When we think about environmental impact and the need to go green we often think of “dirty” things like car emissions, pesticides and growth hormones. What some people often do not think about is that some seemingly “clean” things actually have a huge impact on our world. Among the biggest culprits of excessive energy usage as well as pollution are clothes washers and clothes dryers. It is true; in most homes the energy used by the washer and dryer is second only to that used by the refrigerator or air conditioner, making the washer and dryer the perfect place to start an eco-friendly initiative.
Burning Fossil Fuels The main way that clothes washers and dryers damage the environment is through their use of energy. A gas dryer uses natural gas or propane right on site, emitting carbon dioxide through your dryer vent every day. These emissions float into the air, becoming a global problem as they deplete our ozone layer and add to global warming. An electric dryer works the same way, except that the combustion is done away from your home inside the power plant and the electricity is sent to you. Gas or electric, your dryer is an electricity guzzler. The washer, too, uses electricity to run. Furthermore, if you use the hot water cycle it uses water that has to be heated from your water tank.
The best way to green your laundry is to green your machines. When it comes to the dryer, the most environmentally friendly option is to not even use one; hanging your clothes on a line creates no emissions, releases no greenhouse gasses and leaves clothes smelling fresh. Of course, for many of us fresh air drying is simply not possible, or not desirable, thus we move on to modern options.
Aside from air drying, the best way to do green your machines is to begin by installing energy efficient machines which have an energy star rating. These machines use less energy with each cycle, reducing their negative impact. Another tips is to wash your clothes in cold water. Most detergents today will wash just as well in cold as in hot, and doing so can actually save you hundreds of dollars on your energy bill each year. Also, keep your dryer vent clean. A clean, clear vent prevents fires and also allows your machine to run at its most efficient. Similarly, clean the lint trap regularly and always ensure that your machines are in proper working order.
Dangerous Detergents It may surprise you to know that most commercial laundry detergent actually contains dangerous chemicals. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets are even worse, containing a variety of compounds known to cause cancer in laboratory tests when absorbed into the bloodstream. Well, absorption can happen through our skin, particularly when we sweat or our clothing gets wet. Particularly with fabric softeners, which intentionally leave a soft film on your clothing, these chemicals are far too close to our bodies for comfort. Furthermore, these toxins are present in the water that is discharged from your washer, making its way into your yard or nearby lakes and rivers.
Going green with the laundry, and keeping your family healthy, requires a change in your soap and softener habits. When it comes to laundry soap, read the package. Today there are a variety of green options in laundry soap that are cost effective and environmentally friendly. These biodegradable soaps leave no dangerous chemicals on your clothing nor do they send anything bad out into the environment. For soft clothes, forget about those toxic laundry sheets. Half a cup of plain white vinegar adding to each wash cycle will ensure that your clothes come out of the dryer fresh and clean. Vinegar is all natural – we eat it in salads every day – and kills germs (and softens fabrics) without toxins or harsh chemicals.
Cleaning up Your Act Greening your home can seem a daunting task. But in the laundry room, often one of the most non-green places in a home, the task is really a simple one. Replace your washer and dryer with energy efficient models when the time comes. Replace your soap immediately with earth friendly detergent. Wash in cold, and throw away those dryer sheets!