Recently there are more reasons than ever to keep your family healthy and safe, however, there’s a huge opportunity to lower our environmental footprint by the way we wash our clothing. Between 75 and 80% of our clothing’s life cycle impact comes from washing and drying, because it takes so much energy to heat the water and run the dry cycle. While we’re not saying to give up on your laundry routine completely, there are easy ways to reduce your family’s impact.
Prior to jumping into these tips, let’s first explore why cleaning your clothing is necessary and important for the cleanliness of your home.
Why We Should Care About Clean
Currently, there are thousands of germs living in and among your laundry. From hampers to your laundry machine, bacteria like E. coli and salmonella, may survive weeks on and around your clothing. Staphylococcus aureus, which causes staph infections on the skin, may survive a month plus if clothes are moist. Below are a few tips on how to keep your most-used laundry appliances more hygienic.
- Hampers & Baskets: Clean and disinfect clothes hampers and baskets often. If possible, consider placing a bag liner in your hamper that can be laundered.
- Towels & Cleaning Rags: Separate rags and towels from other clothing and wash them after two to three uses.
- Washer Machines: Create a mixture using 1/4 cup of baking soda, 1/4 cup of water, and 2 cups of white vinegar. Then, pour your mixture into the detergent receptacle of your machine and run through a regular cycle. Avoid using bleach and other harsh chemicals that would leach into our waterways.
Best Practices for “Greening” Your Laundry
Now that we’ve covered why you should put some thought into cleaning your laundry let’s cover some strategies for lowering your environmental footprint. We can break these tips into before you wash, as you wash and after you wash.
Before You Wash
The easiest way to limit your environmental footprint is to lower the amount of water and energy used to clean your clothes. Before you even begin cleaning, distinguish what laundry is actually dirty and needs to be washed. How many washes deem a dirty piece of clothing? Here’s a quick rundown from the Cleaning Institute to set you straight.
As You Wash
When it comes to laundry soap, here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for products.
- Opt for vegetable-based detergents instead of standard petroleum products
- Avoid perfumes (except for essential oils)
- Mix concentrated detergent with water to prolong its use
Also, remember to always wash on cold when possible or if you’re choosing to opt-out of using a machine, use wash bags to catch microplastics from unnatural fibers getting in and down the drain.
After You Wash
Here are a few best practices for after you wash. While choosing not to use a dryer is best, we’ve provided eco-friendly tips for both air and machine drying.
- If you do use your dryer be sure to keep your lint screen clean so air can flow and dry your clothes faster. Also keeping your lint screen clean can lower your chance of any disastrous fires breaking out.
- Use the moisture-sensing setting if your dryer has one rather than timed drying.
- Repurpose water not filled with chemicals in creative ways. This could be by watering plants, washing your car, or doing other household chores.
- Let clothesline dry. Ultraviolet rays from sunlight should kill any germs still on your clothing.
For more ideas on how to “green” your laundry and DIY natural detergents to try at home, the folks at Tommy John created this guide to eco-friendly ways to disinfect your clothing! From cleaning kid’s germy clothing to brightening and whitening your favorite whites and T-shirts, explore their visual for natural solutions that are tough on germs and safe for your family.