"Green" Laundry Tips
Laundry is inevitable, but practicing green laundry tips can help you complete this necessary task while staying conscious about the effect it has on the environment and your budget. The number of households that rely on clotheslines to air dry clothes has steadily decreased over the years. But it is making a comeback due to increased environmental awareness. And you don’t have to mothball your dryer completely to be “green.” Using a combination of clotheslines and efficient dryer practices can be easier on Mother Nature and your wallet.
Visit your local True Value hardware store for all the tools, products and expert advice you need to start right.
Install Line-and-Pulley Clothesline
Step 1. Choose a Location
The first step to creating an eco friendly laundry environment is to choose an area of your yard, laundry room, basement, etc., suitable for hanging clothes to dry—someplace out of the way and where there are two anchor points from which to string the line. The location should be open enough that it’s not near objects that would interfere with hanging clothes, such as trees.
Step 2. Install Anchor Points
Buy two clothesline hooks or screw hooks. For screw hooks, drill a starter hole a bit smaller than the diameter of the screw hooks into the first anchor point structure (say, the side of your house or a wall indoors). Then screw in the hook and repeat the process at the opposite anchor point. If using clothesline hooks, simply attach with screws using a power screwdriver. Your line will be strung from these two points.
- Make your hooks, and thus your line, high enough so when the line sags from the weight of wet clothes, the clothes don’t touch the ground. A few inches above your own height should suffice.
Step 3. String Up the Line
Attach two clothesline pulleys to each screw hook and thread the clothesline through both. Connect the ends of the clothesline on the “bottom” rope by pulling the line as tight as possible and connecting them with a knot or clothesline tightener.
- Buy a clothesline that is twice as long as the distance between your two anchor points.
- If placing it outside, buy a clothesline that can withstand a beating from the elements. Cotton clothesline doesn’t last as long as synthetics or vinyl-coated wire. Your best bet is a flexible nylon or polyester line.
- Invest in clothesline separators. They keep the bottom and top part of the line apart and keep the bottom line from sagging too much.
Install an Umbrella Clothesline
Umbrella clotheslines are another option to help your household stay consistent with eco friendly laundry practices. As opposed to traditional clotheslines, umbrella clothesline can help reduce the fading of clothes, as well as protect your clothes from bird droppings. The following steps are for installing an umbrella clothesline outside. You can also purchase umbrella-style clotheslines on tripods for easy, indoor use.
Step 1. Dig a Hole
After you’ve purchased an umbrella clothesline kit, dig a hole where you want the clothesline to be located. Use a post-hole digger to make a hole about 12" deep and 6" to 12" wide.
- When choosing a location outside, keep your clothesline away from wires and trees or any objects where birds may perch. It is also good to install the clothesline away from high-traffic areas in your yard where children and pets play. For privacy’s sake, choose an area of your yard that has the least visibility to neighbors and passersby.
Step 2. Make a Support Tube
Make a tube to go into the hole once it’s filled with concrete. The tube will support the clothesline’s post to keep it securely in place once heavy, wet clothes are hanging on it. Buy a length of PVC pipe that will precisely fit the height of the hole you dig. Use a hacksaw or similar tool to cut it down to size if need be, and keep one end open and cover the other end with duct tape to keep concrete out (more on that later).
Step 3. Pour concrete, Add Water
Pour dry concrete mix into the hole (one or two bags will probably do it) and add water from a garden hose. Use a mixing stick to stir the concrete until the mix is homogenous. Push in the tube you made in Step 2, taped end first (the tape keeps concrete from pushing up inside the tube) and let the concrete set for a couple of days. Use a level to make sure the tube is completely straight. Once the mix has completely dried and hardened, you’re ready to set up your clothesline.
Install a Pole-to-Pole Clothesline
The more traditional way for installing a clothesline to help you go green with your laundry is to buy a set of ready-made clothesline poles.
Step 1. Choose a Location
When choosing a location, keep your clothesline away from wires and trees or any objects where birds may perch. It is also good to install the clothesline away from high-traffic areas in your yard where children and pets play. For privacy’s sake, choose an area of your yard that has the least visibility to neighbors and passersby.
- If possible, align the direction of the clothesline so that your clothes will receive the greatest amount of sunlight by running the line north to south. Your clothes will dry faster this way.
