What is a sustainable laundry room? The answers can be endless, depending on who you ask. And good chance, they might all be right. There’s a great buzz today about sustainability in our society, and many people want in on it. We like to keep it simple here, though. Small steps, made consistently over time, create significant differences. That’s what we’re all about.
Let’s get started. Here are five easy things you can start doing today to have a more sustainable laundry room. To make it even easier, remember these five words: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, Refuse and Repurpose.
1. Reuse Your Wardrobe
That may sound strange, but it’s so easy that you’re probably already doing it. There’s no need to wash everything we wear every time we wear it. It not only creates more work, but costs more money, requires extra laundry detergent, and shortens the life span of our clothing. So instead, try wearing that shirt again next week with a different pair of jeans, then those jeans with a sweater. Sweaters worn over other tops barely touch your skin. Fold it up until the next cold day. And those socks? Well, go ahead and put them in the hamper. Let’s not go overboard.
Honestly, though, the less you have to visit your laundry room, the better. Think of it as ‘Sustainability by Proxy.’
Now, if you have children, work in a job that gets you messy, or perhaps are a personal trainer, you are more likely to need to do laundry weekly, if not daily. If this is you, read on to learn how to reduce, recycle, refuse and repurpose your way to a more sustainable laundry room.
2. Reduce Your Use
In reducing our use for the laundry room, strive to maximize the load capacity of your washers and minimize your dryer’s running time. Let’s start with the washer. Please wait until you have a full load to run it. This way, you don’t have to do as many loads every week.
Each member of my family (even my husband) is responsible for bringing their dirty clothes hampers downstairs every Thursday night. This process ensures I have plenty to work with for full loads in the wash. I try to get all the clothes clean on Fridays. Sometimes it spills into Saturdays. Regardless, each family member then has until Sunday to put away the clean clothes that have been washed, dried, and folded. Is it like this every week? Heck no! But, this is our goal. It’s also a win for mom when the argument starts that someone is out of clean underwear.
Line drying is the best thing for your clothes, your pocketbook, and our beloved environment. Is that what I do? Nope, it’s just not practical right now. I have done it in the past, and I plan to do it again in the future. In the meantime, I pick and choose what hits the dryer (shorts, socks, pajamas, etc.), what gets hung up to dry inside (workout clothes, shirts, sweaters, dresses, skirts, etc.), and what can be laid over the porch railings for mother nature to do her job (rugs, curtains, etc.).
One more thing to share on reusing: get yourself some wool dryer balls. We use them and reuse them. Gone are the days of toxic dryer sheets. In are the days of non-toxic ways to clean our clothes. In addition to dryer balls being all-natural, they bounce around in your dryer between your articles, creating pathways for the air to flow more freely, decreasing the amount of time needed for your dryer to run to dry your clothes. Our Laundry Essentials 2021 Box contains a set of American-made, magical laundry wonders.
Items do not need to have a fancy numbered triangle on them to be considered recyclable. Although those that do, I highly suggest you adhere to the guidelines. But think about the things that pass through your laundry room in any given month. For me, there’s the obvious: clothes, detergents, energy, packaging, and dryer lint. Then there is the not so obvious but possibly pertains to you: shoes, backpacks, lunch boxes, groceries, light bulbs, batteries, paint, rag towels, fermenting beer (another story for another day), paper towels, garbage bags, this list is endless.
Maybe it’s just our house, but it’s crazy how much passes through this small space. Instead of tossing the old, we try to recycle all we can. So, I use empty tissue boxes to collect old batteries and lightbulbs. Batteries Plus is a supply store in our community that accepts these items and recycles them responsibly.
Don’t forget to recycle that air in the winter. Leave your laundry room doors open to let the heat from your appliances warm up the house. If the air conditioning is on, be sure to keep the doors closed. Shoes, backpacks, lunch boxes are all items we churn annually. Regardless of the shape, they are in, we wash them and donate them. I let the charity determine if they are worthy of selling or simply giving to families in need.
That beer? It’s my husband’s hobby. He loves to brew and saves every bottle he uses. Then, when the beer runs dry, he washes, rinses, and dries until the next batch is ready to brew.
Refuse to launder your clothes with toxic chemicals. Most conventional laundry detergents contain harmful, toxin-laden ingredients that are bad for your lungs, your skin, and the air you breathe. In addition, these chemicals get released into wastewater, posing a threat to creatures and natural elements outside of your home. Instead, choose laundry detergents free of synthetic fragrances, phosphates, 1,4 Dioxane, and surfactants. To understand why these chemicals are harmful to you, you can check out each of them in our ‘No Thank You’ List on this website.
Refuse to buy clothing that requires dry cleaning. I’ve never been a fan of paying for someone else to do my laundry for me, so I have avoided the cleaners most of my life. However, I am aware of the toxic chemical process used to dry clean clothing. Trust me. You want to avoid this process altogether if your goal is to have a home and lifestyle void of toxins.
Want to know a weird secret about me? I collect dryer lint. I have been doing it for three years now. It started with a small baggie. But once I quit my baggie habit, I started storing my collection in a large, handled paper bag. I also save empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls. I stuff the dryer lint into the rolls and repurpose it to get our outdoor fires started. It’s safe, non-toxic, and easy.
Want some more creative ideas on making old stuff new to make the most out of this space? Check out Pinterest for ideas. I have seen an old ladder hung from the ceiling for hanging clothes to dry and silverware bent into keyring holders. The possibilities are endless.
So, next time you drop your clothes into the hamper and trot off towards those large cleaning machines, think about the five ways to a sustainable laundry room by remembering the 5 R’s: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, Refuse, Repurpose.
Like what you read? Be sure to sign up below for our newsletter, so you never miss a post. Also, for more on building a sustainable, toxin-free home, be sure to read our blog post on 5 Steps To a Sustainable Kitchen.
Blog Post Written by: Jaime Snell