in the dryer. This can cut greenhouse emissions by up to 64 ounces per load.

Make sure your dryer is in a well-ventilated room
Humidity can reduce the machine's efficiency.

Clean the lint filter in your machine after every load
If it is clogged, your dryer will use more energy and can become a fire hazard.

Going green in your laundry room doesn't have to require big changes; a few small adjustments to the way you wash your clothes can help you live a greener life.

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