These environmentally friendly laundry tips can save energy and money and even protect your health:
- Turn down the temperature. About 90 percent of the energy used to machine launder goes to heating the water. Turning the washer dial to warm or cold saves energy while prolonging the life of clothes and linens.
- Understand labels. “Many laundry products labeled ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ contain potentially harmful synthetics and chemicals,” says laundry expert Mary Marlowe Leverette, of Columbia, S.C. “If a product is using the safest chemical for each type of ingredient, they earn the Environmental Protection Agency logo. That doesn’t mean products without the logo are necessarily bad, but those that have earned it are top choices.”
- Go fragrance-free. Artificial fragrance in detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets can cause skin irritation and breathing problems. “At the end of the wash cycle, add one-half cup of baking soda to whiten wash and use one-half cup of white vinegar in the final rinse to soften,” Leverette suggests.
- Air-dry clothes. Use an indoor rack, or, if the weather’s nice, hang clothes outside to dry. Decrease wrinkles by shaking items as you hang them.
- Use the dryer wisely. Clean the lint trap after each use and dry loads one after the other to maximize remaining heat.
- Avoid chlorine bleach. It can irritate eyes, skin and the respiratory system. Instead, use oxygen-based, nonchlorine bleach or regular hydrogen peroxide (but don’t use hydrogen peroxide on colored items). “Reserve chlorine bleach for when you must disinfect when laundering towels or sheets from someone sick,” Leverette says.