Tips for doing eco-friendly laundry

The earth-friendly laundry philosophy works on simple principles: use less energy in washing and heating water, and use cold water whenever possible. Also, opt for environmentally preferred soaps and powders that are no more expensive, just as good for your fabrics and better for the garden if you want to reuse the water.

Tips for doing eco-friendly laundry

1. Washing sense

  • Wait until you have a full load before running your machine. If you have to do a smaller wash, remember to reset the water level.
  • Stick to a short cycle, which is usually sufficient for all but heavily soiled items.
  • Don't use any more detergent than you need. It won't make the clothes any cleaner, they'll be more difficult to rinse properly and you will waste soap and energy – for every 100 g (three and a half oz.) of detergent that is produced, about 1.3 kg (46 oz.) of greenhouse gases are emitted.
  • Use eco-friendly detergents and soaps that are petrochemical- and phosphate-free or low in phosphate. Choose concentrated forms – they don't have the bulking agents of other products, are cheaper and need less packaging.
  • If your washing machine has a suds or rinse-water save feature, use it. If not, collect final rinse water from a top-loader by holding the outlet pipe over a bucket, and pour it back into the machine before starting the next wash.
  • Clean the washing machine filter regularly to keep your machine working efficiently.
  • Look at installing a diverter to redirect wastewater from your machine to a garden irrigation system.

2. Cold water saves energy

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. You'll also cut greenhouse emissions as a hot wash generates 15 times as much greenhouse gas as a cold wash.

3. Ideal washing machine features

  • Variable temperature control – to allow use of cold water
  • Load-size sensor or other reduced-load function – minimizes water usage
  • Range of wash cycles to suit different fabrics – gentler on clothes
  • High spin speed (front-loaders mainly) – saves on drying time, and energy if you use a dryer
  • Suds- or rinse-water saver – recycles rinse water for use in subsequent washes
  • Anti-crease features, for example, permanent press cycles or end-of-cycle tumble functions (front-loaders), or rinse or spin 'hold' functions (top-loaders) – reduce the need for ironing.
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