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Clean Clothes, Happier Planet

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Washing tips:

  • Wash one large load instead of two medium loads (though don’t overload your machine). Check your machine’s manual for load capacity in pounds, then weigh out a few loads of laundry to get a sense of how much laundry your machine can handle.
  • Adjust water level to the lowest practical setting.
  • Use the shortest cycle needed.
  • Avoid using too much detergent to eliminate the need for extra rinse, it’s also better for your clothes.
  • Wash and rinse temperatures have a dramatic impact on overall energy use; a hot water wash with warm rinse costs 5 to 10 times more than a cold wash and rinse.
  • Turn down the thermostat on your water heater. A setting of 120 F is adequate for most home needs. By reducing your hot water temperature, you will save energy with either hot or warm wash cycles.
  • The temperature of the rinse water does not affect cleaning, so always set the washing machine on cold water rinse.
  • Pre-soak, especially dirty clothes–by pre-soaking heavily soiled clothes, a cooler wash temperature may be fine.
  • Experiment with different laundry detergents to find one that works well with cooler water.

Next: 10 tips for drying

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Read more: Allergies, Conservation, Home, Non-Toxic Cleaning, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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12:41PM PDT on Oct 24, 2013

already doing a lot of this

11:37AM PDT on May 27, 2012

To remove sweat stains from the under-arms of shirts and blouses, wet garment stain before washing and rub in a bit of toothpaste.
Launder as usual - that is, on machine settings appropriate for the material.

May have to be repeated if the sweat stain is extensive, but usually that will take care of it. (And the toothpaste "smell" only lasts a few minutes.)

1:41AM PDT on Oct 3, 2011

Thanks for the tips!

1:13AM PDT on May 23, 2011

This post should be appreciated. Thanks for sharing this information. mosquito hat

5:30PM PST on Feb 2, 2011

this turning down the thermostat on your h/w heater is for the birds!! I want HOT water not lukewram water in my shower and when I wash my dishes by money? If your h/w heater is electric, like mine is, TURN IT OFF at the circuit breaker when not in use!! I turn mine on about 20-30 min. before I need water and save up to $50 on my elec. bill!!

8:20PM PST on Jan 31, 2011


12:04PM PDT on Jul 21, 2010

Great tips. Thank you!

6:47PM PDT on Jul 11, 2010

Thank you

10:42AM PDT on May 24, 2010

Some of the stain removal methods were new to me. Thanks!

7:55PM PDT on May 19, 2010


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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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