5 Simple Steps for a Low-waste Laundry Room

As we move along through the Waste Free Monthly Challenge, are you ready to tackle a low-waste laundry room? Read on for five tips to reduce waste in the laundry room or utility room in your home.

Simple Steps for a Low-waste Laundry Room

This post contains referral links.

Washing. It’s never-ending, isn’t it?! I feel like I’m always doing the washing, and I don’t think I’m alone. 

According to SMOL, a UK zero-waste laundry detergent brand, households in the UK throw away over 110 million plastic laundry containers per year! These typically end up in landfill or are incinerated, putting toxic fumes into the air around us. 

In the US, that number stood at 1 billion in 2020, with 35 billion loads of laundry being done. Wow! 

So how do you take simple steps to reduce waste around your laundry routine or create a low-waste laundry room/utility room (if you have one)? Start with these five simple tips for a laundry or utility room that’s a whole lot better for the planet and your family.

5 simple steps for a low-waste laundry room

Ditch the plastic. 

Products like SMOL in the UK and Dropps in the US are cleaning up (ha ha!) in the eco laundry market. They are easy-to-use detergent capsules that go straight into your drum and come in recyclable cardboard boxes. They offer a subscription model, so they remove the waste and the need to remember when you need to reorder. If you’re in the UK and want to give SMOL a try, my SMOL referral link gives you the chance to try it for free (nominal postage to be paid).

In addition to the lack of plastic, they also use fewer chemicals than many traditional store-bought detergents in large plastic jugs, so they’re better for the rivers and waterways that are crucial to a healthy planet. There have been some speculations about whether or not pod packaging contributes to microplastic pollution, but studies suggest that’s not the case. 

Both SMOL and Dropps also offer alternatives for dishwasher tablets so all your machines can be waste free! 

Use solar power to dry your clothes. 

No, I’m not talking about forking out for solar panels on your roof (although if you’re in a position to do that I’d highly recommend it). I’m talking about hanging your washing on an airer or rotary line dryer inside your home, on your balcony, or out in your garden if you have one. The sun is not only great at drying clothes without the use of fossil fuels, but it also has the power to reduce stains. 

We’re big fans of the Brabantia rotary line dryer, but there are lots of options available in a variety of price ranges. Our editor, Jen, has a Brabantia line dryer and uses it regularly not just because it’s good for the planet but also because she really likes the process of slowing down and enjoying time outside while doing chores. It’s like getting 5 minutes of time in the bathroom to yourself (only the sun and birds are way better than the bathroom). 

Use your balls – dryer balls that is. 

Dryer balls in your tumble dryer can reduce the amount of time you need to dry your clothes (saving electricity and money). They move between the layers of your clothes while in the dryer, preventing clothes from clumping together and thereby reducing the drying time. They also remove static. 

Using woolen eco-friendly dryer balls can also extend the life of your clothes as they don’t contain any chemicals like dryer sheets. They’re also reusable, so unlike dryer sheets, you can use them over and over again, reducing waste and overall cost. 

Want an even cheaper option? Ball up odd, holey socks together to make a tennis ball-sized ball, and pop a few of them in your dryer to do the same thing! It’s free and uses up old textiles that would have otherwise gone to landfill. Want more info on dryer balls? Check out this great article by Citizen Sustainable: Are Dryer Sheets Bad for the Environment? 9 Facts (You Should Know) (citizensustainable.com)

Wear your clothes more than once before washing.

Now I’m not saying go out of the house with spaghetti stains down your sweater, but your clothes don’t need washing every single time they’re worn. Chip Bergh, the CEO of Levi Jeans, famously said he never washes his jeans and you shouldn’t either! 

Of course, underwear needs washing after each wear, but sweaters, t-shirts, trousers, skirts, dresses – they can all often go a couple of wears before hitting the laundry basket. Reduce the washing pile, reduce the time you spend doing laundry, AND save money on the detergent and electricity needed to do it. PLUS less laundry means less water use (if you’re on a water meter that saves you money too) and fewer microplastics entering our water systems. 

The average load of laundry releases thousands (and in some cases millions) of microfibers. Fiber sheds from synthetic fibers like polyester are more problematic than those of natural fibers like cotton or wool because they don’t break down for centuries. Shedding fiber also wears down your clothes over time, requiring more replacement and… more money.

Washing your clothes less often reduces the fiber shed and the wear and tear on your clothes. Furthermore, you can fit a filter to your washing machine that collects fiber sheds so they don’t pollute wastewater. I haven’t tried any personally but found this filter after a quick web search for UK residents. You can also try less expensive alternatives like the Cora Ball, a small ball you place with the clothes in the washing cycle to help collect microfiber shedding before they contaminate the water. 

Plastic-free stain removers. 

In the US, I loved this stain remover stick: Soap Stick for Laundry Stain Removal. Using this, I could ditch the plastic tub, the microplastics in the powder itself, and the little plastic measuring spoon. Applied directly to the stain, soap bars are easy to use and effective. In the UK, Nancy Birtwhistle (ex GBBO) has some great stain-removing tips using everyday household ingredients (check out her toilet magic!).

Now you’ve got a laundry routine that is plastic free and zero waste! We’re making great progress through every room in the house as we’ve now covered the bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, and garden as well. With the school holidays just around the corner for many, we’ll look at zero-waste school holidays next time! 

If you like low-waste laundry room tips, you might also like

9 Easy Tips For A More Eco-Friendly Laundry Room

5 Easy DIY Scented Vinegar Cleanser Recipes

Reusable Paper Towel Alternatives | Swedish Dishcloths vs. Reusable Cloth Rags

About The Author

Sarah Burgess

Sarah Burgess is co-founder of the social movement Just1bag2020, mother of two, and British Expat who spent four years living in the United States and recently moved back to the United Kingdom. Sarah spends her time promoting local sustainable change through small, easy-to-do actions that everyone can do to help out the planet. When not picking up trash and persuading others to do the same, Sarah and her family can be found travelling the world and experiencing everything this precious Earth has to offer.

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