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Natural Approaches & Tips for Doing Laundry

No matter who you are or where you live, laundry is a never-ending part of life. This is a common household chore than most people don’t give a second thought to because it has become so routine. However, some estimates put the number of loads of laundry done per year in the average household at around 400, which uses around 13,500 gallons of water.

But it’s not only your washing machine to blame. Dryers use up an impressive amount of energy, and the products commonly used to clean clothes are packed with chemicals that end up on our skin.

So, before you start sorting your latest batch of dirty clothes, read this article. Here are some natural approaches and tips for doing laundry, while minimizing your environmental impact and chemical exposure.

Photo credit: H.A.M. Phtgrphy

Wash Full Loads in Cold Water

Washing clothes in hot water requires far more energy than using the cold water cycle, and clothes typically get just as clean in cold water. Sticking to the cold cycle may also help lower your monthly energy bills.

Aside from socks and underwear, many of the clothes we wear can be re-worn on a later day without washing every time. This especially goes for jeans and sweatshirts that you wear casually around the house. If you have a just a few items that need to be cleaned, wash them by hand instead of powering up your machine. All you need is a couple buckets to wash and rinse, which will take far less water than using your machine.

Choose Eco-Friendly Detergents

The average commercial laundry detergent has so many chemical ingredients that it’s hard to keep track of them all. These chemicals contaminate waterways when the water is released out into the environment and can also be damaging to your health. But the truth is that you don’t need artificial ingredients to clean your clothes.

These days, you can find many natural detergents at local stores, which makes going green easy and convenient. Chlorine bleach should be avoided at all costs to protect your family’s skin, eyes, respiratory systems, and the environment. While you’re at it, stock up on natural cleaning products for other parts of your home as well.

Another thing to consider is making your own laundry detergent from natural ingredients. Mother Earth Living offers several excellent DIY detergent recipes for you to try.

Try Fabric Softener Alternatives

Dryer sheets leave behind unnatural chemicals and fragrances and are just one more thing to toss into the trash. Instead of commercial fabric softeners, try adding a cup of white vinegar to your washing machine during its rinse cycle. Alternatively, you can add 1/4 cup of baking soda to your wash along with a few drops of essential oil (try lavender, lemon, or eucalyptus) to create your own natural fabric softener.

Hang Clothes Out to Dry

Mother Nature provides us with an all-natural dryer, if only we go outdoors to use it. The sun and wind are incredibly effective for drying clothes, and you can even dry clothes outdoors in the winter if it’s not below freezing or precipitating. A good old fashioned clothes line is the classic way to line-dry, but a simple clothing rack can work just as well for small loads.

Photo credit: Judith Doyle via Flickr

Upgrade to Energy Efficient Machines

If you can afford to make an upgrade, now is the time to look into energy efficient washers and dryers. Modern technology is helping the latest laundry machines have a minimal effect on the environment, without sacrificing quality or aesthetics.

Head to the Laundromat

If you can’t invest in new machines just yet, why not use someone else’s? Laundromats often have large commercial-sized washing machines that are more efficient for water use than household versions. You may be able to load everything up into one large washer at a laundromat instead of running two or three small loads in your machine at home. Choose laundromats with new front-loading machines because these tend to use less water than standard top-loading versions. Just be aware that the front-loaders are not as good at removing residual laundry detergent. If you use a laundromat, also be aware that the person that used the machine before you may have washed their dog’s blanket, dirty diapers or other items that you might not be happy about following with your own clothing.

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