Don’t Wash Your Energy Down the Drain
Auburn, April 9, 2003---In
a typical U.S. home, appliances are responsible for about 20 percent
of the utility bills.
According to the Soap and Detergent Association, an average American
generates more than one-quarter ton of dirty laundry each year. This
adds up to 35 billion loads of laundry a year and 1,100 loads of
laundry started every second.
Laundry habits in the
United States are different from those in Europe. The average washing
machine in the United States uses 16 gallons of water, while the
average European machine uses only four gallons. While European
machines use less water, they also have a longer wash cycle – 90
minutes. Most wash cycles in this country last 35 minutes.
These differences are
attributed to the American consumer’s preference for top-loading
machines. In Europe, front loaders are the washing machine of choice.
“Although we prefer top
loaders because of their capacity and convenience (no bending or
stooping to load), our garments suffer more wear and tear because of
it, says Dr. Carol Centrallo, Extension Apparel and Textile Management
Specialist. “Most top loaders use an agitator that beat the clothes
as they wash. Front loaders tumble clothing inside a rotating tub,
which is a gentler action.”
Add to this the fact that
Americans own more clothes and change them more frequently than other
cultures. A typical household washes more than 6,000 articles of
clothing in machines each year. Many people consider an item dirty
after one wearing. This means more washing and drying, which equals
more wear and tear. In fact, the average American woman spends seven
to nine hours a week on laundry.
Despite all this washing and drying, American
consumers are not getting the most satisfying results. Clothes are
coming out of the washer dirtier and more worn than in other developed
The Soap and Detergent
Association says washing machines have changed a lot since the 1960s,
but consumer washing habits have stayed the same. New washers come
with an array of cycle choices, even ones that can be
custom-programmed by the consumer. But most people stick to the basic
warm wash, cold rinse, regardless of the fabric or type of dirt. The
Association says detergents work best in warm to hot water, which
boosts their stain-removing power.
By following a few simple
laundry procedures, clothes will be cleaner and last longer. Garment
care labels contain important information regarding washability, water
temperature, the type of bleach (if any) that’s safe for the fabric
and drying conditions. It’s important to read and follow label
instructions, says Centrallo.
Check pockets and remove
any foreign matter. Pretreat stains using a prewash stain remover, a
liquid detergent and water. As clothes are examined and pretreated
for stains, separate them into loads. Sort first by color, then by
construction and fabric type, and then by amount of soil. Select the
proper wash temperature for each load. Then select the appropriate
wash cycle. Fill the washer with water, add detergent and laundry
boosters according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add clothes
Avoid common laundry
blunders such as overloading the washer, improper load sorting,
failure to measure laundry additives, too low water temperature and
Using a high spin speed for
highly absorbent items, such as towels and sweat shirts, will reduce
drying time. The energy it takes to spin water out is less than the
energy a dryer uses to dry items.
If the washer has a water return system, reuse 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.
When drying laundry,
separate lightweight and heavyweight items for faster and more uniform
drying. Dry full loads. Small loads waste energy. Utilize residual
heat by reloading the dryer while it’s still warm from a previous
“Don’t forget to clean the
dryer’s lint screen after each load,” says Centrallo. “Lint buildup
can increase drying time by limiting the airflow and can be a fire
Overdrying wastes energy.
It gives a stiff feel to some items and causes shrinkage in others.
Leaving garments in the dryer after it has shut off can cause
wrinkling, especially in permanent press articles.
Source: Dr. Carol Centrallo, Apparel
and Textile Management Specialist, Alabama Cooperative Extension
System, (334) 844-1325, and the Soap and Detergent Association
in MS Word