Going Green 2: Laundry

Back to basics, back to going green. Green I tell ya, green! Let’s do it together and get some green sh*t done.

Over the years I have had a love-hate relationship with laundry. At age 10 or so my Mom used to make me help fold the odd load, and I hated it. Why do I have to fold these stupid towels, I didn’t dirty them. Why do I have to fold my sister’s clothes, when they are not mine?

Ha ha ha. If only my 10 year old self only knew the laundry mountains that awaited…

From about age 12 or so I did my own laundry. By that I mean picking up the contents of my floor, throwing it in the washer, forgetting it for a while, throwing it in the dryer, then using the dryer to find socks in the morning. Finally someone would nag me to take my laundry out of the dryer already so I would throw it in a laundry basket and continue to mine through it for socks each morning. Who needs a closet anyway?

Hey, I was twelve.

Since then I have matured somewhat and now I have a husband and two dirty darling little kids and I do all the laundry. I used to be on an “I’ll do it when I feel like it” sort of schedule. This worked for a while, until I stopped feeling like it, and then the mountains grew and grew and nobody had socks…

Then I turned all green and the laundry mountains came tumbling down. I have totally different relationship with laundry now. It has obtained a sort of zen like status. I can’t explain it. Somehow smoothing, hanging and folding clothes is very calming for me in a hectic, busy house. I do it exclusively in the laundry room, with no distractions. I have a schedule. I rock it.

How do you feel about laundry? Love or hate? At all green? How would you classify yourself on this sliding green scale:

Dabbler

You tend not to use dryer sheets. Those things are filled with chemicals anyway. That is why some people carry dryer sheets to keep bugs away. The bugs know better. You don’t want to smother everything that touches your skin with these things. You use dryer balls or tennis balls instead to cut the static. I started doing this when my first baby was born.

Intermediate

You just wear your clothes more. This is so easy. Just wear a pair a jeans, and then the next day, wear them again. Make your kids do it too. All pants get worn more than once in my house. Unless they are muddy or have food on them can’t be picked off (I am only slightly joking). Pajamas are on a three day rotation. As for shirts, you can wear it again if the following is true:

  1. it is a sweatshirt or sweater and does not lose its shape with one wearing
  2. you are a kid and therefore don’t have any concerns with BO issues, at all, ever
  3. you are me and it is a Saturday and you just don’t care what you look like and you are just cleaning up around the house anyway. Besides, who cares? Less laundry is almost always better.

Hardcore

Make your own laundry detergent. This is really easy, I have been doing it for over a year now. It takes about 10 minutes and lasts about 4 months. I don’t mess around with the liquid detergent recipes, I go straight for the dry ones. I just let the detergent dissolve in the water a bit before putting the clothes in. My clothes come out clean and I use ingredients I understand, like plain bar soap, baking soda and borax. I use recipe #4 or #9 from Tipnut. My fave is #9, here is what you need to make it:

Here it is all finished. You only need 1/8 cup per wash. It is literally pennies a wash.  Plus there is no throw-away plastic container.

If you don’t make it, then you buy the ultra greenie type of washing detergent at the store. No bleach (dioxins are bad).

Ultimate

You line dry your clothes. Most of the world does this anyway. Most of our grandparents did this. Australia does this. For some reason Canada seems to have a hardcore dryer culture. Maybe it is because it is too cold to dry our clothes outside for over the half the year. I line dry inside, it works like a charm. I would even go as far as to say that line drying INSIDE in the winter is EASIER because the clothes dry FASTER. Like in 12 hours. Dry, done, folded. But that is winter. In spring, it is more like 24 hours.

So I have not turned my dryer on in over a year. It took a few months to give it up all together. Now it just sits there but does make a very nice surface on which to fold clothes.

Sometimes I will pull sheets out of the closet that I have not used in a while and put them on the bed and smell that outside smell all around them and just close my eyes in that dreamy way those chicks in those laundry commercials do when they smell their chemically scented laundry… Ahh, freshness.

