6 Steps to a More Sustainable Laundry Routine

My laundry routine has changed a lot over the years. I remember the days when I used to put absolutely all of my clothes in the dryer, no question, as well as the resulting frustration when all of my cotton t-shirts came out shorter and tighter than before. I cringe to admit that I once shrunk a wool sweater in the wash (something I’ll hopefully never do again!)

Over the years I’ve learned a lot not only about how to take better care of my clothing so it lasts longer, but how to make my laundry routine more eco-friendly as well. So, in today’s article I thought I’d share my top tips to help you have a more sustainable laundry routine.

1. Wash on cold

My first tip is to always wash your laundry on cold. This saves energy since your machine doesn’t have to heat the water. It also keeps your clothing looking new longer – hot water causes much greater wear over time to fabric.

I normally wash everything on cold, including clothing, bedding, towels, etc. The only thing I sometimes wash on a hot cycle is my cleaning rags when I’ve used them to clean the kitchen and bathrooms, just to make sure they’re sanitized. Other than that, into the cold water it goes!

2. Use a zero waste detergent

There are a lot of eco-friendly options out there for detergent, from laundry strips to homemade recipes to refillable options. Personally, I have switched to a refillable laundry detergent that I’m able to get at my local refill store. I talked about this in a recent vlog on my YouTube channel. It works like bulk shopping – I’m able to bring in my own container and fill it with detergent from a large pump bottle at their store, and they charge me by the weight.

The nice thing about this new detergent I’m using is that it’s high-efficiency, so I only need to pour in 2 Tbsp as opposed to what I used to pour in with our old detergent. So it will last me a lot longer, and this way I’ve ditched the plastic bottles for good!

I also use a laundry stain remover bar by Soap Works that I picked up from our bulk store. It works really well to release stains (I use it on my re-usable menstrual pads, so that should tell you something) and I still have more than half the bar left after months of use, so it’s lasting a while.

3. Use a microplastic-catching bag

If you have any clothing made of synthetic materials – think acrylic, nylon, polyester, etc. – they will release microplastics into the water when you wash them. These microplastics then get washed out into the drain and eventually end up polluting our water and oceans. Not good! The solution? Wash any clothing with synthetic fibres in a bag that catches microplastics, such as a Guppyfriend bag.

This bag works in a couple ways. Firstly, it protects your clothing in the wash and reduces fibre shedding in the first place. Then any fibres that do break away are filtered and remain in the bag while the water is allowed to flow in and out freely.

Since these days I focus on mainly having clothing in my wardrobe made of natural fibres (think cotton, hemp, linen, etc.), I use my Guppyfriend to mainly wash my athletic clothing and undergarments. For example, I have a set from Girlfriend Collective which is made from recycled plastic bottles. As wonderful as that is, unfortunately those pieces contain plastic and you have to be aware of that when you’re washing. So the washing bag is a great solution that still allows me to clean my clothes effectively without worrying about microplastic waste and pollution.

4. Hang to dry

Okay, so we’re done with the washing tips! Now on to drying. The best thing to do here is to hang dry as much of your laundry as possible. Again, this saves energy as well as helps keep your clothing looking newer longer. Another benefit of not using your dryer as much is saving money on your energy bill. The only downsides I can think of are that it takes longer, and takes up space (we live in a pretty small apartment). But those are very heavily outweighed by all of the benefits in my opinon.

The only things I do still put in the dryer are bedsheets (we just don’t have the space to dry them properly) and some towels and socks, because I’ve found that when I air dry those they end up feeling sort of crunchy and scratchy. I haven’t found a way around that yet. But I do have a tip for when you do use the dryer, so let’s go to the next step!

5. Use dryer balls

When I do use the dryer, I now always use a set of wool dryer balls. These help your machine work more efficiently by keeping your clothing and bulkier items separated, allowing the air to flow properly and dry your load faster. Essentially, your machine doesn’t need to work as hard or as long to dry your items which reduces energy consumption.

Another tip I like to do is put a few drops of essential oils on my dryer balls before each load. Then when my laundry comes out, it smells lovely and fresh!

6. Wash less frequently

My final tip is perhaps the most important: wash your clothing less frequently. Doing less laundry means consuming fewer resources, not to mention a lower electricity bill. Even if you’re using cold water and air drying, washing is still hard on your clothing. So to keep it looking its best longer, just don’t wash it as much – only it if it’s really dirty.

Personally, I regularly wash things like intimates, athletic wear, and socks after each use. Shirts can go a few wears before I start to feel like they need a clean. These days it’s rare that I wash any of my heavier duty knitwear or even pants; I just don’t find that they need it.

To keep your clothing feeling fresh longer, make sure you’re always storing them properly after wearing them (AKA hanging them back up in the closet instead of leaving them in a rumpled pile on the floor). You could also make a DIY laundry spray that not only smells nice but includes essential oils to combat odour-causing bacteria.

Those are all of my tips! I hope you enjoyed this article. If so, you might also be interested to read my article on 7 tips for taking care of your clothes.

Maybe you’re already doing some or all of these steps, but I hope in any case it was still helpful. And if there are any other steps you’re taking to have a more sustainable laundry routine, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

Thanks for reading,

Emily Lightly

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6 Steps to a More Sustainable Laundry Routine - Emily Lightly

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  • If you don’t have access to a bulk store, Blueland’s laundry tablets are an awesome option too! They’re small powder tablets (no microplastics!) that they ship in compostable pouches. Also for dryer balls, LooHoo is a small Black woman-owned company to support. I don’t own them (yet!) so can’t personally attest but they’re on my list!