Sustainable Laundry Tips for an Eco-Friendly Home

Laundry often uses an exorbitant amount of water and energy every year. Follow these tips to establish a more sustainable laundry routine at home!

Published on
May 15, 2024
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Sustainable Laundry Tips for an Eco-Friendly Home


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Washing your clothes is an unavoidable household chore. However, this mundane task is a massive drain on energy, water, and money. Each year, the average American family does around 300 loads of laundry, which adds up to about 6,000 gallons of water (Verchot, 2020). 

By making small adjustments to the way you do laundry, you can help protect the environment, reduce your utility bills, and keep your family safe from toxic chemicals present in many common laundry detergents, dryer sheets, and fabric softeners. Here are eight tips to make your laundry days more eco-friendly:

1. Choose products with eco-friendly packaging

In the United States, approximately one billion plastic laundry detergent jugs are thrown away each year, clogging up landfills and waterways (Kupec, 2023). Instead of tossing your laundry detergent jugs when they’re empty, refill and reuse them! Many eco-friendly brands offer refills of their detergents so you can reuse your laundry detergent jug over and over again (Cottrell, 2022). 

Alternatively, select products that don’t use plastic packaging and that come in a recyclable container (Kupec, 2023). If plastic-free or re-fillable laundry detergent options are not accessible for you, try re-using the jugs for other uses to extend the packaging’s usability.

2. Wash your clothes with cold water

Although many people believe washing your clothes in warm water is more effective and hygienic, this isn’t actually the case. According to Harvard University, using cold water to wash your clothes is equally as effective as using warm water, even for removing stubborn stains like sweat and blood. 

Plus, using cold water conserves energy and prevents your clothes from bleeding or shrinking. Thus, by washing your clothes in cold water, you can keep them pristine for longer while helping preserve the environment (Kupec, 2023). 

3. Use a DIY laundry detergent

Many traditional laundry detergents use harsh chemicals that can be harmful to people, pets, and the environment. Homemade laundry detergents are a great alternative to store-bought products because you can control what ingredients you’re using to ensure your detergent is gentle and safe, yet effective. Castile soap is an easy-to-make all-purpose cleaner that can be used in place of laundry detergent. Most castile soap recipes require very few ingredients, many of which you may already have around the house. 

Another option is to use vinegar to clean your clothes. Instead of traditional detergent, pour half a cup of distilled white vinegar into your washing machine. This will help soften and whiten your clothes. If you want an even deeper clean, add a little bit of baking soda to the vinegar (Kupec, 2023). 

4. Get a more sustainable washing machine

Not everyone can afford to purchase a brand-new washing machine on a whim, but if your washer is at the end of its life and in need of a replacement, consider purchasing an eco-friendly washing machine. 

Although they may be more expensive than top-loading washing machines, newer front-loading washing machine models are cost-effective in the long run. In comparison to top-loaders, front-loading washing machines use nearly 2,000 gallons less water per year (Kupec, 2023). For every cycle, front-loading washing machines marked by the Energy Star logo use about 18 to 25 gallons of water versus the 40 gallons averaged by older machines (Verchot, 2020). 

Front-loaders are also more energy efficient — they drive more water out of your clothes using faster spin cycles, meaning they don’t need to spend as much time in the dryer — and therefore waste less water and money than older washing machine models (Kupec, 2023). 

5. Swap out your dryer sheets

Traditional dryer sheets are neither reusable nor biodegradable, and oftentimes they even contain dangerous chemicals. Instead of dryer sheets, give wool dryer balls a try! They have the same effect as regular dryer sheets — reducing wrinkles, helping clothes dry faster, and making clothes feel softer — but they’re better for the environment and your skin health. 

If you still want the lovely, clean scent that traditional dryer sheets leave on your clothes, sprinkle a few drops of your favorite essential oil on your dryer balls before using them. This provides the same fresh smell without the worry of toxic chemicals potentially irritating your skin (Kupec, 2023). 

6. Always wash a full load of clothes

Sometimes, it can be difficult to coordinate your laundry schedule with family members, resulting in several loads of laundry every week. However, it’s best to limit your household to one load of laundry per week when possible. You can do so by filling your washing machine to full capacity instead of washing a few items at a time. Washing full loads helps you save on electricity, water, and money (Cottrell, 2022). 

If you find it difficult to fill your washing machine to full capacity, check if your washer has a “load size selector” option. This will allow you to adjust the amount of water used in the cycle based on how full the machine is, conserving water and energy (Verchot, 2020; Kupec, 2023). 

7. Wash your clothes less often

Some clothing items, such as socks and underwear, should be washed with every use. However, other articles of clothing can go several wears before needing a wash. For example, jackets, jeans, sweaters, and sweatshirts can all be worn multiple times. 

In fact, the denim brand Levi’s recommends only washing your jeans every two weeks or after every ten wears. By doing so, your household water intake and energy consumption will decrease significantly, resulting in a less severe impact on the environment (Verchot, 2020; Kupec, 2023). 

8. Skip the dryer

Drying your clothes uses a lot of electricity, causing your energy bill to skyrocket; plus, the spinning action can damage delicate clothing items (Cottrell, 2022). Instead of throwing your clothes in the dryer, try drying them the old-fashioned way! 

Use a clothesline or a drying rack to cut down on energy consumption. Compared to dryers, clotheslines and drying racks are also much gentler on your clothes, which prolongs the life of your clothes (Verchot, 2020; Kupec, 2023). It may take longer for your clothes to dry, but the money and energy saved by forgoing the dryer will make it worth the extra time! 

Many of us don’t realize how much an everyday chore like doing the laundry can impact the environment, but the water and energy used by traditional washing machines and dryers are significant factors contributing to environmental footprints. Fortunately, making a few simple changes can lead to impactful results, helping to reduce our overall impact on the environment for years to come.

For more information on sustainable home maintenance, check out our blog


11 Ways to Green Your Laundry

12 eco-friendly laundry tips to make your washing habits more sustainable

The Ultimate Guide to an Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Laundry

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