Doing the laundry can be a real snoozefest. After all, who actually enjoys washing and hanging up everything? As dull as it might be, however, it’s something that needs to be done on a regular basis. You probably know this already, but dirty clothes can harbor icky bacteria, ones that can lead to skin infections. By skipping on doing the laundry, you’re not only predisposing yourself to germs, but you’ll be spreading them around the house as well. Surely, you wouldn’t want that to happen!
Now you’re probably wondering, “how often should I be doing the laundry?”. The answer is—it depends. As a general rule, however, you should be washing your clothes at least once a week; that should be enough to prevent having a large pile of dirty clothes. For most of us, though, it’s normal to wash multiple loads a week (especially if you have kids or pets). In any case, we’re truly lucky to have washing machines. Can you imagine how tedious it would be if we had to do everything by hand?
When it comes to doing the laundry, there are a few things that you need. For starters, you’ll need some sort of detergent (we recommend ACTIVE detergent). Depending on what you’re trying to do, you might also want to use other products such as fabric softeners or bleach. The bottom line is—there’s more to doing the laundry than just pressing a button on your machine; there are certain products that you need to use in order to clean your clothes.
Environmental Impacts of Doing the Laundry
But have you ever stopped to consider what the effects might be of doing the laundry? For instance, powdered detergents can easily get into the air, which can trigger allergies or coughing fits. The scent of bleach can also be overwhelming for some people, especially those who are sensitive to smells.
Perhaps one of the most common things that get overlooked, however, is the impact that they have on the environment. That’s right—laundry products do, in fact, have an impact on the world around us. As a matter of fact, the impact is probably bigger than you think.
How does doing the laundry impact the environment? Let’s have a look.
1. The Dryer is an Energy Hog
Believe it or not but the dryer actually uses more energy than the washing machine. In fact, it’s only second behind the fridge. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it costs households an average of ~$100 a year.
Why is this such a big problem? The thing is, the energy for these dryers does not come from renewable sources—they come from fossil fuels. When these fossil fuels are burnt, they produce a significant amount of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which is released into the atmosphere. In the end, they all contribute to global warming; this leads to the vanishing of glaciers, sea level rise, weather changes, among other things.
2. The Washing Machine Uses a Lot of Water
This should be obvious but the washing machine uses a lot of water—that’s to be expected, though, considering all the rinsing and washing that goes on. Did you know that the average household consumes over 13,500 gallons of water every year? To put things into perspective, that’s enough water for nearly 800 showers!
Don’t forget, it also takes energy to heat up the water if you’re washing with hot water.
3. Fibers Can Make their Way to Water Systems
Over time, it’s not uncommon for fabrics to break down and make their way to the sewage systems. Typically, this is not a major issue with natural fibers as they tend to decompose quickly. However, it can be a big problem with man-made fibers—aka synthetic fabrics. Unlike cotton or wool, these fibers are made from plastic—they do not break down nearly as efficiently. To give you a better idea, it can take anywhere from 100 to 1000 years for them to decompose in landfills!
Perhaps even more worrying, however, is the fact that many shorelines around the world are already contaminated with man-made fibers.
4. Chemicals can be Introduced Into Our Water Systems
Water pollution by chemicals is another big concern. Take, for instance, laundry detergents. These products are more or less a cocktail of chemicals. Not only do they contain ingredients that are not fully biodegradable, but many contain suspected carcinogens. As you can imagine, these substances can be harmful to wildlife (i.e. fish and other marine animals). In some cases, they can also disrupt the growth of aquatic plants by blocking out light.
5. Phosphates Can Lead to Eutrophication
Many laundry detergents contain phosphates. Why? They increase the efficacy of detergents by chelating magnesium and calcium ions. However, they also have a downside—they tend to make their way to natural bodies of water, where they cause nutrient pollution. For this reason, many companies have banned their use in detergents. ACTIVE detergent, for instance, is 100% phosphate-free!
One of the main consequences is eutrophication. This occurs when a body of water becomes overly enriched with nutrients and minerals. As a result, there is excessive growth of algae and plants, which ultimately leads to a depletion of oxygen.
6. Lots of Plastic is Used For Laundry Products
Laundry products such as detergents and softeners often come in plastic bottles. Unfortunately, not all of them are recyclable. As a result, a significant amount goes to the landfills, where they end up sitting for hundreds of years. Obviously, this has an enormous impact on the environment. The fact that we, humans buy a million plastic bottles globally per minute doesn’t help either.
For this reason, manufacturers are encouraged to reduce detergent packaging by creating smaller packages.
7. Harmful Fumes Come Out of the Dryer Vents
The dryer doesn’t just use up a lot of energy, it also pumps out a significant amount of exhaust gas. In some cases, there might even be carcinogens such as benzene and acetaldehyde, both of which can also be found in gasoline. Not only do these gases decrease indoor air quality, but they will contribute to air pollution in the environment.
