Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cleaning Step 5: Laundry

There are many great appliances in my house but one of my favorites is my washer and dryer. I can not imagine what it was like doing laundry for a houseful of people with out them. I do worry though about the impact my easy to use washer and dryer have on the environment. With a little investigation I have discovered a few easy ways to lessen my laundry footprint but still enjoy my favorite appliances.

First how much laundry do you really need to do? Most of us, me included, wash items that are not really dirty. Think about it how many times do you wear a shirt for only an hour or so and then throw it in to the hamper. Before throwing something into the hamper think is this item really dirty or could you wear it again? This thought alone has lessened my laundry especially when it comes to jeans and sweaters.

Just like dish detergent your laundry detergent also goes directly into the water system and can cause havoc on the environment. Along with being in the water detergents linger in the clothes and do not rinse out. Think about all those scented detergents the only way they can continue to scent your clothes is if they stay in your clothes and do not wash out. So the next step in greening your laundry is using less detergent. Over the last few years I have cut the recommended amount of laundry detergent I use by half and I am still getting clean clothes every week.

Also just like dish detergent and soaps be sure you are using one that is gentle on the environment. We like Seventh Generation but there are many other green options out there. The number one thing to know is the ingredients but since ingredients are not required to be listed it can be hard to find them. My personal rule of thumb is if the company is not straight forward with all of their ingredients I do not use the products. Your dollar is one of the most important ways you can make change so spend it wisely.
On my list of things to try is Soap Nuts. I think they could be great for the environment but finding them in the store is hard and they can be a bit expensive. Therefore they are on my someday list when I am in the right mood and have the time to try something new. For now I will stick with natural detergents.

Now that your load is lessened and you know what your laundry detergent is made of it is time to place your clothes in the washer. First unless it is something really germy (like cloth tissues, diapers, or cleaning rags) do not wash them on anything other then cold water. Washing in cold is better for the environment and your pocket book because you are not heating the water so you are using less electricity to wash your clothes. Washing in cold is also easier on you because when you are washing in cold you do not have to worry much about separating your colors and whites. At our house we wash everything together on cold making my job quite a bit easier. I do take out the jeans and other tougher fabric items to wash in their own load.

Always try to wash a full load which is easier to do when you are not separating everything into different piles. Washing a full load is the best use of the electricity and water used in the washing machine. If you can not wash a full load be sure to change the water level in the washer to reflect the load you are washing. You will still be using the same amount of electricity but you will be at least saving water. On the other hand do not stuff the washer overfull. The clothes need some space to move around when the washer is filled with water in order for them to be cleaned thoroughly. Open the top of your washer while it is cycling and check to see how the clothes fill the water. If it seems to crammed next time put in less clothes or if there seems to be excess water next time choose a lower water level of place more clothes in the wash. 

Now that you have washed your dirty clothes in a natural laundry detergent it is time to dry them. The best way by far is to line dry. Line drying is great for the environment, your pocket book, and your clothes. All of the lint that accumulates in your dryer is actually fibers from your clothes, which causes them to wear out much quicker. Hanging your clothes in the sun outside kills bacteria, whitens, and will fade stains. Just remember to hang non whites inside out and/or in the shade so that you do not fade the colored fabric. 

If you do not want to line dry your clothes or the weather outside makes it impossible then it is time to learn to use your dryer effectively. First if you are drying your clothes correctly there will be no need for those dryer sheets. Dryer sheets are filled with chemicals, can clog the dryer filter, and can create hazardous conditions leading to fires. We use dryer balls which help to not only keep away static but also separate the clothes so they dry quicker. Another way to prevent static is not to over dry your clothes. This also prevents wrinkles. You want to remove your clothes and hang them while they are still barely damp and not bone dry. The best way to do this if you are washing all your clothes together is to take out and immediately hang all of your shirts, pants, skirts, and dresses. Having a bar for hanging clothes in the laundry room is a good way to do this. Then place your socks, underwear, and other items back in the dryer for a few more minutes to finish drying. Or hang all of your clothes to finish drying (I just do not have the space to hang every sock and pair of underwear in my laundry room).

 Want to read more check out the links below
Scented Laundry Products Emit Hazardous Chemicals Through Dryer Vents

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