I’m Doing Laundry!

My college roommate Erin used to say she loved to do laundry because she could feel like she was being productive the entire time the washer and dryer were running, even if she spent that time plunked on the couch in front of the TV. I must admit, I do think of her logic every time I throw in a load…

Really, though, I want to steal an idea from Student Doctor Green, a blogger in Texas who is trying to “green” her life and decided to tackle one room of her house at a time (she started with the kitchen) and do a thorough green-ness assessment. I am going to modify the concept a little and focus on tasks instead of rooms – my first target is doing laundry. Here are my green tips:

1. Do less laundry. We all have our own comfort zones but I think it’s healthy to re-evaluate them periodically. I personally only wash my bathroom towels once a week unless they smell bad. Socks, underwear, and t-shirts get washed after each wearing but sweaters, pants, and jackets are generally worn three or four times (I hang them on pegs in my bedroom during the “slightly dirty” phase) before washing. Cloth napkins, rags, and kitchen towels get hung up in the laundry room when they look or smell gross to await the next load of laundry. I recently purchased some cloth menstrual pads from etsy but I don’t quite have a routine down for those. The package suggests storing them in a bucket of water until it’s time to do laundry or washing them out by hand. I’ll keep you posted.

2. Run full loads using cold water. I tend to do two loads of laundry every two weeks unless I’ve been especially dirty. I have washed my clothes in cold water for the last five years at least and it always seems to work just fine.

3. Use environmentally sound detergents in small quantities. Read the box! It takes less detergent than you might think. I used to throw in a little extra for good measure but I tested and it didn’t make a difference so now I use the minimum amount of Biokleen or Seventh Generation or whatnot. I did get some very nice detergent from Mugwort Maggie’s but she cashed my check in November and didn’t send me the detergent (or respond to any of my e-mails) until February. Not cool. Even if you make awesome handmade products, you have to respect your customers or they will tell everyone you’re a jerk. A friend just sent me a link about soap nuts, some kind of naturally soapy nut sold by a different Maggie. I guess there are women named Maggie all over the internet doing crazy green things!

4. Dry your clothes efficiently. This means not overstuffing the dryer and maybe using some of those little dryer balls (we don’t have them yet – wedding gift perhaps?) although as Treehugger points out, they’re made out of polyvinyl chloride, which is not eco-friendly at all. It’s also important to maintain your dryer – you know, clean that lint trap! If we were really hardcore we would dry our clothes on a clothesline. I must confess, I will probably only ever get around to that one if it’s extremely convenient and I will still want certain things (underwear, towels) to have that dryer-soft feel. (On the other hand, I *hate* dryer sheets. I’d rather have the static cling.)

5. Upgrade your washer and dryer. Our rental home comes with a washer and dryer so this seems unlikely for us in the near future. We have toyed with the idea of getting a handwasher and a drying rack just to see if we could get used to the super-efficient method. Perhaps a wedding registry with Lehman’s is in order…

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10 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Liz said,

    February 9, 2008 @ 1:28 pm

    I have the exact same policy regarding clothes, and I also have pegs in my bedroom for the “slightly dirty” stage.

    I’m enjoying your blog, keep it up!

  2. 2

    Alder said,

    February 12, 2008 @ 6:33 pm

    Thanks for the links to environmentally sound detergents! I also wash in cold water and wear pants and jackets multiple times (although, my sorting system mostly consists of piles on the floor). I also dry about half of my laundry on clotheshangers on a clothesline (I machine-dry socks, underwear, towels, sheets, etc). It takes a while to hang everything up, but I think it makes the clothes last longer and you never have to worry about shrinking anything :)

  3. 3

    Maggie said,

    February 13, 2008 @ 12:24 am

    Alder – will you tell me more about your clothesline/hanger system? I really do want to air dry more of my clothes but so far it has been too much of a hassle to bother with. We have a very nice closet for our washer/dryer but there’s really not room to hang up a clothesline and the only other promising space is in the bathroom, which is pretty tiny. Come April, I might put a line up outdoors but I’d love to have an indoor option.

    I have only shrunk two things in my life and they were both tote bags. I also don’t sort my colors when I wash; I think my clothes are mostly old enough by the time I get them that I don’t have to worry much about shrinkage or color changes… :)

  4. 4

    Alder said,

    February 13, 2008 @ 6:56 am

    Luckily, this apartment building has a long clothesline in the basement, so that is where I hang my clothes. However, in past buildings I have had to improvise! If you use clothes-hangers, you have more options of where to hang your clothes– the shower rod works, as do doorknobs, curtain rods, and the tops of doors (this only works if you don’t mind having your clothes festooned around the house for a day).

    I like to use thicker, plastic hangers (I know– plastic is so bad! But I already have the hangers– I might as well use them. . . :)) because sometimes the thin wire ones make the shoulders of knit shirts warp a little bit. You could also try using clothespins to attach the clothes to the hangers (this is also useful for skirts and pants).

    Also, the hangers take up less space along a clothesline, so you could fit more items on a shorter line than if you were using clothespins. You might consider a retractable clothesline– a friend of mine has set one up in her bedroom. She pulls it out when she does laundry and reels it back up when she is done, so it doesn’t really intrude on her space too often.

  5. 5

    Will said,

    February 14, 2008 @ 3:49 am

    Do you have to worry about your clothes dripping on things? We’d have a lot more options if we could dry clothes over carpet.

  6. 6

    Alder said,

    February 14, 2008 @ 5:37 am

    I find that the spin cycle of the washing machine gets enough water out that the clothes don’t drip– I only notice dripping if I wash something by hand.

  7. 7

    Dana said,

    February 15, 2008 @ 6:45 pm

    When I lived in Japan, I used the cold-water-wash, hang-dry system, because dryers are really, really rare there, unless you go to a professional laundromat. To dry my clothes, I got a collapsible indoor drying rack, (kind of like this one,) and I had this little hanging square with a bunch of clothespins attached to it that I used for socks. This worked well in Japan, but in part I think that had to do with how small the washer was. For American washers, you could end up with too many clothes to fit on the rack. As Alder said, the final spin cycle of the washer usually takes care of most excess water, so I never had any dripping. Things might have dried a little faster if I’d been able to put them outside, but I didn’t have a balcony or yard. One problem a friend noted was that some things, like sweaters, lost their shape after a while and needed to be run through the dryer to regain shape. Another friend said she didn’t think the cold water got her stuff as clean, so she’d add a kettle’s worth of hot water from the stove.

  8. 8

    Maggie said,

    February 16, 2008 @ 2:52 am

    Thank you Alder & Dana for your drying tips!
    We’ll probably put a drying rack on our wedding registry (the nice ones seem rather pricey) and I’m definitely going to look into some retractable clotheslines. I am guessing it will have to be put in a wall stud so it doesn’t rip out the drywall since wet clothes tend to be heavy…. I’ll keep you posted.

  9. 9

    Jenn said,

    February 17, 2008 @ 6:46 am

    I am currently experiencing a problem with Mugwort Maggie’s myself. I placed an order on January 14th after receiving a product sample in sample box. A month later I haven’t received my product, and I can not get a response to any of my emails.

  10. 10

    Maggie said,

    February 17, 2008 @ 8:48 pm

    Jenn, I feel your pain. You could try calling Paypal and disputing the payment. I tried but got put on hold for a long time and was pretty late in calling so I didn’t see it through. Or you could just wait it out. I believe she’s not trying to screw anyone over but she just has terrible business skills. It’s frustrating. Good luck.

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