Laundry Day

>> Thursday, December 18, 2008

I hate, hate, hate doing laundry. It is my least favorite of all chores because it is so mindlessly time-consuming. If I were ever to consider paying someone else to do my household work, laundry would be the first chore to go.

When my husband and I first got married, he was assigned to laundry duty, but he never did it the way I wanted (nothing ever got folded and put away), and since I am a control freak, I decided to do it myself.

Since laundry is such a time-consuming task and relates to three of my Baby Steps toward energy efficiency, I've thought a lot about laundry over the past month, so I wanted to share some thoughts and also get some feedback.

  • Shift your load to off-peak times.
    • I halfheartedly attempted to do this at first by waiting to toss a load into the washer until right before I went to bed. Then I got the bright idea of looking on my energy company's website to figure out when times are off-peak in my area. Turns out that you have to sign up for a Time of Use policy to get off-peak rates, and since I'm in an apartment, this isn't really an option for me. It's worth looking into in your area, though.
    • Question: Even though I'm not saving money, I'm assuming it would still be saving energy to do loads at off-peak times, right? Is it worth the hassle? Update: Yes, it still saves energy to do loads at off-peak times. I've found though that I never remember to turn the dryer on at the end of the day because I'm tired.
  • Wash clothes in cold water.
    • I had long ago switched to doing some of my laundry in cold water. Our weekly laundry includes about three loads of colored clothes washed in cold; one load of white clothes (mostly underwear), two loads of towels and cleaning rags, and a load of sheets washed in warm; and two or three loads of diapers washed in hot. According to my energy company, by doing those three loads a week in cold, I'm saving $4.80 a month. If I were to wash the whites, towels, and sheets in cold, I would save an additional $6.40, for a total of $11.20 a month.
    • Question: Is it safe to wash underwear, towels, and sheets in cold water? Seems like that wouldn't kill all the nasties. Update: I ultimately decided that it wasn't worth the health risk to me to wash underwear, towels/rags, and sheets in cold. My kids don't always wipe well, I use rags to clean the bathroom, and I have bad allergies. Lots of people do it though, so give it a try.
  • Give the dryer a rest.
    • I've been saying forever that I would line dry my clothes if only I had a yard. I decided it was time I stopped putting it off, so I've worked out a system where I can line dry all of our clothes and some diapers (excluding small things like underwear, socks, and cloth wet wipes) by hanging them on hangers over shower curtain rods and empty spots in the closet. I was worried this would end up making laundry time last even longer. So far, that doesn't seem to be the case, but I have had to spread laundry out over the week instead of doing it all on one day. Eventually, I'd like to get one of these so I can do towels and sheets and such too. (Luckily, my older sister does not read this blog, or at this point she'd be dying over my tackiness.)
    • Tip: To keep your clothes from getting wrinkly while line drying, pop them in the dryer for about 10 minutes before hanging them up to dry. This seems to be working for us, and I've discovered something amazing: some poly/cotton blends are dry after only 10 minutes in the dryer!

Some Thoughts on Laundry Detergent
I've been using Charlie's Soap ever since I switched to cloth diapers because it's supposed to be good for people with sensitive skin. Yesterday, I went to Whole Foods to pick up some more and discovered that they've changed their packaging from paper bags to cloth bags. This seemed like an odd switch, so I emailed the company to find out more. Here's their response, which they posted on their website:

These new cloth bags were developed because many of our customers were having trouble with breakage. Too much money was being lost in soap spilled all over I40 and beyond from the back of UPS vans. These new bags are much more durable, and yet since they're natural cotton and contain no plastic, they can be thrown away and will go right back to nature. If you wish, you can use them for small item (glasses, credit cards, marbles?) storage. We'll even run a promotion for a free gift to the person with the best story of how they used them.

Then they emailed me this additional awesome response:

Above is what was posted online. To expound on that, the company that provided the paper bags for us has time and again shown themselves to be not worth doing business with. First they kep pushing their delivery dates back every time we asked for an update. Then when the finally did deliver, each time since the first order placed with them a few years back, the bags themselves got shoddier and shoddier. Since we could not find another domestic source for paper bags, we made the decision to step away from them altogether and go with something that would ultimately hold up better during shipping, be more pleasing to the eye, and yes, be reusable. Many other vendors are thinking of providing Charlie's Soap in buckets that their customers would come back and fill their bags from. This is something we're pursuing with Whole Foods.

The bags are honestly very cute (they're about the size of a one pound flour bag), and I have always had great success using Charlie's Soap on my clothes. Plus, anyone who reads my blog knows I'm a sucker for great customer service. So...

Last Question
: Any ideas for how to reuse the Charlie's Soap laundry detergent bags? Update: These would make great produce bags, but I'm really hoping Whole Foods will start selling Charlie's Soap in bulk as mentioned in the second email.


Joyce December 18, 2008 at 4:55 PM  

I can wade in here, after raising four kids in cloth diapers, as well as a couple of foster kids. I would, personally, do the diapers in hot water, and either put them in the dryer or line dry them in the sun (which will break down amonia). That's just more sanitary, IMHO. Everything else goes into cold water. I always put the socks and underwear in the dryer, just because it was such a nuisance to hang it all up, but I line dried everything else, inside in the laundry room during the winter, and outside during the summer. If I did a load or two first thing every morning, I could keep up.
We have something here called Power Smart Pricing, which allows us to get a reduced rate on electricity during certain hours of the day. It varies somewhat by season, but is always cheapest at night, so I run the dryer at bedtime, usually. Even if you don't get a price break, you are helping to prevent a need for using booster turbines for your power company, and that's worthwhile, I think.

Maren Hansen December 18, 2008 at 11:42 PM  

Great post, Erin. I know I'm weird, but I LOVE doing laundry. Not sure why, though I will say the repetitive mindlessness about it does give my mind time to rest and ponder other things (usually inane)... :) I have also found that many things that are done to save energy/environmental costs, etc, also save money. This post is a great example of that! As a side note, washing your clothes on a slower agitator speed and cooler water is also easier on the clothes and will make them last longer... And you also don't need to use as much detergent as the detergent companies would have you think...

Sultana December 19, 2008 at 8:31 AM  

Hi! I found your blog when I was doing a search for cloth diapers.

I think you have some great ideas! I wanted to chime in on the Charlie's soap. I know they are a great company and based right here in NC, but there are quite a number of babies who have had very severe burns from Charlie's Soap. It was highly recommended for cloth diapers until babies began getting these burns (not just rashes, but actual burns) from the diapers being washed with Charlie's Soap. I wanted to make you aware of that so that you could make the detergent decision for yourself. If you would like recommendations for other cloth diaper safe detergents, please e-mail me and I would be happy to provide you with those. I can be reached through my website at:

Thank you!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper December 19, 2008 at 5:34 PM  

Joyce - Thanks for the tips. I'm still hesitant to wash everything in cold, but I'm going to try to be brave and give it a try. My mom and sister are germaphobes and have rubbed off on me a little bit, and old habits die hard.

Maren - You are crazy for loving laundry! You want to do mine?

Sultana - I've never had any problems with Charlie's Soap on my cloth diapers, but thanks for the heads up.

Maren Hansen December 20, 2008 at 12:02 PM  

Move back up here and I'd LOVE to do your laundry for you! :)

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