It all starts with the washing machine, and the best thing to do is look for the Energy Star label, which indicates that they make efficient use of both electricity and water during the washing process. When it comes to detergent, green liquids and powders can be good (especially when used in tandem with washing in cold water. And if you need to get things a little whiter, bleach gets a thumb down; we recommend the cleaning power of lemon.
Photo: Yves Lorson at Flickr
Once your clothes are clean, they have to get dry, but we don't recommend a conventional dryer -- they suck an awful lot of energy. Line drying is the greenest way to go because it's electricity-free, but not always the most practical thing for us all. If you don't have the real estate for a line (or don't want to leave your clothes out in the rain and snow in the winter), use a laundromat, like the world's largest that's powered by solar power or a portable spin dryer is the next best way to go; revolving at 3200 rpm to help dry your clothes in just two or three minutes; it won't do the same job as a conventional tumble dryer (clothes come out a little damp) but would work great in tandem with a clothes line or drying rack.
Photo: webg33k at Flickr
Want to get a little crazy? Look to the future of laundry with Sanyo"s Aqua, a machine that washes without water by converting air to ozone, or Samsung"s SilverCare washing machine that uses silver ions to wash your clothes. For a really futuristic take, check out the Airwash, a waterless washing machine that removes stains from garments within a few minutes, without the use of detergents; though just a concept, we think it's worth crossing our fingers that it'll get produced. It might just make laundry worth waiting for.
More green laundry reading in TreeHugger and Planet Green
How to Go Green: Laundry
Detox Your Home: In the Laundry Room, Part 1
Detox Your Home: In the Laundry Room, Part 2
Beat the Heat, Wash in Cold
Repair or Replace (and Recycle): Your Washing Machine
Repair or Replace (and Recycle): Your Clothes Dryer
Laundry Liquid Soap: How to get the Last Drop Out