A 2011 study found that fragranced products cause dryer vents to emit seven compounds that contain hazardous air pollutants and two that are carcinogenic.
Choose products wisely
Even “unscented” brands may not be what they purport to be. “Unscented detergents can still contain fragrances to mask chemical smells,” says Lindsay Coulter, the David Suzuki Foundation’s green-living expert.
Try your hand at DIY
If you want to avoid mystery ingredients, make your own detergent. The David Suzuki Foundation recommends using ½ cup per load of a mixture of two teaspoons of salt, two tablespoons of baking soda, two tablespoons of liquid Castile soap and one litre of hot water.
Nix the essential oils
Don’t scent homemade detergent with essential oils. Some dryers heat up to about 57˚C, which is above the flashpoint for some essential oils.
A little vinegar goes a long way
If your towels are musty, add a cup of white vinegar or a cup of baking soda to your wash load (but not both at once).
Watch out for microfibres
Your fleece jacket made from recycled bottles likely contains microfibres – pollutants that account for 35 per cent of microplastics in the world’s oceans. “With every wash, your garments are shedding microfibres that end up in waterways and eventually in the food chain,” says Coulter. Special fibre-trapping bags can help keep them out of the drain.
You don’t always need chlorine
Instead of using chlorine bleach, disinfect your clothes by line drying. Sunlight’s ultraviolet rays are effective at killing bacteria in fabrics. Bonus: they’re free.
Don’t overuse detergent
Using more detergent won’t make clothes cleaner. Over time, excess detergent can build up and cause smelly residue inside your machine. Use the least amount of detergent possible – start with half the recommended amount, and if your clothes still come out clean, you can try reducing even further.
Clean your lint trays
Lint buildup in the filter and vents is a primary cause of the dozens of fires started by dryers every year in Toronto, says Papeo. “Empty your lint tray before every load and vacuum the filter and inside the trap from time to time.”
Your socks really are going missing
The real “sock monster” responsible for your missing hosiery? Your washing machine. Small items can slip past the rubber gasket on a front-loading washer, and get trapped underneath the drum. If you’re suspicious, get a pro to investigate, and wash all your socks in a mesh bag to prevent disappearances.
If you have too many unmatched socks, try these clever uses for old socks!
Wash your jeans
There’s no getting around washing jeans. Some people swear that storing their denim in the freezer kills germs, but that’s a myth – the bacteria only go dormant.
Up to 75 per cent of the energy used for washing clothes goes toward heating the water. Your clothes will get just as clean in a cold-water wash and they’ll last longer – lower temperatures preserve dyes and reduce shrinkage.
High-efficiency is a worthy investment
Switching to a high-efficiency, Energy Star-certified machine not only saves you up to 25 per cent on your bills, it’s better for the planet. On an annual basis, a full-sized Energy Star machine can save more than 7500 litres of water compared to old-school washers.
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