Updated: Mar 24, 2022
Want to green your laundry routine? You’re in the right place. We’re going to start at the clothing store and make our way through the hamper, into the washer, and onto the clothesline as sustainably as we can, choosing products that reduce waste and still get the job done. Ready? Here we go!
Reduce your loads. The easiest way to cut back on washing, is to cut back on the amount of clothes you own and the amount of clothes you put into the hamper. We have a running Laundry Challenge in our house to see who has the fewest clothes in their pile on laundry day (socks and underwear don’t count). The challenge (which has no prize except praise from mom) is pretty effective at cutting down our loads. We simply check our clothes after wearing them to see if they smell or have visible stains. If not, we re-wear them (again, not socks and underwear – we’re not that hardcore). I wholeheartedly suggest trying a Capsule Wardrobe or the 100 Day Dress Challenge to reduce your clothing. And towels, sheets, and such do not need to be washed once a week. They just don’t.
Let this be your mantra: Buy less, wear more, wash less.
Choose eco-options. Less waste options for laundry detergent abound. Pre-Covid, we used to refill our giant laundry detergent monthly at the Concord Coop (We Fill Good, Bonafide Green Goods, Candle Beans and Company, and Granite State Naturals are among some of the local stores that do this). When this wasn’t available during Covid, we tried out Dropps, which I also liked. Honestly, I don’t know which one is greener, but choose one of these options over buying a new jug of detergent each month. Even if it is Seventh Generation or another eco-brand, the packaging isn’t worth it.
Got stains? I picked up a new – totally package free – stain stick from We Fill Good recently and it is amazing. I have yet to encounter a stain it can’t handle!
Like dryer sheets? I gave up on them a long time ago, but for awhile I used these aromatic satchels to keep our laundry fresh-smelling and they were really great. Now, when I do use the dryer, I don't add anything and I honestly haven't noticed a difference.
Give your washer a break. Whenever possible, choose “Cold” and “Quick” to reduce the amount of energy it takes your washer to wash a load. Chances are your clothes aren’t dirty enough to require hot water or a full “Normal” cycle. Save the energy-intensive cycles for when you are washing diapers or dirty rags or rugs.
Skip the Dryer. Dryers are a huge energy suck in your household and they are completely unnecessary. If you have the space, I would definitely recommend building a clothesline. It also works pretty well to string a long rope between two trees.
If you have a smaller yard – or none at all – invest in a drying rack. You might not be able to dry your whole load, but just taking out the large items (like towels, jeans, and sweatshirts) will allow you to reduce the drying time on your load and therefore reduce your energy use.
Invest some time – and a bit of upfront money – in your laundry routine this year. Having clean clothes shouldn’t mean destroying our planet.
UPDATE: After completing the 100 Day Dress Challenge, I have come up with a simple routine for caring for your clothing as you re-wear them. I thought it would be helpful to add here.
SIMPLE NIGHTTIME CLOTHING CARE ROUTINE
1) When you remove your clothes at night, check for...
Stains: treat stains with a stain stick (I love the unpackaged one I got from We Fill Good) and rinse, hanging clothes overnight to dry
Tears: deal with all tears, no matter how small, right away. This prevents them from getting bigger.
Smells: Hand wash smelly clothing quickly in the sink and hang to dry.
Ticks: We are in New Hampshire, after all.
2) Hang or fold clothes right away. This prevents wrinkles AND makes re-wearing feel less strange psychologically for some reason.
3) Wash less often, but wash better. I took the time to actually read the care instructions on our dresses and to follow them. I can't usually be bothered to do this for a family of five's clothing, but when two people are wearing the same thing for 100 days, it made sense. Now that we plan on wearing less outfits, I plan to care for those outfits better.