I also like folding line dried laundry. It is not all crumply. It is smooth and straight and slightly crisp. My t-shirts come out looking ironed. Everything folds up easy and fast. Also when you wear the clothes, they are crisp and fresh and I just like it better now.

The best part is the electricity savings. Here is a graph of two years of electricity use at my house (I am nerdy with a spreadsheet that way). I switched all my lightbulbs to compact fluorescent and turned off the dryer late in 2010, so the blue bars on the graph is old way of doing things, the red is new. I am not sure how much of the drop is due to light bulbs or laundry, but those are the only two big things I changed.

When you run the math (which I did, since I am an accountant and all) I saved 22% in electricity. So easy. Done. Waste not.

Bonus Points

Do you get any bonus points?

  1. You wash in cold water. I admit, I do not do this in the winter. The water here is so cold here it hurts your hands. Seriously! In summer it is a more reasonable cold. Lately I have been putting a bit of warm in, letting the soap dissolve, then switching to cold. Seems to work.
  2. You wash more often and buy less clothes. This is more related to cutting some consumerism habits vs. greening your laundry. But I thought I would just throw it there in for good measure.
  3. You have been known to pick off an unknown crusty bit from a sweater so you could wear it again without washing. Secretly.

So where do you fall on the sliding green scale – dabbler, beginner, intermediate, hardcore or ultimate? Do you get bonus points? Any change for the green is a good change, no matter how small. So take the poll, check all that apply:

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11 thoughts on “Going Green 2: Laundry

  1. Hmm, I’m in a weird place in between. I don’t make my own laundry detergent (I do use soap nuts for lightly soiled loads, Seventh Generation for everything else), but I do wash on cold and line dry about 75% of the time. I rewear my clothes a lot (tops at least 4 times, jeans as much as 10!) before they get washed because I don’t really get dirty apart from pottery — what’s a little dry clay, anyway? — and don’t sweat much. Thanks for the homemade laundry detergent recipe!

  2. I have been meaning to try soap nuts for a while now. I just need to go online and order some already! Sounds like you are pretty green in the laundry department. Wearing things a number of times is good on so many levels – less water, less detergents in the water, less energy, less wear and tear on your clothes so they last longer…

  3. I learned so much from this and I have a long way to go. I need to start with the basics like an outdoor line. I do insist that we wear our clothes more but sometimes find a lazy boy more willing to throw something in the dirty clothes hamper than putting it back on a shelf.

    • My husband is really good about it, but my kids not so much. I just keep reminding. We keep our pajamas under our pillows and the pants we are going to wear again at the end of the kids beds. It is a process… 🙂

  4. I love your blog for helping me green parts of my life whose impact I hadn’t even considered. While I already do some of this, I learned lots from your post that I plan to implement, soon! Can’t wait to start making my own laundry detergent and using dryer balls!

    I’m bookmarking this.

    • Great! Glad to hear you picked up a couple things. Dryer balls are so easy and cheaper too. So it homemade detergent! My next step is to try soap nuts, which is an all natural nut that you use over and over and acts like soap.

  5. Yay, I’m a hardcore laundry crusader! No dryer sheets, wear clothes (way) more than once, use a non-toxic detergent (and will try making my own once my current store-bought supply runs out), line dry my clothes, and only use cold water! Admittedly, this is easy for me because it’s just my clothes and my partner’s clothes that need washing. Not sure how I’d handle a house full of kids.

    Oh, and I don’t wait for Saturday to come around before throwing on old, baggy, not-to-be-worn-in-public clothes. I change out of my nicer clothes when I come home, every day. This is a habit my mother instilled in me when I was growing up, and not only does it make sense (you end up buying work clothes and formal wear far less often), it’s also way comfier!

    Great post, Sherry.

  6. Pingback: The Beginner’s Guide to Organizing – Laundry Area « Butterflies and Bunny Rabbits

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