Step 2. Dig a Hole
To permanently and securely install your clothesline poles, you need to bury part of the poles in the ground so that they can support the weight of wet clothes on the line. Using a tape measure, map out how much space you want between your two poles and mark where you’ll dig the two holes with chalk or paint. It’s up to you how far apart the poles will be, but keep in mind that you want enough line space to hold all of your laundry, but too much line can sag in the middle and make wet clothes touch the ground when they’re on it.
- Don’t just start digging in your yard. Check with your local utility companies about gas and water lines, telephone lines or any other utility line that could cause either a disruption in your service or worse, a potentially dangerous situation such as a ruptured gas line.
Step 3. Plant the Posts
Using a post-hole digger, dig two equidistant holes – one for each pole. Make the holes about 12" - 18" deep and 12" wide. The bottom of the hole should be slightly wider than the top—this helps prevent any movement when the earth settles. Note: Pole height can vary a bit depending on how high you want your clothesline to be. Most poles are around 6' to 71/2' in height and can be found at your local True Value hardware store. In the end, you want the clothesline to be at the average height of a person or a couple inches taller to make it easy to hang clothes on.
Step 4. String the Line
Tie a good-quality, nylon clothesline to the ends of each pole “T” and then tie the other end of the rope to the opposite “T” in the same way.
Washer and Dryer Green Laundry Tips
Aside from hanging your clothes outside in the warmer months, here are some other eco-friendly laundry tips you can use to heighten your green laundry regimen.
Step 1. Wash Full Loads
Only do a load of laundry when you have enough clothes to fill the washer. Washers work best when doing full loads and water is used more efficiently. Most conventional washers use about 40 gallons of water per cleaning cycle, so a lot of water can be wasted if you’re only washing a few items. While socks and undergarments require washing after use, pants and shirts don’t always need a wash.
- Most washers have settings for load size. Make sure you use the appropriate setting for the amount of clothes you’re washing.
- Clothes that have been worn but are not dirty can be washed with a short wash cycle. This ensures that you’re not over-washing and using more water and electricity than needed.
- Soak heavily-soiled items before washing them to cut down on a second cycle.
- After washing, do another spin cycle to remove more water and cut down on drying time.
Step 2. Turn Down the Heat
A large majority of the energy used to do laundry goes towards heating the water used. The less hot water you use, the less electricity and/or gas you will use each wash cycle. Use cold water to wash most items, only using warm or hot water when necessary, such as when cleaning items with ground-in stains and oily residue. Simply switching temperatures from hot to warm gives substantial energy savings.
- Check the temperature setting on your water heater. It should be set at 120º F maximum. You can reduce your overall hot water energy costs by lowering the temperature 10 degrees or more.
Step 3. Use Correct Detergent Amount
Be sure to correctly measure the amount of detergent you use so that it is appropriate for the size of the load. Too much detergent can create too many suds, causing your washer to work harder and use up more energy than necessary.
Step 4. Organize Your Loads
Grouping clothes/item types together before drying allows you to dry at the proper heat level for the appropriate amount of time, making your dryer use more efficient. If you have to do back-to-back loads, dry lighter materials first. They dry quicker and leave the dryer warmed up for the heavier items, which means less energy used to dry. Drying multiple loads one after the other also saves energy because the dryer stays warm.
Dry appropriately sized loads. Don’t overload your dryer. A crowded dryer means less space for garments to tumble around, which means longer drying times and more energy used. At the same time, take care not to under-load your dryer. Drying just a few items can use up the same amount of energy as a full load.
Step 5. Dry On Appropriate Settings
Your dryer is designed with different settings for specific types of garments and materials. Use the appropriate setting for the type of load you’re drying. For example, delicate/permanent press should be used on lighter-fabric items. Not only is it easier on the garments, it saves energy since these clothes don’t need as much heat to dry. Many dryer models have a moisture-sensing setting that allows you to dry clothes for the length of time needed by shutting down when the clothes are dry, compared to a standard set 20- to 30-minute dry cycle.
Step 6. Clean the Lint Filter
Clean out your dryer’s lint filter after every load (or before you start the next one). While it might seem like this wouldn’t cause much of a difference in regards to your dryer’s performance, good air flow through the filter allows the machine to work more efficiently while the lint is collected properly. Cleaning the filter also cuts down on wear and tear on your dryer; if the filter becomes too full, it can damage the unit over time.
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