Effectively Doing Your Laundry While Remaining a Staunch Environmentalist

COMMACK – When it comes to doing your laundry, even the most steadfast environmentalist may find it a difficult task to get their whites white while successfully navigating the sheer amount of chemicals and additives that most store-bought laundry products bring to the table, in conjunction with the hazardous by-products produced and the huge drain on natural resources. When it comes to the environment, laundry day is an often-overlooked component of backdoor pollution, but not a hard one to overcome once you’ve acknowledged it and planned around its initial shortcomings. In other words, it’s still possible to get your whites white while remaining green, so to speak.

Your average load of wash brings with it a number of environmental issues- chemical detergents, enormous water use, dry cleaning agents, excessive plastic use, and much, much more. But with a little homework and some forethought, it’s easy to find some very solid tips for doing your laundry while helping the Earth’s ecosystems to remain clean as well. Here’s a list of things to do to keep your clothes both clean and environmentally friendly at the same time.

  1. First, find a biodegradable detergent. Typical detergents contain surfactants, a substance that is used to remove grime and caked-in dirt from your clothes. But once your wash is done, the water used – along with the surfactants – is flushed out into our waterways, such as rivers and streams, where it will provide a very toxic problem for any aquatic life form they encounter. However, there are eco-friendly detergents that biodegrade within mere days of its use, which lowers the risk of environmental contamination to a huge degree. These detergents are typically plant-based (as opposed to petroleum-based), which contributes to their ability to break down into harmless non-pollutant residue after use. Two such brands are Mrs. Meyers and Method (Google can help you track them down). In stores, any plant-based and/or biodegradable soap or laundry detergent will be clearly marked on its label. And if you live in an area where you can’t get your hands on this fancy eco-friendly detergent and HAVE to use a run-of-the-mill cleaning agent for your laundry, go with a powdered detergent over liquid; powdered detergent typically contains smaller concentrations of surfactants, making it “less bad” for the environment, at least.
  2. Use cold water exclusively whenever possible when doing your wash; in addition to being better when it comes to avoiding shrinking or color bleeding of your garments, it’s also the best solution for the environment as well. Your washing machine generates an enormous amount of energy in order to heat water – up to 90 percent of the energy expended in an average load of wash is from this – and maintaining a cold temperature for your water will not only reduce the environmental impact of your laundry, but it will save on energy costs as well. Your laundry machine may use up to 90% of its energy just to heat the water, so maintaining the water’s temperature will not only help less your environmental impact, but also provide the added benefit of saving money on water heating costs, too.
  3. When it comes to drying your clothes after they’re clean, it’s certainly – and easily – possible to go green as well. It’s simple- always air dry your laundry. It should be obvious, of course, but it’s amazing just how many people will just toss everything in the dryer without a second thought of the environmental consequences. An average dryer can use as much energy as a new washer, refrigerator, and dishwasher put together, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Air drying, however, will save your money on your electric bill, and it’s far less harmful for the fibers of your clothing as well; drying them over and over again in a machine creates microscopic tears, wearing your clothes down and reducing their useful life to you.
  4. And finally, try and use the services of a dry cleaner only when you absolutely have to. Most dry cleaners in the country – about 85 percent – use a cleaning solvent known as perchloroethylene, which some states consider a “probable carcinogen.” Plus, there are a number of horror stories where a cleaner has encountered problems with perchloroethylene leakage into the surrounding ground, resulting in local contamination and subsequent clean-up work. Avoiding dry cleaners except when necessary is a good thing, and if you have to engage the services of one, go with ones that utilize environmentally-friendly dry cleaning processes such as wet-dry cleaning and liquid carbon dioxide cleaning. Some cleaners also use hydrocarbon solvents or silicon-based solvents, which aren’t as good for the environment, but are still miles better than perchloroethylene.

As you can see, it’s possible to still do a load of wash these days while still contributing to the betterment of the planet that we live on. Like anything good, it take a bit more work, but in the end, it’s worth it.