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How to help the environment one wash at a time


1st Jan 2015 Home & Garden

How to help the environment one wash at a time
The earth-wise laundry works on simple principles: use less energy in washing and heating water, and use cold water whenever possible. This comprehensive guide will have you washing efficiently, economically, and environmentally-wise.

Common environment-wise washing sense

  • Wait until you have a full load before running your machine. If you have to do a smaller wash, remember to reset the water level.
  • Stick to a short cycle, which is usually sufficient for all but heavily soiled items.
  • Don’t use any more detergent than you need. It won’t make the clothes any cleaner, they’ll be more difficult to rinse properly and you will waste soap and energy—for every 100 grams of detergent that is produced, about 1.3 kilograms of greenhouse gases are emitted.
  • Use eco-friendly detergents and soaps that are petrochemical and phosphate-free or low in phosphate. Choose concentrated forms—they don’t have the bulking agents of other products, are cheaper and need less packaging.
  • If your washing machine has a suds or rinse-water save feature, use it. If not, collect final rinse water from a top-loader by holding the outlet pipe over a bucket, and pour it back into the machine before starting the next wash.
  • Clean the washing machine filter regularly to keep your machine working efficiently.
  • Look at installing a diverter to redirect wastewater from your machine to a garden irrigation system.

Choosing a washing machine

  • Buy the most efficient model that you can find. Washing machines carry star ratings for both energy and water efficiency. The higher the number of stars the more efficient the machine. Front-loading machines are generally more efficient than top-loaders.
  • Choose a capacity appropriate to your needs. For example, if you have a big family or regularly do large loads, you should select a   larger machine. Multiple washes in a smaller-capacity washing machine will use more energy and more water.
  • Check how much water the machine uses per wash—the less the better. Look for models that allow you to vary water levels to match the size of the wash.
  • Alternatively, opt for machines that sense the load size or allow you to set the load size.
  • Make sure that the machine has a cold wash cycle; you will still need separate hot and cold water tap fittings for connection. Avoid machines that take cold water only, heating it when hot water is required, as this process is usually less efficient than using your piped hot water—especially if your water is heated by gas or solar power (the latter heats your water for free).

Ideal washing machine features

  • Variable temperature control—to allow use of cold water
  • Load-size sensor or other reduced-load function—minimises water usage
  • Range of wash cycles to suit different fabrics—gentler on clothes
  • High spin speed (front-loaders mainly)—saves on drying time, and energy if you use a dryer
  • Suds or rinse-water saver—recycles rinse water for use in subsequent washes
  • Anti-crease features, for example, permanent press cycles or end-of-cycle tumble functions (front-loaders), or rinse or spin ‘hold’ functions (top-loaders)—reduce the need for ironing

Drying wisely

  • Whenever the weather permits, hang your washing outside to dry. Ultraviolet light from the sun will help eliminate bacteria and dust mites. Even on damp days, choose to use a clothes horse placed under shelter or indoors rather than a dryer.
  • Shake and smooth out clothes prior to hanging them, to reduce the need for ironing.
  • A mechanical clothes dryer is energy-hungry and generates significant amounts of greenhouse gases, so use it as little as possible. When you do, switch it to a medium setting rather than high.
  • Don’t overload the machine or overdry the clothes. Both use unnecessary energy; overloading will also crease your clothes and overdrying will increase wear.
  • Do separate loads of heavy and light items, as mixing them will increase the drying time.
  • Run your machine at night. If you have off-peak electricity, you will save money; even if you don’t, you’ll help reduce demand for energy at peak times.
  • Use your washing machine spin cycle to dry clothes as much as possible before putting them in the dryer.This can cut greenhouse emissions by up to 2 kilograms per load.
  • Make sure the room your dryer is in is well ventilated. Humidity can reduce the machine’s efficiency.
  • Clean the lint filter in your machine after every load. If it is clogged it will use more energy and can be a fire hazard.