Cool Laundry Savings

Utility bills too high? Time for your laundry to take a cold bath. Not only will you save money and reduce your household's share of greenhouse gas emissions, but cold water and cooler drying cycles are gentler on fabrics, as anyone who's shrunken a favorite sweater knows.

Cold water washing and rinsing will reduce your machine's electricity use by up to 90 percent, and every such load will cost you 5-to-10 times less than a hot water wash and warm water rinse, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)  If you wash all your laundry on cold,  you can reduce your carbon footprint by about 154 lbs. of global warming gas, on average, per year.

That said, don't make yourself crazy. Even the estimable UCS, while always concerned, makes allowances for the realities of daily life. When it comes to the direst dirt and grease, or allergenic dust mites in bedding, you've got to wash on hot. So let's say we'll wash half our loads on cold/cold, and save 72 lbs. of CO2 a year.

Here are some more quick tips for saving energy and water.

In the Washer

Wash full loads (but don't overload):  You'll save energy, for instance, by running one large load rather than two medium loads, says the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

Most conventional machines consume about 40 gallons of water per wash cycle, ACEEE says. Do remember to adjust the water level according to the size of the load (small, medium, large).

If your machine has different spin settings, a faster speed will remove more water, reducing the timeand powerlaundry will have to spend in the dryer.

In the Dryer

First, ask yourself:  Does this need to go in the machine or can it hang dry, saving me up to $100 a year?

Check that the lint trap is clean, to permit more efficient air flow.

Combine clothes of similar weights and drying times.

Use the coolest setting possible, and for the shortest time. Make a mental note of how long it takes your machine to dry lighter loads, such as clothing and sheets, vs. heavy loads such a blankets and towels.

Pull clothes out when just dry, rather than waiting till they're toast.

Use any energy-saving features, such as auto-dry rather than a timer.

Even if your clothes or sheets aren't "permanent press" , choose the permanent-press cycle, whose built-in cooldown uses less energy. In general, we advise avoiding "permanent press" or "water- and stain-resistant" fabric treatments, as they can give off trace amounts of toxic, irritating chemicals such as formaldehyde or a family of perfluorochemicals that are being phased out, but not quickly enough.

Dry the next load right away, to make use of residual heat in the machine. Mom may have said never to let the laundry pile up, but in this case, slackers are energy stars!

For more info:

Union of Concerned Scientists
American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy

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