The Zero Waste Laundry – From Stains to Storage

How to create a zero waste laundry

Whether you’re looking to lead a fully zero waste lifestyle or you just want to make your daily life a little bit more sustainable, adjusting to a zero waste laundry routine can be a great way to start!


Depending on how you do your laundry, a single load can result in anywhere from .6 to 3.3 kg of carbon. If you take into consideration that the average American family does about 300 loads of laundry per year, that’s anywhere from 180 to 990 kg of CO2 emissions per family per year – just for laundry!

And that isn’t even the full scope of how laundry impacts the environment. 

According to the U.S. EPA, 41 gallons of water are used per load of laundry, and nearly one billion plastic bottles of detergent, stain remover, and fabric softener end up in landfills every year. Not to mention, most conventional laundry products are chocked full of toxic chemicals.

That being said, sustainable laundry is possible. Read on to find out how.

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Zero Waste Laundry Swaps

By picking up environmentally friendly swaps and habits for every step of your laundry routine, you can reduce your carbon, water, and plastic footprint – all in the quest for green laundry.

Looking for ways to make your laundry routine more sustainable? Read our Zero Waste Laundry guide to learn how to create eco-friendly habits. And you may even save money in the process!

Zero Waste Stain Removal

My secret weapon when it comes to removing stains and brightening clothes the natural way, is the sun! More often than not, line drying your clothes in the sunshine will get rid of light stains and discoloration. But for those times when you do need a little extra lift, there are some zero waste stain remover options available too.

Make a DIY stain remover

If you’re looking to ditch your traditional stain remover and save money, DIY stain remover may be for you. You can customize the ingredients depending on what stains you need to get out, but most can be removed with vinegar, water, or baking soda – or a combination of the three. 

Use a stain stick

If DIY isn’t your speed, you can buy a zero waste stain stick. These are solid bars of stain remover that you rub on stains before washing. They’re a bit pricier than if you make your own remover at home, but are a good option if you don’t want to DIY.   


Zero Waste Clothes Washing

There are several ways you can make your laundry routine more environmentally friendly. And they could even save you money too!

Do full loads in cold water

One of the main things to do to achieve eco-friendly clothes washing is to change your washing method.

First, try to do a couple of large loads rather than several small loads. This will save you water, energy, money, and time. Then, when washing, use cold water.

Cold water uses remarkably less energy than hot water (as 75% of the energy required to do a load of laundry is for heating the water), it can help your clothes last longer, and can save you money.

Use a microfiber filter

If you wash clothes made of polyester or other synthetic fibers, microplastics will shed off during your washing cycle, getting into waterways and polluting ecosystems.

To stop these microplastics in their tracks, get a microfiber laundry ball or washing bag to incorporate into your routine.

Use DIY laundry detergent

There are several ways to make cheap, eco-friendly laundry detergent at home. If you want a powder detergent, mix washing soda, borax, and grated castile soap bars – find the complete recipe here. If you want a liquid detergent, just add hot water to the powder detergent.

Buy zero waste laundry detergent

If you don’t have the time or desire to make your own laundry detergent, there are tons of zero waste laundry detergents out there that are ready made for purchase.

You can buy powder detergents like this one from Meliora, dissolvable stick detergents like these from Life Without Plastic, or zero waste detergent pods like these from Dropps.

You may also have the option of going to your local grocery co-op or zero waste store to fill up your own containers with bulk, liquid laundry detergent.

Ditch the fabric softener for vinegar

Fabric softener is commonplace in many laundry routines, but is wasteful, full of chemicals, can damage your clothes, and doesn’t do as much to soften clothes as you think it does.

Ditch the fabric softener, and try using white vinegar in your wash cycle instead. It can act as a fabric softener and can keep your washing machine clean and odor-free. Or see this post for many other natural fabric softener alternatives.


Zero Waste Drying

Did you know a clothes dryer is one of the most energy-hungry and highest CO2 producing appliances in your home? An average load produces as much as 1.8kg of CO2. That quickly adds up when you realise the average American dries between 2 – 9 loads a week!

Air dry is always best

Making the switch from a dryer to air drying is one of the most impactful switches you can make when it comes to making your laundry routine more sustainable.

Air drying is best done outside when it’s a warm, breezy summer day, but you can also use your drying rack inside on a cold, rainy night.

If you make it a habit, you could cut your laundry-related carbon footprint by over half.

Sustainable living tips - stop using a dryer.

Half machine dry, half air dry

If you want some of the environmental benefits of air drying but also want to speed up the drying process, try putting your laundry in the dryer for 10-15 minutes before air drying.

This will cut down on drying time, but won’t require all of the energy that is usually demanded by a full drying cycle.

Ditch the dryer sheets for wool dryer balls

Dryer sheets are not only single-use, but are usually made using toxic chemicals and headache-inducing fragrances. Instead, use wool dryer balls.

If you sprinkle them with essential oils and throw them in your dryer, they’ll reduce static, reduce wrinkles, and will help your clothes dry faster and softer.  


Other Tips for a Zero Waste Laundry

Washing and drying aside, there are a few more things you can tackle in your laundry to make your routine (and laundry room) more sustainable!

Buy a sustainable laundry basket

If you’re in the market for a new laundry basket, buy a sustainable one. Opt for bags made of 100% natural fibers like cotton or linen, or baskets made by a local artisan.

Upgrade to efficient appliances

The efficiency of your appliances greatly determines how sustainable your load of laundry is. If you’re in the market for new appliances, get an eco-friendly washing machine and/or clothes dryer that has high-efficiency ratings. This will greatly help to save energy every single time you do a load.

Use a zero waste lint roller

If you have pets that shed, a lint roller may be a must for your clothes throughout the day. Most lint rollers work using sticky, single use plastic sheets. But, there are a lot more sustainable options out there, like this one made from wood and rubber. It achieves the same results, but without the trash.


Achieving green laundry can seem like an intimidating task. But, by simply breaking down your routine, swapping your products for more sustainable ones, and tweaking your laundry habits, you can greatly reduce your environmental impact. 

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