Thursday, March 20, 2008

Little Environmentally Friendly Laundry Changes: Part 2

The other day I wrote about the fact that even though I can't buy new, shiny, energy efficient appliances, I can still make small changes in the way I do my laundry to help make a difference. I gave some suggestions for washing the laundry, now I'm going to give some suggestions for drying the laundry.

  • Use your solar powered dryer whenever possible - in other words - hang the laundry outside instead of putting it in the dryer. It's not possible with everything. Some people aren't even allowed to have clothes lines in their yards due to town ordinances (stupid, but true). Some things don't turn out well dried on the line, towels for instance. But sheets, they are fabulous when line dried. If you can hang just one or two loads out a week, it helps.
  • Hang dry things inside, too. I have a pole in the basement that I hang clothes from. Sometimes, when I have two loads that are similar - say two loads of darks, I'll wash one, hang what can be hanged, and put the rest in the dryer without turning it on. Then I'll wash the next load immediately, hang what I can from that, and add the remainder to the dryer. Then turn it on. I end up washing two loads but only drying one.
  • Skip the commercial dryer sheets. Basically, they are full of harmful chemicals to make clothing soft, and then loaded with harmful chemical fragrances to mask the smell of the softening chemicals. They are bad for your health and they are bad for the environment when they end up tossed in the trash and eventually in the landfill. For more information on dryer sheets, read this
  • Find out how long it really takes to dry your clothes. Like many dryers, mine has an automatic cycle on it. It's supposed to turn itself off when the laundry is dry. But when I use mine, the laundry is still pretty wet when it's done. So I started just putting the dryer on to the maximum amount of time - 80 minutes - and drying everything on that. When I started going green, I decided to find out how long it really took loads to dry by decreasing the time in ten minute intervals. My whites only take about 50 minutes. My loads with heavy jeans take about 70. Make sure you adjust the time accordingly with each load.
  • Keep your dryer clean from lint. Always empty out the lint trap, and clean the entire lint system out at least twice a year. Lint trapped in the dryer makes it less efficient. It's also a fire hazard.
Last year, The Wall Street Journal reported that "Clothes dryers account for 6% of total electricity consumed by U.S. households, third behind refrigerators and lighting, according to the Residential Energy Consumption Survey by the federal Energy Information Administration." That's a lot of energy used to dry clothes. If everyone dried a few less loads a week, a lot of energy would be saved.
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