Green Your Laundry


  • 34 million tons: Amount of carbon dioxide emissions that would be saved if every U.S. household used only cold water for washing clothes–that’s nearly 8 percent of the Kyoto target for the U.S

  • 99 pounds: Amount of carbon dioxide emissions saved per household each year by running only full loads of laundry.
  • 700 pounds: Amount of carbon dioxide emissions saved each year by line-drying your family’s laundry. You’d save 75 bucks.

    Source:U.S. Department of Energy

Are You Safe and Efficient Launderer?

American family launders about three hundred loads of clothes each year, according to a survey done by Proctor & Gamble, the laundry products we choose have a huge potential impact on our personal and collective well-being.

Cleaning products play an essential role in our daily lives. By safely and effectively removing soils, germs and other contaminants, they help us to stay healthy, care for our homes and possessions, and make our surroundings more pleasant, provided cleaning products are clean (safe) at first place.

Many years back when someone talked to me about toxic contaminants, I always thought about traffic pollution, outdoor fumes, industrial waste, garbage choked waterways. But then I learned, there is much more to it.

Majority of people spend most of their time indoors.  In fact, the typical home in the US contains anywhere from 3 to 10 gallons of contaminants from glass and bathroom cleaners to garden pesticides and fertilizers. There lye many chemicals in your closets too. Wonder what? Read here to learn more.

Doing our routine things, these days, can expose us and our families to potential dangers of toxic chemicals, like wearing toxic clothes and doing laundry with toxic detergents.

Whatever liquid or powder you’re pouring into your washing machine week after week, how do you know how safe any of these detergents are… or are not?

Laundry detergents usually contain chemicals that are dangerous to the health and irritating to the skin. A residue of these chemicals remains on clothing after it is washed. Clear evidence of this can be found in scented products, because chemical fragrances would be useless if they were simply washed out. Chemical fragrances are especially bad, and are known for aggravating asthma.

European Union has addressed this issue by enforcing legislative changes to protect sensitized consumers. 26 key fragrance allergens were identified, detergent and cosmetic products containing these chemicals above specific threshold concentrations (10 p.p.m. for leave on products; 100 p.p.m. for rinse off products) are now labelled with the relevant nomenclature. Clear product labeling would therefore allow fragrance-sensitive individuals to make an informed choice.

No such labeling requirements exist in the United States. The onus of saving ourselves and our loved ones from chemicals lye on us.

Let’s learn about sustainable clothes care. Through small, simple gestures, we can stay away from chemicals, reduce our carbon footprint and make a big difference to the environment.

SIMPLE STEPS TOWARDS MORE SUSTAINABLE WASHING

  • Start by asking yourself if the clothes really need washing. In many cases, it is enough to simply treat the stain area, or hang the garment out to air.
  • Wash full loads of laundry, but don’t overfill the machine.
  • If the garment is only lightly soiled, wash at a lower temperature. Remember that the temperature given in the care instructions is the highest temperature the garment can withstand.
  • Use an eco-labelled detergent, but don’t use too much.
  • Avoid fabric softeners. Fabric softeners contain substances that have a harmful effect on our environment.
  • Air-dry or line-dry your laundry instead of using a tumble dryer.
  • To avoid having to iron your laundry, remove the clothes from the washing machine quickly, give them a shake and hang them up on a drying rack to reduce wrinkles and creases.
  • Avoid dry cleaning where possible. Most dry-cleaning methods have a harmful effect on the environment.

Small steps can go a long way to help save planet earth. Let’s learn how.

AVOID WASHING

Several studies show that often we wash our clothes unnecessarily. In most cases simply treating the stain area or hanging the garment out to air is enough to freshen it up. By cutting the number of unnecessary washes you do, you can actively help to reduce our impact on the environment and save water resources.

WASH A FULL LOAD

Start by sorting your laundry by color and temperature. Always wash a full load, it takes less energy to run a full wash than several half-empty ones. Remember not to overfill the washing machine. A too well-packed load can wear out the machine. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to fit a clenched fist between the clothes and the drum.

ADAPT THE TEMPERATURE

The temperature indicated in the care instructions is the highest temperature the garment can be washed at without compromising its quality. Remember that it is not always necessary to wash at this temperature. If the garments are only lightly soiled, it may suffice to choose a lower temperature and save energy. Most laundry detergents and modern washing machines are so efficient that they can even clean garments at lower temperatures. You can save nearly half of the energy needed for a wash by lowering the temperature from 60°C till 30°C.

CHOICE OF DETERGENT

Use an eco-labelled laundry detergent that is free from environmentally hazardous phosphates, and avoid those that contain chlorine or chlorine compounds. When discharged into waterways, phosphates contribute to the eutrophication of our lakes and seas. Choose washing powder rather than liquid detergents. Liquid detergents contain preservatives that can be allergenic. Measure the detergent as advised on its package instructions. Don’t use more detergent than needed – using too much detergent won’t make your laundry any cleaner.

AVOID FABRIC SOFTENERS

Avoid fabric softeners. Many fabric softeners contain environmentally hazardous surfactants and allergenic perfumes. These are difficult for water treatment plants to break down and are a burden on the environment. Fabric softeners help to reduce static electricity. Try to use only eco-labelled fabric softeners, and only on materials that can become static, such as polyester.

AIR-DRY LAUNDRY

To save energy, avoid tumble-drying or hanging laundry in drying cabinets. Avoiding tumble-drying also helps the clothes to keep their shape better and last longer.

DON’T IRON UNNECESSARILY

To reduce wrinkles in your laundry, hang up the clothes as soon as the washing has ended. You can also hang the laundry in the bathroom when you take a shower; the steam formed when you shower helps to diminish any wrinkles and creases.

AVOID DRY CLEANING

Avoid dry cleaning clothes where possible. Many dry-cleaning methods have a harmful effect on our environment. When dry cleaning can’t be avoided, ask your dry cleaner about more environmentally friendly methods, or find out if there are any “greener” dry cleaning alternatives.

Chemicals found in conventional laundry detergent emit fumes that are constantly inhaled throughout the day. Breathing in chemical fumes, even at minute concentrations, may have damaging consequences on endocrinological and neurological health.  When you use organic or eco-friendly laundry soap, you and your family are avoiding those dangers.

Next week we learn how to wash various kind of garments.

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