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How to Build an Eco-Friendly Laundry Routine

25% of a garment’s carbon footprint comes from how you care for it in addition to the microplastic pollution caused by doing laundry. Given this significant impact, adopting a sustainable laundry routine will benefit your closet, your utility bills, and the planet. 

White washing machine surrounded by bamboo accents and plants.

Find the right products 

700 million laundry containers end up in landfills and waterways in the U.S. every year. The detergent in those containers releases approximately 86% more microfibers (tiny plastic particles) into our water supply than laundry washed without conventional detergent. 

Biodegradable detergent strips, zero-waste laundry soap bars, soap nuts, refillable liquid laundry, plant-based detergent pods, or homemade detergent. 

Another way to limit micro-plastics in your laundry is a microfiber filter like the Cora Ball or the Guppyfriend Washing Bag. 

Swap reusable wool dryer balls for single-use dryer sheets. Wool dryer balls are better for the environment, reduce wrinkles, soften clothes, and help dry your clothes faster. 

Additionally, instead of fabric softener try adding white vinegar to your laundry to soften your clothes in an eco-friendly way. 

A great resource for product swaps is the Environmental Working Group’s searchable guide of products that are safe for the environment and your health. 

If you’re in the market for a new laundry machine, replace it with a front-loading, high-efficiency washer for the most water-efficient option. Efficient machines can cut water use by 33% and consume 25% less energy than traditional washers. If you are shopping for a new dryer, consider an efficient heat-pump model to reduce your energy consumption by 20-50%.  

Laundry basket full of clothes.

Wash when necessary  

Washing your clothes less frequently is better for the environment and extends the lifespan of your clothing, ultimately saving you money. This is a great reference for how often you should be washing each item of clothing: 

  • Intimates and Swimsuits: after every wear 
  • Bras: 3-4 wears 
  • Shirts: 1-4 wears (depending on the material and tightness) 
  • Jeans: 5-7 wears 
  • Leggings and Yoga Pants: 1-3 wears 
  • Sweaters and Cardigans: 3-4 wears (if made from natural materials), 5-7 wears (if made from synthetic materials) 
  • Jackets and Blazers: 5-7 wears 
  • Dress Pants, Shorts and Skirts: 5-7 wears 
  • Dresses and Dress Shirts: 1-3 wears 
  • Activewear: after every wear 
  • Sleepwear: 3-4 wears 
  • Coats and Outwear: once per season 
  • Hats, Scarves and Gloves: once per season 
  • Bed sheets: every 1-2 weeks 
  • Towels: 4-5 uses 

Wash consciously 

The temperature label tucked on the inside of your clothes has a number for the maximum wash temperature for your item. Almost across the board, colder temperatures are better for the longevity and color of your clothes, not to mention the environment and your energy bill. For example, when you lower your wash temperature by 50°F you can lower energy consumption by 60%. 

Up to 90% of a washing machine’s energy consumption goes to heating the water, so washing on shorter and colder cycles is a simple step to reduce your laundry’s carbon footprint. Quicker and cooler washes also significantly decrease the number of microfibers released into the water. 

Increase your machine’s efficiency by washing fuller loads. In general, aim for three-quarters full as this is the most water and energy efficient without overcrowding. Large wash loads also reduce microfiber pollution. 

Line drying clothes.Eco-friendly drying 

Dryers require about three times more energy than washers, dry cleaning is even worse. To reduce energy consumption, use your washer’s maximum spin cycle to release the maximum amount of water before drying, set your dryer to a longer drying time on a low temperature, and make sure to clean your lint trap after every use! 

An easier and more environmental solution is air drying. Not only could air drying your clothes potentially save 700 pounds of CO2 a year, but the gentle drying will also extend the lifespan of your clothing while lowering your utility bill. There’s a variety of drying racks and clotheslines available for all space constraints. 

To summarize 

All in all, the best and easiest way to green your laundry routine is to wear your clothes longer and wash them less. When you do wash your clothes, wash full loads in cold water on shorter cycles. Then, hang your clothes to air dry.