Top 10 Eco-Friendly Laundry Tips – Lessen the Impact on the Environment
As you can see, there are many environmental impacts that are associated with doing the laundry. Unfortunately, however, we can’t just stop washing our clothes. As much as we hate it, we still have to carry on with that chore.
Having said all that, it is possible to lessen the impact that it has on the environment. Want to do your part to make the planet a better place? We will be sharing some of our best tips below.
1. Pass on the Dryer
You’ll consume much less energy by skipping the dryer; toxic fumes will also not be released into the air. Instead, line dry your clothes. Not only will this reduce your carbon footprint, but your garments will also last longer (the dryer tends to damage the fibers over time).
One of the main complaints of line drying is that the clothes will become stiff and wrinkled. As it turns out, you can prevent this by giving them a good shake before hanging them up (ensure that they’re evenly spaced out). Proper air circulation also helps.
Pro-tip: Certain fabrics should be laid flat to dry (e.g. wool, angora, silk).
2. Wear Your Clothes More Than Once
Try to wear your clothes more than once before putting them in the washing machine. Unless they’re workout clothes, in which you’d probably want to wash them due to the sweat, you can hang them up until you’re ready to wear them again (they’re not going to be that dirty with just a few hours of wear). This will save a considerable amount of energy and resources in the long run (i.e. less power, detergent, fumes, etc.).
3. Wash with Cold Water
As you can imagine, washing with cold water saves a considerable amount of energy (i.e. you won’t be having to heat up the water). Not only will you use less power, but it will also be better for your clothes. While hot water is usually better for stains, it has a tendency of shrinking certain fabrics such as cotton and wool. Wouldn’t it be great if you could save on your power bills and have your clothes last longer?
4. Don’t Use Too Much Laundry Detergent
Pay attention to how much detergent you’re adding to your laundry (always heed the instructions). The more you use, the more chemicals will enter the waterways; it will also reduce the washing machine’s efficiency over time (particularly with powdered soaps). Using less detergent will also decrease the chance of skin irritation as it will be easier to rinse out of your clothes.
Luckily with ACTIVE detergent, you won’t need to worry as much about overusing detergent. ACTIVE is safe for sensitive skin and contains a natural, plant-based enzyme formula which is less harmful to the environment.
5. Always Do Full Loads
Try your best to avoid doing small loads of laundry—wait until you have a full washer’s worth. After all, the washing machine will be using the same amounts of water and energy regardless of what’s inside. Even energy-efficient washers use over 25 gallons of water per cycle!
Have a few articles of clothing that you need to wash? Consider doing so by hand.
6. Consider Using Powdered Detergents
As mentioned earlier, there are two types of laundry detergent—liquid and powder. While they’re equally as effective, the liquid variety is generally frowned upon due to the fact that it comes in plastic bottles. Some of them might be recyclable, but the majority of them ends up going to the landfills, where they sit for hundreds of years.
Powdered detergents (like ACTIVE) are much better in this regard as they usually come in cardboard packaging. Instead of tossing them away when you’re done, you can easily recycle them. Less plastic is always better for the environment! As an added bonus, they’re typically a little cheaper too!
7. Upgrade to an Energy-Efficient Washer/Dryer
You might want to consider getting an upgrade if your washing machine is on the old side. Nowadays, there are many washers are Energy Star certified. In other words, they use much less energy than their regular counterparts—approximately 33% less water and 25% less energy. Couple this with the fact that most households wash over 300 loads of laundry a year and the implications are huge.
How do these machines work? Essentially, they have a utilize new technologies which allow you to clean the same amount of clothes without having to fill the tub completely with water. They also have sensors that monitor temperature and incoming water levels. If everyone was to use an Energy Star certified washer in the United States, we’d prevent the emission of over 19 billion pounds of greenhouse gases every year!
8. Use All-Natural Laundry Detergents
Not all laundry detergents contain harsh chemicals. As a matter of fact, there are many out there that contain all-natural ingredients (usually plant-based formulas like the one found in ACTIVE detergent). By switching to a greener alternative, you’ll be doing your part to prevent chemical pollution.
9. Skip the Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets
Fabric softeners and dryer sheets are similar to detergents in that they contain several different chemicals. Sure, they might help to soften your clothes but they will also contribute to water pollution. Instead of using these products, use a greener alternative. For instance, wool dryer balls are great for softening up your clothes in the dryer; vinegar can also be added to the washing machine as a softening agent.
10. Avoid Using Chlorine Bleach
Chlorine bleach might not be the best option for stains. For one thing, millions of pounds of chlorine are emitted into the atmosphere every year. Instead, use oxygen bleach. Not only are they capable of the same thing, but they naturally break down in the air.