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Save Energy & Money On Laundry: Best Time to Wash, Dry Clothes

Looking to save money and energy around the home and in your lifestyle? It could be as simple as changing how and when you do your laundry! That tip and more, below.
Woman holding folded laundry

We all hate that feeling of opening an energy bill and seeing that the monthly usage rate has gone up. You might have tried other energy-saving tips around the house, such as changing your light bulbs to LEDs, installing a smart thermometer and other eco-hacks, but the laundry room is an often overlooked place to save on energy consumption.

Washers and dryers play a large role in a household's energy consumption, but with some simple switches in your laundry habits, you can potentially save money and energy. Assuming you wash about four loads a week, which is standard for a household of four people, you can expect to spend $21.92 a month on laundry costs alone. This can add up over time and can be a burden on an already tight budget. Luckily, there are some simple ways to cut back on your energy use while getting some chores done, and some of those tips are a procrastinator’s dream!

Wash your clothes with cold water

One easy way to cut down on energy usage while doing laundry is to wash your clothes with cold water instead of the typical hot water setting that many of us habitually set. Using warm or cold water instead of hot water can effectively cut your energy use per load in half! As an added bonus, use cold water detergents designed to be more effective when using the cold water setting.

Replace old washing machines with modern high-efficiency machines

Older washing machines aren’t designed with the current energy-saving standards that modern high-efficiency machines are equipped with today. ENERGY STAR, backed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy, reports that out of the two main styles of washing machines, a front loading machine is almost always the more energy-efficient option (when compared to a top loading machine). This is because the design of the front loading machines uses side paddles to lift up the tub. The tub rotation uses gravity to aid it in tumbling the clothes. Overall, this design helps save on drying time and energy by utilizing gravity and spinning clothes at a much faster rate to extract more water, aiding in the drying process.

Try to do laundry with full loads

This one is simple! Your washer will use the same energy every time it is loaded. So whether you are washing one towel or 10 towels, you will have used the same amount of energy which can add up to a lot of money. Prioritize washing full loads when possible!

Full load in a laundry basket

Use high-efficiency laundry detergent

High-efficiency laundry detergent (HE) is formulated for high-efficiency machines. This allows the machine to wash your clothes more effectively, all while using lower water levels and short cycles, saving you money and time!

Consider peak and off-peak hours for doing laundry

All electricity is not created equal. Cleaner energy sources such as wind and solar can help lower the environmental impact of everyday energy consumption. The problem with this is that the sun and wind are at their highest energy-producing potential when energy consumption is at its lowest. But by shifting energy consumption habits, you could be potentially relying on more renewable energy that is naturally available during those off-peak hours.

In other words, avoiding peak hours, which will differ depending on your electricity provider, will mean that you will be using cleaner and greener energy sources for doing your laundry. Not only that, many states have implemented time of use rates that make it more expensive to use energy during peak hours. So to get a better understanding of what your peak and non-peak hours mean for your energy bill, contact your energy provider.

Avoid using the dryer

If you have time to wait for your clothes before wearing them, hang drying is a great alternative to using the dryer. Cheap options for hang drying come in many shapes and sizes. You might be familiar with the traditional clothesline and clothespins, but small space and apartment-friendly options are also available. Utilize items you already own, such as shower curtain rods and backs of chairs to hang dry clothes.

If you plan on air drying your clothes, pick a spot that gets sunlight throughout the day. Remember to keep an eye on local weather, especially if you plan on drying your clothes outside!

Humidity can also impact how quickly your clothes will dry. If you live in a dry area with low humidity, you can expect your clothes to dry pretty quickly. On the other hand, it might take a while for your clothes to dry completely if you live somewhere with high humidity. In short, keep in mind the options that might be available for your lifestyle as an alternative to a dryer.

Hang dry clothing

Dry full loads in your dryer

If air drying your clothes is not an option, consider only using the dryer for full loads. Like washing full loads in the washing machine, the dryer will use a similar amount of energy, no matter the size. This advice might not be as applicable if your dryer has an auto-sensor during the drying process.

Consider investing in a gas dryer (with a caveat)

If you have the necessary setup for a gas dryer, then a gas dryer is an energy-saving alternative to an all-electric dryer. Gas dryers heat up faster than electric dryers and can dry items faster, meaning shorter cycles and less “on” time. On top of this, you can potentially save money depending on gas and electric rates in your area.

Although, there is something to be said about the environmental effect that gas dryers have. Since we should be moving away from energy reliant on fossil fuels, the savings and efficiency of gas dryers can be seen as unimportant in the grand scheme of things. All things considered, an electric dryer with ENERGY STAR standards would save you roughly 25% more energy than typical dryers and would not rely on gas as an energy source. So an ENERGY STAR dryer definitely gets our vote.

