With water restrictions coming into force in many U.S. states and communities, it is essential for all of us to be aware that one of our most precious natural resources is in danger. A changing climate around the world should teach us that fresh water is not infinite.
One of the largest uses of water in American households is laundry. Approximately 16% of household water usage is consumed just to do the laundry. There are numerous ways to reduce water usage in the laundry room. The extra benefit of protecting this natural resource: you'll save money as well, especially if you purchase water and sewage treatment from a municipality.
01 of 08
Start with the Right Washer
When it comes to water efficiency, front loading washing machines are typically the best choice. The U.S. Department of Energy states that a standard full-sized washing machine uses 20 gallons of water per load, but a highly efficient Energy Star-labeled washing machine uses 14 gallons of water. This saves about 1,800 gallons of water per year.
The design of a front load washer gives clothes a thorough wash using only a fraction of the water used in a top-loader thanks to the gentle tumbling action provided by gravity. If you can't give up a top-load washer, choose one that is high efficiency. These washers use an impeller to move clothes around in the detergent/water solution rather than a central agitator.
One of the most important factors in selecting a washer for water savings is the water factor rating. The smaller the rating, the more water efficient the clothes washer. The rating is based on the amount of water used per cubic feet (load capacity) of the washer. The EPA provides a list of the highest efficiency washers for each model year.
02 of 08
Choose the Correct Load Sizes & Cycles
Washing a full load of laundry is the most water-efficient choice. If you only have a few items to clean, take time to adjust the settings to the smallest capacity possible. Selecting the right cycle for each load will save water and improve your cleaning results.
Unless you have a specific problem, skip the extra rinse cycle on your washer. If you are using the correct amount of detergent and loading the washer properly, you don’t need it.
Another water saving strategy is to pre-treat stains correctly to avoid having to rewash clothing.
03 of 08
Wear Your Clothes More Than Once
The best way to conserve water in the laundry room is to not do laundry! We are all guilty of tossing clothes that could be worn again into the hamper. And everyone knows a teenager that tries something on and tosses it on the floor. Then on laundry day, everything arrives to be washed.
04 of 08
Check for Leaks
Even a small leak can cause water bills to steadily climb, even when you’re are making an effort to reduce water consumption. Washers and laundry sinks can be using (or rather, losing) water even when not in use through leaks and drips.
Take a few minutes to do a bit of laundry room maintenance. Check your washer for leaks and drips, paying special attention to the hose connections and similar vulnerable spots. Be sure to check the floor around and underneath the appliances, too—if you find puddles, you’ve found problems.
Washer hoses should be replaced every 5 years as part of regular household maintenance. A burst hose can result in very expensive water bills and extensive damage to your home. Select the best quality you can afford.
Don't skip an inspection of your home's plumbing lines. The problem may not be your washer!Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Conserve Water When Handwashing Clothes
Hand-washing clothes are essential for some delicate items and fabric and it does use much less water than some washers. There are still ways to conserve water while taking care of the task.
- Limit the amount of detergent that you use. A little bit will go a long way and fewer suds means less need for water for rinsing.
- Put a stopper in the sink or basin for both wash and rinse tasks.
- Don’t let the faucet run continuously.
- Gather items that need hand-washing and use the same detergent/water solution for several different garments. Save all rinsing for last.
06 of 08
Collect Greywater and Rain Water
Depending on the regulations in your area, collecting grey water is a great way to conserve water. Grey water is water that’s already been used once but is still clean enough that it could be used again. This includes old bath and shower water, as well as washing machine water.
While collecting grey water from your washing machine won’t directly affect your laundry’s water efficiency, it can have a positive effect on your home’s overall water consumption.
The simplest way to collect grey water from your washing machine is to use a bucket at the machine’s drain. Alternatively, contact a plumber or your local water department and ask about the local regulations and how to get a greywater treatment system installed in your home, to collect, clean and filter your recycled water so it can be safely used for gardening and more.
Chemicals and salts found in some detergents can be bad for plants and soil, so if you use grey water for gardening, you may wish to stick to all-natural detergents or collect only the machine’s rinse water.
While it’s not always a practical option, in some areas a rainwater tank can be used to supply water to your washing machine and make a big difference to your home’s water usage. Tank water can also be used for gardening and flushing toilets.
07 of 08
Head to a Laundromat
It may not be your first choice or instinct, but you can save water by using a laundromat or community laundry room. A nationwide study by the EPA shows residents with washers and dryers in their apartments do many more, smaller, and less-efficient loads. On average, an apartment with an in-unit washer wastes approximately 8,000 gallons of water per year on laundry. For a 150-unit building, that's 1.2 million gallons of wasted water per year.
The reason that laundromats result in water savings is that the machines are typically larger capacity and more clothes can be washed in each load. Also, the inconvenience of going to a central laundry site trains us to be more efficient in our laundry habits.
08 of 08
Use Concentrated Detergents
This is a small step in water conservation, but if everyone chooses concentrated detergents, billions of gallons of water could be saved. Concentrated detergents work beautifully and avoid the expense of manufacturers adding water and spending money to ship expensive bottles.
You can even make your own homemade laundry products that include significantly less water.
Fuentes, Henry, and Mauricio, David. Smart water consumption measurement system for houses using IoT and cloud computing. Environ Monit Assess, vol. 192, no. 602, 2020. doi:10.1007/s10661-020-08535-4
Clothes Washers. United States Department of Energy.
Oteng-Peprah, Michael et al. Greywater Characteristics, Treatment Systems, Reuse Strategies and User Perception-a Review. Water, air, and soil pollution, vol. 229, no. 8, pp. 255, 2018. doi:10.1007/s11270-018-3909-8
Water Efficiency Management Guide Residential Kitchen and Laundry. United States Environmental Protection Agency.