The real dirt on clean clothes isn’t pretty.
Every time you send a T-shirt through the wash and dry cycles, it uses up energy and water, sends detergent residue into rivers and oceans, and wears down the fabric – which means you’ll need a new, resource-taxing tee sooner rather than later.
There’s no quick fix (unless you’re ready to forgo laundry, we suppose), but one of the best ways to slim down your environmental footprint in this arena is with an energy and water efficient washing and dryer set.
The best models cut energy and water consumption by about a third or more, according to Energy Star, the U.S. EPA and Department of Energy’s joint rating program. Also, washers and dryers that don’t meet Energy Star standards are a drain on your wallet – to the tune of $70 to $135 annually in utility costs.
The good news is that the most eco-friendly technology is also the best for your clothes.
Good-bye agitators, those central columns in top-loading machines that twist back and forth, wearing down clothing fibers and requiring a full tub of water (30 to 35 gallons). Say hello, instead, to front-loaders and advanced top-loaders that gently tumble or flip clothes through small streams of water (10 to 20 gallons). No agitator also means room for bigger loads of laundry, a time and energy saver.
Steam-injection washers help remove stains and sanitize clothing for allergy-sufferers, a feature that requires much less energy that heating gallons of water to super high temperatures, as with standard machines.
High-efficiency washers also spin clothes at two to three times the speed of conventional models. More revolutions per minute = more water extraction = less dryer time, less fabric damage and less energy use.
What’s up with Energy Star?
Energy Star-rated washers all meet Federal efficiency requirements, but still vary in their energy and water use.
Look for two specific ratings to distinguish among models: Modified Energy Factor (MEF) and Water Factor (WF), which are measurements of how efficiently the machine uses those resources. Simply put, you want the highest MEF and the lowest WF you can afford.
The Energy Star program focuses equally on saving money, so any qualified appliance should slash your utility bills, too. Take a look at the model’s yellow EnergyGuide label for a quick cost analysis compared to similar models.
Where do dryers figure in all this?
Energy Star does not rate dryers, but you’re likely still better off with an advanced machine that shuts off automatically when clothes are dry. Newer dryers sense moisture in the clothing, rather than measuring the temperature of the exhaust air to gauge dryness. The feature conserves energy, and prolongs the life of your clothes.