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Laundry - 6 Tips for Eco-friendly Laundry

If you want to lead a greener lifestyle, consider changing your laundry routine.  By taking an environmentally friendly approach to your washing, you can save money, reduce your carbon footprint, prevent water pollution and lower your exposure to toxic chemicals. Here are six practical ways you can make your laundry habits more Eco-friendly.


Hang your washing outdoors in the summer


An electric dryer used three times a week generates over 160kg CO2 per year.  Hanging your laundry on a clothesline is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint.  The sun acts as a natural bleaching agent and deodorizer, leaving your clothes clean and fresh.  Getting outside to hang your laundry in the morning is a healthy, active way to start the day.


Hang your washing indoors in the winter


Since you're already using energy to heat your home in winter, there's no need to waste more on drying your clothes.  Several types of indoor drying racks and clothes airers are available with designs to fit into small spaces.  Place one near a radiator or heating vent for faster drying.  As clothes dry indoors, they add moisture to the air, eliminating the need for a humidifier. 


Wash in cold water


Water heating consumes about 90% of the energy it takes to run a clothes washer. Making the switch to cold-water washing could eliminate about 1,600 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year.  Unless you're dealing with oily or greasy clothes, cold water will generally clean them just as well as hot water.  In fact, hot water can set blood, make-up and food stains, making them more difficult to remove.


Switch your soap


About 76% of the phosphorus in commercial detergents ends up in surface waters, where it contributes to an overgrowth of algae that can have dire consequences for fish and wildlife.  Liquid castile soap makes a good substitute for laundry detergent.  Use ¼ cup per load and apply a little more directly on any tough stains.  Castile is also gentle enough for hand-washing wool, silk and delicate items.


Switch your softener


There's no need to buy chemical fabric softeners when a cheap natural alternative is widely available.  Just add ½ cup of white vinegar to your washing machine's rinse cycle. It will soften clothes to stop them from becoming stiff when you line dry them.  Don't worry about the sharp vinegar smell.  It disappears as the clothing dries.


Ditch the bleach


Chlorine in bleach can react with carbon-containing substances to form organochlorides which damage the ozone layer.  Lemon juice is a safe, citrus-smelling alternative.  To brighten dingy white fabrics, add half a cup of lemon juice to the washing machine's rinse cycle.  To remove stains and 'ring around the collar' from white shirts, put lemon juice in a spray bottle and spritz it over the discolored areas. Lemon's bleaching power is enhanced by drying clothes in the sun.


The combustion of fossil fuels to generate electricity accounts for 37% of total US CO2 emissions. If all Americans switched to washing their clothes in cold water and hanging them up to dry our use of electricity, and its impact on the planet, could be significantly reduced.