Your Guide to Leaner Laundry

The following blog is written by Jon Millner, the spring 2014 communications intern in the University Sustainability Office.

It’s time to do laundry, again?! Although it seems like a chore for most of us, laundry is a fact of life and has a huge impact on our environment. The average American household does about 400 loads of laundry each year, using about 13,500 gallons of water and loads of energy. By simply using more sustainable laundry habits, there is huge potential to save money, water and energy. Try these six tips the next time you are faced with a mountain of dirty clothes.

Maximize Your Loads

Large pile of laundry? Fill it up! Full laundry loads are the most efficient way to reduce energy, money and time. Also, wearing clothes more than once (unmentionables and socks excluded) is a good way to maximize your laundry loads. You can consume up to five times less energy by wearing your jeans at least three times.

Go Natural

When shopping for laundry products, think natural. Natural detergents and stain removers are made from plant and vegetable-based ingredients (rather than petroleum) and tend to be free of harmful chemicals and phosphates.


Get creative and try DIY! It’s fun and more sustainable for your clothing. There are various recipes and tutorials online for making your own laundry products. The only real way to know what’s going in your products is to make your own.  You will be surprised at what can be used to sustainably wash your clothes — lemon juice and baking soda anyone?

Cold is Cool

90 percent of the energy associated with laundry involves just heating the water. Washing your clothes in cold water is just as effective as washing in hot water. Cold water saves energy and your clothes won’t wear out as fast. So turn that dial to cold; your clothes will not suffer.

Rethink Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets are great for making your clothes smell fresh and feel soft, but they often contain synthetic fragrances, chemicals and toxins. Also, they are not easily recycled. Skip dryer sheets altogether or choose an alternative, such as a dryer sachet, for more sustainable freshness and softness.

Hang It Up

There are more than 88 million dryers in the United States – each emitting more than a ton of carbon dioxide per year and raising your energy bills. Try line drying. Indoors or outdoors, hanging your clothes is a convenient and sustainable alternative for drying. Also, clothes last longer when hung dry because of less wear and tear by the heat from the dryer. Tip: Don’t put dark clothes in bright/direct sunlight or they will fade.

That’s your green guide to leaner laundry. Happy washing!


Image credit: Flickr