When it comes to cleaning your clothes, there are plenty of things you can do to monitor the eco-footprint of those socks.
Making some simple changes in how you approach doing laundry can not only conserve energy, water and waste, but also help extend the life of your clothes. Here are seven ways to go beyond green in the laundry room:
List and captions courtesy of Earth911
1. Control Your Temperature
It may seem simple, but washing clothes in hot water uses more energy because the water must be heated. In fact, <a href="http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/home/appliances/washers.html" target="_hplink">up to 90 percent of the cost</a> of a load of laundry is spent on heating water. <br> Traditionally, warm water is used to help remove stains from light-colored clothes, while cold water helps protect the colors of delicate clothing. If you're able to pre-treat any stains before the wash, there's no reason you can't reserve the warm water cycles for only the dirtiest of loads. <br> <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2012/01/27/how-to-save-energy-while-doing-laundry/" target="_hplink">Check Out: How to Save Energy in the Laundry Room</a>
2. Keep Your Concentration
Most of the major detergent brands now produce what is known as concentrated detergent. A concentrated liquid detergent requires less soap per load, while some concentrated detergent is pre-packaged in single unit doses. Both versions have several environmental benefits: <br> --Smaller plastic containers that use less packaging, and use less fuel in shipping --Less water used in the manufacturing process --The ability to use less detergent per load <br> No matter what product you use, it's important to follow the directions on the container for proper use. By using the recommended amount and storing the product correctly, you're not only more likely to get the product's top performance, but it can help stretch your dollar, as well. <br> <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2011/09/12/are-concentrated-cleaners-better-for-the-environment/" target="_hplink">More: The Dish on Concentrates</a>
3. Look For Symbols
Have you ever seen symbols and dots on clothing labels and not know what they meant? The American Cleaning Institute has <a href="http://www.cleaninginstitute.org/assets/1/Page/FabricCareSymbols.pdf" target="_hplink">got you covered</a>. Clothing manufactured after 1997 uses symbols to indicate how it should be washed, dried ironed and dry-cleaned. It's up to you to<a href="http://www.cleaninginstitute.org/clean_living/your_guide_to_fabric_care_symbols.aspx" target="_hplink"> learn and correctly use the symbols</a>, so you don't potentially ruin a piece of clothing by following incorrect care instructions. Since this is an industry standard developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials, you should only have to learn one set of symbols for all clothes sold in the U.S.
4. Walk The Line
If you're <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2009/10/15/clothesline-ban-debate-heats-up-as-states-consider-legislation/" target="_hplink">allowed to install one</a>, a clothesline significantly reduces the energy used to dry your clothes. By having nature's clothes dryer, the sun, do the work for you, you'll not only save energy, but also lower your electricity bill. <br> Clothes dryers operating at high temperatures can sometimes shrink clothing, which reduces its lifespan. The heat can also deteriorate the fibers of your clothing. Opting to dry clothing on a line can help extend its life.
5. Maximize Your Machines
Swapping out your washer and dryer for a new,<a href="http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=find_a_product.showProductGroup&pgw_code=CW" target="_hplink"> ENERGY STAR qualified model</a> would make a big difference, but would also be a considerable investment. In the meantime, save water and energy by using your washer and dryer efficiently. <br> Rather than washing small loads of laundry frequently, try to wait until you can wash full loads. On the flip side, be careful not to over-fill your washer or your clothes won't circulate enough to get clean. When a smaller load is in order, pay attention to your machine's water setting to be sure that the appropriate amount of water is being used. <br> <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2011/03/14/save-27412-gallons-of-water-this-year/" target="_hplink">Don't Miss Out: Save 27,412 Gallons of Water This Year</a> Doing your laundry all at once can also increase dryer efficiency. Keep the transport speedy and your dryer doesn't have to cool and start from scratch between each use. While you're at it, remember to clear the lint filter between loads to maximize air circulation and efficiency.
6. Limit Your Ironing
Ironing uses the same tactic as the clothes washer, where cold water is heated to help remove wrinkles. Why not save that water, energy and trouble altogether? <br> You can invest in wrinkle-free clothing or <a href="http://www.wikihow.com/Reduce-Laundry-Wrinkles" target="_hplink">add supplements </a>during the washing or drying cycle, but the easiest way to cut the wrinkles is to take care of them as soon as the drying process is done. If you hang clothes or lay them flat while they are still warm, you're less likely to encounter wrinkles than if you let them cool in the dryer.
7. Recycle Your Packaging
Most laundry detergent, bleach and fabric softener is packaged in high-density polyethylene (HDPE) jugs, which is a high-commodity resin of plastic. Many programs will request that you rinse out any remaining detergent, and some will also ask that you <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2012/03/08/plastic-bottle-caps-recycling/" target="_hplink">remove the cap </a>because this is usually made of a different resin of plastic. While it's unlikely that your local recycling program will accept dryer sheets, there are some handy reuse options for them and the box they come in should be recyclable with other paperboard products. <em>Editor's Note: Earth911 partners with many industries, manufacturers and organizations to support its Recycling Directory, the largest in the nation, which is provided to consumers at no cost. The <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/household/household-cleaners/" target="_hplink">American Cleaning Institute</a> is one of these partners.</em>
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