Out of all the household tasks, doing laundry is actually my favorite — because you can do other things at the same time! Start a load in the washer and then do something while you wait. Dry your clothes and do something else while you wait. Putting everything away in a timely manner is the trickiest part for me… Anyone else let their clean laundry remain in the designated “clean” basket on the floor for a while?? Totally guilty.
Anyway, whether you enjoy doing the laundry or not, it’s something we all have to tackle. Some of us might wait longer than others in between loads, some of us have different levels of access to washing and drying, and some of us have much more laundry to do than others.
But at the end of the day, having clean clothes is a privilege.
As the standard of cleanliness has progressed with our technological advances and access to resources, people’s routine of doing the laundry has also changed. With access to more resources, most people tend to launder more frequently than in earlier periods of history. Europe, North America, and Latin America rely on washer and dryer machines the most. (source)
That being said, Americans spend $9 billion per year on electricity to dry their clothes (source). This does not include what they paid if they bought their own dryer. In an average American home with washing and drying machines, they pay over $100 per year in electricity bills just to run the dryer alone, and they will pay over $1,500 over the course of that machine’s lifetime.
The energy-saving standards for dryers have not been updated by much in over 30 years, wasting an incredible amount of our electricity and money (source). This also gives the average American’s home (using a dryer) a carbon footprint of about 2,400 pounds per year.
So, we’re spending a ton of money and energy to dry our clothes, and then we spend even more money to buy new clothes because the ones we’ve washed and dried so frequently have worn down.
You know all that lint you clean from your dryer screen after every load?
That’s a visual representation of how tough dryer machines are on our clothing.
I’m not going to tell you that you need to stop using your dryer. I am going to offer you four ways to dry your laundry with less waste, though. You have opportunities to save money with each of these steps, and whichever ones you decide to take will be better for the environment, too!
1. Air Dry Your Laundry
Not only is it completely free to dry your laundry using the air around you, it’s also more gentle on your clothing, which saves you money when your clothes last longer! All you need is a clothesline with clips and/or a drying rack. If you dry your clothes outside, the sun’s UV rays can help disinfect damp laundry. And, if you’ve used a detergent with a brightener, these rays of sunshine can further whiten your clothes. Air drying your laundry indoors due to rainy/snowy weather (or just personal preference) is no big deal, either! Check out these 8 reasons to air dry your laundry here.
If you want a clear breakdown of how much money you can actually save by air drying your clothes, click here to see an example!
2. Tumble Dry Low and Air Dry at the End
Sometimes it makes sense to use your dryer machine, like for sheets or blankets and other heavy materials, or if it’s too humid for your clothes to fully air dry without smelling of mildew. Whatever your reasoning, if you use your dryer, choose to tumble dry at the lowest heat setting. Then, pull your laundry out in its final stage of drying to air out. This method uses a little more time but less energy (source), which saves you money and lowers your overall carbon output. It also saves your clothes from shrinking or being overly-dried, giving them a longer lifespan.
3. Use Dryer Balls
Dryer balls are meant to speed up the drying process, soften your clothes, and can add a fresh scent if you choose. When they bounce around in the dryer, they prevent your clothes from clumping together and they retain heat so the overall drying time is reduced. This makes for a more efficient use of energy within the dryer. (source)
By bouncing around and agitating the clothes against their fibers, dryer balls also soften your laundry naturally. If you add a few drops of essential oil to the dryer balls, they’ll also provide a nice scent to your laundry. This eliminates your money being spent on things like dryer sheets or fabric softener, which is less wasteful anyway!
A couple more tips:
- Instead of dryer balls, you could also use a large towel or several little towels if you have some old ones lying around.
- To help with static, simply fasten a safety pin to one of your dryer balls or add a ball of aluminum foil to the dryer so the metal can diffuse the static. After a while, when it seems to not be working as well, you can recycle the metal and replace it.
4. Clean Your Dryer Vent Regularly
This is something that should be done anyway because otherwise it’s a huge fire hazard! Nearly 15,000 structural fires occur every year due to faulty dryers, and 80% of the time it’s because of clogged, dirty dryer vents. (source) Every time you change a load of laundry, you should clean the lint trap screen, but a yearly cleaning of your dryer’s vents is highly recommended.
Besides being a safety issue, clogged vents also cost you more because it takes so much more energy to fully dry your clothes. This puts unnecessary wear and tear on the machine itself, plus the laundry inside, which results in money you really don’t need to be spending.
Simple Steps with Lots of Savings
Whatever you choose out of the above, you’re guaranteed to be saving money and energy in your laundry routine. My personal preference is to air dry as much as possible because it’s completely free, greatly minimizes my carbon footprint, and has the least amount of impact on my clothes. This has a lot of value to me as I strive to get the absolute most out of my clothing for years at a time.
Take some time this week to contemplate your options and what small changes you can make with lasting effects.
If anything, consider washing your clothes less often than you do now.
Are they really that dirty? Could they be worn a few more times? If so, save yourself some time.
Your clothes, your wallet, and the environment will thank you.
Got any drying hacks? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear your ideas!