When it comes to clothes, one size does not fit all. The same goes for the laundry room. In some homes, it’s relegated to a cobwebbed corner in the unfinished basement. In others, it’s a small hallway linking the garage and the house, usually crowded by shoes and coats. Some homes don’t have a dedicated space. And if you are an apartment dweller, you may share a laundry room with the other tenants of your building.
All of which probably explains why — while you have put time and effort into making the rest of your home as energy-efficient and eco-friendly as possible — the laundry room or area has not been top of mind. Now there is no shortage of laundry room hacks to make your space feel bigger than it is. The goal is to maximize what little you have, whether it’s by adding laundry bins and coat racks to the walls, stacking your washer and dryer, or installing shelves.
Greenifying how you do your laundry is like that, too — taking simple, organized steps to get you the most cleaning power while doing as little environmental damage as possible. Here are 10 of them:
Stop washing so much
While there are obvious exceptions — underwear and socks, to name two — not all clothes need to be washed after every use. Unless they are especially grimy or stained — or they smell — sweaters, shirts, and other items, can be worn more than once before they need to be tossed into the wash. Not only will you be saving time (and money thanks to lower power bills), but you will also be conserving water and energy.
Switch to eco-friendly detergent
Tired of wiping up spills from that heavy plastic jug of liquid detergent — or even lugging it around? SaltyLama’s sustainable, eco-friendly detergent strips are slim and light, and the packaging is biodegradable and compostable. Better yet, our strips are plant-based, containing none of the harmful chemicals in traditional detergents — from phosphates and surfactants to dyes and brighteners. And because the strips are hypoallergenic, they are perfect for people with allergies or sensitive skin.
Use natural stain removers
Traditional detergents contain toxins that can harm both human health and the environment. The same is true of stain removers that may contain such ingredients as chlorine. Instead, the next time you’re shopping for a stain remover, look for a plant-based one — it’ll be better for your health and planet without compromising your washing needs.
Wash in cold water
People use hot water because they believe it sanitizes their clothes, but any machine’s normal hot cycle won’t get hot enough to kill germs. Instead, by switching to cold water, you’ll get the same clean result while conserving energy and saving money on your bills. For the same reason, try shortening your wash cycles.
Keep the lint filter clean
The more lint, the harder your dryer needs to work. So, by cleaning out the filter with every use, you’re reducing the machine’s energy use — and drying your clothes faster. (This also extends the life of your dryer.) Ideally, it would be best to wash the screen with soap and vacuum out any lint you missed while it’s off.
Lose the fabric softener
In making your clothes soft and comfortable, you’re potentially exposing yourself and your family to chemicals found in traditional fabric softeners. So why not try an eco-friendly alternative? They’re easier to find than you may think. For example, toss a new tennis ball in with your wet clothes. Or you can brew your own homemade softener, combining baking soda, water, and vinegar. Just add the non-toxic formula to your machine’s compartment.
Ditch the dryer sheets
First, ask yourself: do you really need them? Or is it simply part of a routine you have never questioned? If so, now is the perfect time to re-assess what you need — and what you can do without. Being eco-friendly is, after all, about conservation and causing as little impact as possible. However, if you decide you can’t do without them, opt for wool dryer balls in place of dryer sheets. They create a lot less waste and will do just fine hammering out those wrinkles and creases.
Microplastics are fragments shed from larger items such as bottles, car tires, and synthetic clothes — and they have created a plastic pollution crisis. Every time you do a wash, you shed these microplastics into the planet’s waterways and, ultimately its oceans. And by some estimates, there are as many as 24 trillion pieces of microplastics currently in the upper oceans. From there, they end up in fish and the human food supply.
Staggering numbers like that may make it feel like an insurmountable problem. But you can do your part by keeping the microplastics in your clothes from ever leaving your machine. Both laundry bags and balls are currently on the market that will capture microplastics when tossed in with your wash. For something that requires a bit more work, there are external filters you can install that will snag the fibers before they enter the public water system.
Hang your clothes to dry
Using a clothesline to dry your laundry is a perfect way to cut your power bills and energy consumption. If hanging your clothes outside isn’t an option, you can install a drying rack indoors — on the wall or ceiling.
Put down the iron
If ironing your clothes is one of your least favorite chores, we have good news. Some alternatives will also consume a lot less electricity. Yes, you can carefully hang dry your clothes — smoothing them out as they dry — but you can also sling up some of your wet clothes in the bathroom while you shower. The steam will remove any wrinkles without damaging the material. Pull out your hairdryer for a more minor, managed burst of heat if you want to target a specific wrinkle or two.