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Eco-Friendly Laundering

Submitted by Lorene Bartos, UNL Extension Educator

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Laundry practices save water, reduce energy and release fewer pollutants into the environment are good for the planet ... and good for your wallet. The Soap and Detergent Association, offers some tips to put you on the right path.

Stain treatment. Pre-treat or pre-soak stains and heavy soils before washing to get the best stain removal without using extra hot water or rewashing.

Load size. A full load is the most energy-efficient use of your washing machine. If that's not practical, adjust the water level to correspond to the size of your load.

Detergent amount. Read and follow the label directions for the recommended dosage of detergent. Heavily soiled loads or hard water may require slightly more than the recommended amount; slightly less than the recommended amount can be used in soft water or for lightly soiled loads. Measure, don't guess!

Detergent type. "Ultra" detergents are concentrated detergents in liquid or powder form. They come in smaller packages, yet are designed to offer the same cleaning power as similar products in larger packages. You'll need less ultra detergent than with an unconcentrated product, so follow label instructions and use the measuring cap or scoop that comes with the product.

Water temperature. Heating water eats up energy, so, whenever possible, switch to the warm – or, even better, the cold setting. If your hot water supply is limited, start with the hot-water-wash loads, then follow with warm, then cold. Rinse all loads in cold water.

Water re-use. If your washer has a water-return system, re-use the wash water for additional loads. Start with hot water, lightly soiled items and the recommended amount of detergent. Add more detergent for each additional load.

High Efficiency (HE) washing machines. If you're in the market for a new washing machine, HE washers are designed to provide major savings when compared to traditional agitator machines.

  • They use less water – from 20% to 66% less.
  • They use less energy – from 20% to 50% less because there is much less water to heat.
  • They extract more water from the clothes, which reduces drying time.

Unlike traditional agitator washers, most HE washers use a "tumbler" system with no agitator. In a front-loading HE washer, the laundry tumbles back and forth as the tub rotates clockwise, then counterclockwise. In a top-loading HE washer, a gentle combination of spinning, rotating and/or wobbling wheels, plates or disks are used to move the items as they are cleaned.

For best cleaning performance, use only HE detergents in an HE washing machine. They're formulated to be low-sudsing and quick-dispersing. Using a "traditional" detergent in an HE washer creates an excess of suds, which can interfere with the tumbling action and redeposit soil onto clean clothes.

Drying Expertise

In the world of clothes dryers, there is no equivalent to the HE dryer for energy savings. However, if you're in the market for a new one, be sure it has a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off the machine when clothes are dry. There are also some simple guidelines to follow for maximum energy efficiency.

Dry full loads. Just don't overdo it – you want air to be able to circulate around the clothes.

Utilize retained heat. Drying two loads (or more) in a row will cut down on individual drying time.

Be lint-free. To improve drying efficiency, clean the lint filter before each load.

Air-dry. Not everything has to go in the dryer.

Ask Lorene

(This resource was added August 2008 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

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