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Green Your Laundry Routine: Sustainable Washing Tips

March 3, 2024

Green Your Laundry Routine: Sustainable Washing Tips


As I aim to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, I’ve been looking for ways to make my laundry routine more sustainable. Washing clothes uses a significant amount of water and energy, and harsh detergents can be bad for the environment. Here are some tips I’ve gathered for greening my laundry habits.

Reduce Laundry Load

The first step is reducing the amount of laundry I generate in the first place. Here are some ways I’ve cut down on my laundry load:

  • Wear clothes more times between washes. Jeans can often be worn many times before washing. T-shirts and sweaters may only need washing every 3-4 wears if they don’t get visibly dirty. This saves water, energy, and extends the life of clothes.

  • Spot clean stains instead of washing the whole garment. Treating stains with a small amount of detergent and a brush means I don’t have to launder the entire piece of clothing.

  • Only wash full loads. I wait until I have enough dirty clothes to fully load the machine before running it. This maximizes efficiency.

  • Air out clothes between wears. I utilize hooks, racks, and hanging space to let worn clothes air out instead of immediately putting them in the laundry.

  • Invest in clothes that are durable, long-lasting, and made of natural fibers. These pieces withstand more wears between washes.

Wash in Cold Water

Washing clothes in cold water instead of hot can greatly reduce the energy used. I have switched all my laundry loads to the coldest temperature setting. While hot water was traditionally recommended for sanitization, studies show that detergent is the main factor in getting clothes clean, not water temperature. Modern cold water detergents are formulated to be effective at lower temperatures.

The exception is for loads containing underwear, athletic clothes, towels, and sheets. These I wash on a warm or hot setting to hygienically clean them.

Use an Eco-Friendly Detergent

Conventional laundry detergents often contain chemicals, fragrances, and additives that are not environmentally friendly. I’ve made the switch to an eco-friendly plant-based detergent with naturally derived ingredients. Key things I looked for are:

  • Free of phosphates – These compounds cause algae overgrowth when washed down the drain.

  • Non-toxic for aquatic life

  • Biodegradable ingredients that break down quickly

  • No artificial fragrances or dyes

  • Concentrated formula that requires less overall detergent

Skip Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets

Fabric softeners and dryer sheets contain synthetic fragrances, chemicals, and oils that leave residue on clothes and aren’t eco-friendly. I’ve eliminated these extras from my laundry routine. To naturally soften fabrics:

  • I add 1⁄2 cup baking soda to the wash cycle. This is a gentle softening agent.

  • I use liquid vinegar as a natural fabric softener in the rinse cycle. It removes detergent residue.

  • I dry towels and sheets 5-10 minutes, then add 3-5 ice cubes to the dryer drum. The ice cubes naturally soften fabrics.

Line Dry When Possible

Using my clothes dryer uses significant electricity. When the weather allows, I line dry laundry outside in the fresh air and sunlight. Benefits include:

  • Saves energy used by the dryer

  • Clothes last longer without the wear and tear of machine drying

  • Sun naturally bleaches and disinfects laundry

I got a collapsible drying rack for indoor line drying year round. For sheets, I repurposed an old tension rod to hang them over my bathtub to dry.

Maintain Machines Properly

To maximize efficiency and lifespan, I follow maintenance best practices for my washer and dryer:

  • Clean the lint trap before every dryer load – This prevents buildup and increases airflow.

  • Wipe washing machine gaskets and detergent dispenser – This prevents mold and buildup.

  • Run cleaning cycles monthly – I use white vinegar to descale and disinfect.

  • Inspect hoses and drain lines – I check for leaks, cracks and clogs.

Proper machine maintenance saves energy and water while extending the life of appliances.


With some simple changes, I’ve been able to significantly green my laundry habits. The reduced water, electricity, and detergent use helps lower my environmental impact. While it requires a bit moreplanning, I find the extra effort worthwhile to make my laundry more sustainable. My clothes and appliances also benefit from the gentler cleaning processes. Overall, eco-friendly laundry is achievable with conscious changes to your washing, drying, and maintenance routines.

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