Dry heavier cottons separately

Have you started a load in the dryer and come back to soggy clothes after a full cycle? This could be because of the differences in the materials you are trying to dry in that one load. Since heavier cottons dry at a different rate than lighter-weight clothes, dry them separately but still in full loads. This will help you avoid drying the same load twice, saving you time and money.

A modern washing machine in a home.

Dry your clothes on a lower heat setting

When possible, try to dry your clothes and linens on a lower heat setting. This can both elongate the life of your clothes as well as save on energy costs. The higher the heat setting, the more energy, the higher your electric bill. You get it!

Regularly clean your lint filter

Cleaning your lint filter isn’t just important for preventing fires during the drying process, but a clean lint filter results in your dryer running more efficiently. This will help get your clothes dryer and use up less energy. If you use dryer sheets, consider scrubbing your filter with a toothbrush to help remove any buildup or residue.

Check out an appliance energy usage and cost calculator

You can use an appliance energy usage and cost calculator to figure out how much energy your current washer and dryer are costing you. It is super easy to use and can help aid in making purchasing decisions for household appliances. Keep in mind that your washer and dryer make up roughly 5% of your household's total energy consumption, so making smart choices can greatly impact your next energy bill.

What are some of the benefits of doing laundry less often?

Lower water usage

On average, a washing machine can use up to 41 gallons of water per load!

Less electricity usage

The less you run your machines, the less energy used. A quick tip is to use the cool-down cycle on your dryer to allow clothes to finish drying with the remaining heat from the cycle.

Less water pollution

Some laundry detergents and dryer sheets can potentially contain hazardous chemicals. Using green detergent and dryer sheet alternatives can help cut down on water pollution or simply cut down on how often you do laundry.

The EPA has a safer choice label that you can look for the next time you purchase laundry detergent or dryer sheets!

Still not sure? The EPA has a published database with a search feature so that you can see if your laundry detergent meets the “safer choice” standards.

Easier on the wallet

Doing your laundry every other week instead of every week is a ~50% reduction in electricity costs!

Clothes last longer

With each wash and drying cycle, clothes will slowly begin to lose their shape and color. Running them through these cycles less frequently can help them last longer

Fewer appliances in landfills

Simply put, if you use your machines less frequently, there will be less wear and tear over time, helping them last longer!

Hanging clothes with no wear and tear

Your laundry energy saving questions, answered

Does doing laundry use a lot of energy?

The amount of energy that laundry uses varies depending on several factors, such as how old your washer and dryer are, the detergent you use, the materials you are washing, and the age of your machines. Making smart choices in the machines you purchase can greatly help decrease the energy used while doing laundry. On average, ENERGY STAR-certified washers use about 25% less energy per load. This can rack up to tons of energy savings in the long run!

When should I do laundry to save money?

Doing a load of laundry will generally be cheapest when electricity costs are at their lowest. This means it is best to do laundry during off-peak hours or when other households use energy less frequently. Generally, off-peak hours are between 11:00pm and 7:00am on weekdays and all day on weekends and holidays, but check with your local energy provider for more details.

Does doing laundry on the cold setting save money?

Yes! Electricity or gas is used to heat up the water used for laundry. When washing clothes in cold water, you are saving on the cost to heat up the water, saving you money in return.

Is it cheaper to wash clothes at home or at the laundromat?

It is cheaper to do laundry at home versus at a laundromat for a variety of reasons, but to name a few:

  • Because laundromats are a for-profit business, they will charge you a premium for the water and electricity consumed by each load, resulting in a higher cost per load
  • Laundromat machines are commercial size, meaning that they consume more energy and water
  • You need to configure travel costs when going to a laundromat
Laundry method Average cost per load
Laundromat $5.25
At-home $2.00

All these factors combined make it so that at home, it is cheaper to do laundry. This is even with the upfront cost of purchasing washers and dryers. You can cut down these upfront costs by making conscious energy and water-saving choices when choosing your next appliances.

A modern laundromat

Is it more cost-effective to do smaller loads of laundry?

No. It might be tempting to break up your weekly laundry into smaller loads, but this will cost you. No matter the size of the load, your washer and dryer will use about the same amount of energy and water to run through their cycles. In other words, feel free to procrastinate on your laundry to build up a full load!

The laundry lowdown

Look no further than your washer and dryer to cut down on energy and save money. There are simple tips, like using the cold setting on your washer and hang-drying your clothes. Of course, optimizing your laundry routine is only one way to save energy at home, but it can be a quick and impactful change that can save you money and positively impact the environment.

After you've mastered savings on laundry, check out our guide to sustainable fashion and how to made ethical wardrobe decisons that don't harm the planet.

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