Easy Laundry Tips for a Greener, Cheaper Washday

Here are some easy laundry tips which should save you a bit of brass and make you a bit greener, too!

It’s well worth looking at your laundry costs, especially now that the world’s financial system seems to be going down the proverbial primrose path!

The amazing washball

Washing clothes on a low temperature setting saves money but some of the detergents used are not always so very green because of the harsh chemicals and fragrances they may contain.

A washball or “ecoball” is a cheap and green alternative to detergents and works well for many types of wash. You can buy them in some health food stores. They will not be quite sufficient for all your needs but they can save you quite a packet over time. They work by ionising the water. The Chinese have a washing machine which works on the same principle, I believe. See my article on washballs for more details on how to use them.

Check out soap nuts!

Soap nuts are another good alternative to conventional laundry detergent. They are quite easy and economical to use. You just put them in a small bag – which is usually provided – and put them into the machine drum. They can be used over and over four or five times. Hot water draws out the natural saponins which wash without producing noticeable suds. The cold water rinse cycle does not release the saponins. Soap nuts are the product of the Sapindus Mukrossi tree which lives for many decades in India and Nepal. Sustainable communities now grow and harvest these seed casings (“drupes”) for export. They are inexpensive to transport because they are light-weight and their contribution to CO2 emissions is also low, therefore.

For your laundry detergent, consider using the low phosphate options available. Ecover and Seventh Geneneration make and sell low phosphate detergents. Phosphates supply excessive amounts of phosphorus to water systems (after you have used your rinse cycle). They have a bad effect upon plant life, causing “algal blooms” in lakes and rivers which cause other water organisms to die from lack of oxygen. Agriculture is the main culprit here but domestic laundry causes around 15% of the problem.

Zeolites – one of the newest laundry tips

The new, compact washing powders containing zeolites instead of phosphates are far better for the environment. Zeolites are chemicals which tie up harmful chemicals and have a useful role to play in environmental remediation. Compact washing powders are not necessarily any cheaper than phosphate based ones, though. More cash can be saved when we look at laundry tips for the tumble drier.

The teenager and the drier – that well known love affair!

The most expensive part of many people’s laundry kit is the drier. A clothes drier can eat big chunks out of your weekly electric budget, especially if you have teenagers or fashionistas in your household.

The tumble drier can be tamed up to a point. Try to get teenagers and other energy hungry family members to do their washing well in advance. A regular washing slot makes it far easier to get clothes dry in time for special events such as parties or nights out.

You can also encourage them – and everyone else – to use a drier ball. These gizmos lift and separate clothes as they dry so that less energy is used. They don’t cost much and they save money over a fairly short time span.

Only use the drier for the most important and light-weight items. Jeans and towels will take a long time to dry, so try to air dry them. Don’t over-stuff the drier and take stuff out as soon as it’s more or less dry – it will air better out than in.

Drier timing

If your drier is in the kitchen or other living area try to time its use so that residual heat energy can save you a little heating fuel. Early morning or evening may be useful times to run the drier cycle. Of course you still need to be sure that your drier is venting adequately. No-one needs a steamed up living space.

Your washing machine, too provides valuable space heating while it is being used and just afterwards. If you run it during the early morning, the kitchen area can be warmed in time for breakfast.

Laundry tips for air drying

Air drying is of course the most cost-effective option of all. Clothes dried outside may become starchy if they are left in the hot sun. Better results can often be achieved by putting the drier somewhere shady but breezy. Many clothing items will not need ironing after being dried in the shade.

Both washballs and soap nuts provide a naturally softer wash than chemicals.

On the other hand, if you dry laundry in the sun, you can expect a degree of natural bleaching to occur. This is useful to consider if you are washing whites or very light colours. Even mildew stains, which are notoriously hard to shift, will eventually fade in the sun.

Laundry tips for drying clothes inside

Air drying inside the house is helped by a bit of air movement. On warmer and drier days put your clothes drier close to an open window or door. Even a crack open will help air movement. An air vent or an open fireplace may also be useful as a source of draught to pull air through your clothes.

If you have high ceilings a rack with a pulley is invaluable. Lots of warm air is lost via the ceiling so using a good drying rack can capitalise on this heat.

Never hang clothing over electric heaters as this could cause a fire. But ordinary central heating radiators can be used for airing and finishing clothes before putting them away. There are special radiator racks available in hardware stores.

If you use washballs and other low phosphate options in your laundry there will be fewer artificial fragrances and other chemicals involved, so that drying clothes inside will be safer than otherwise. Central heating tends to dry household air too much and clothes drying can help redress the balance.

Please see my website for more laundry tips and green living ideas.

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