Published on December 5th, 2014 | by Peter Young


How To Use Your Washer And Dryer More Efficiently


Your laundry room represents one of the biggest opportunities for saving water, energy and money in your home, and doing so is easier than you might think. It’s not that you use your washer and dryer, it’s how you use your washer and dryer that matters the most. Today’s washers and dryers have a variety of different features built into them, many of which make reducing your homes energy and water usage as easy as pressing a button. So to help you save water, energy and money we’ve put together the following guide for using your washer and dryer efficiently:

How to use your washer and dryer efficiently

Your Washing Machine – This is where the money savings begin. After all it’s the first step in cleaning your clothes, and thus, a vital first step in savings. Let’s review some of the ways you can use your washer more efficiently:

1. Select the proper temperature – The conventional wisdom says that you should wash your colors in cold water and your whites in hot, right? 100% false. Thanks to the effectiveness of modern laundry detergents you no longer need to use hot water in order to get your clothes clean. In fact, studies have found that washing your clothes in cold gets them just as clean as washing in hot. Not only that, but the cost of washing a load in hot water vs. cold is actually pretty substantial. Check out the chart below to get a better idea of what I’m talking about:

Screen shot 2014-09-12 at 10.39.35 AM

Washing in anything except cold water will cause your clothes to fade, will not improve cleanliness, and will cost you 16-20x as much on your electric bill. Your Mom might have said to wash in warm or hot, but that’s because detergents back then were not effective in cold. Today’s detergents are.

The only reason you’d ever want to wash in warm or hot water is if there’s grease or oil on your clothes. Otherwise, you’re just wasting money and causing extra pollution. There literally is no difference in outcome as far as how clean your clothes get. However, there is one major difference: washing in hot or warm water will shorten the life of your clothes by increasing fading. So wash in cold unless you have oil or grease on your clothes, and ALWAYS rinse in cold.

2. Always wash full loads – Even though your washing machine may have different settings that will control the amount of water it uses, it will still use close to the same amount of energy regardless of how much your washing. So instead of washing a bunch of smaller loads (which will end up using more energy), try only running your washing machine when it’s full.

3. Turn off the extra rinse cycle and turn on the eco-boost (if your washer is equipped). If I told you that you could spend either $5 to wash your clothes or $2, and they would be just as clean regardless of which option you chose, you’d likely pick the $2, right? The same thinking should apply to the settings on your washer. Most modern washers work well enough that turning on settings like the “extra rinse” doesn’t actually get your clothes any cleaner, instead, it just costs you more money. Do yourself a favor and turn off the extra rinse, but while you’re at it, be sure that the eco-boost function is turned on. Many modern washers have this feature built in and by turning it on you’ll help to ensure that your washer is running efficiently.

Your Dryer – This is the second step in the laundry process, and thus, it’s your next opportunity for money savings. We HIGHLY encourage you to line dry your clothes, as the dryer is one of the top energy users in the house, and it’s largely unnecessary (check out these tips for effective line drying inside). You can save a LOT of money with one of these guys:

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 12.10.02 PM

Or with one of these guys:

High Efficiency Spin Dryer from


But if you do decide to use a clothes dryer, let’s take a look at how you can use it more efficiently:

1. Clean the lint screen between uses. Keeping your lint screen clean is a great way to ensure that your dryer is working efficiently, and doing so doesn’t require much of anything in the way of effort. Simply remove the lint screen from the dryer and remove any lint that’s built up. Doing this can result in your dryer being 15% more energy efficient! How is this possible? Let’s take a closer look:

Your dryer works by pumping heated air into it a drum where your clothes are being constantly turned and rotated, thus forcing the moisture out of your clothes. Your dryer then passes the moisture being removed from your clothes out a vent. Pretty straight forward. However, that moisture will take with it little pieces of your clothing (aka lint) and that lint will eventually build up on the screen. When this happens the dryer has to work harder to push that heated air through its system, and thus uses more energy and costs you more money.

2. Use a lower heat setting. The heat being generated by most dryers “regular” setting is far more than is necessary to sufficiently dry your clothes. So the next time you’re drying a regular sized load of laundry, try using the “delicates” or “permanent press” setting. This will reduce the temperature of the air being used to dry your clothes, but should still be enough to get them dry.

3. Use the moisture sensor setting (if your dryer is equipped with one). This setting will tell your dryer to use its built in moisture sensor in order for it to determine when it needs to turn off. The moisture sensor (which is located inside the drum of your dryer) will actively sense whether or not moisture is still present in the air inside your dryer. If there is, the dryer will keep running, if not the dryer will turn off (presuming you keep your dryer’s moisture sensor clean). Often times your dryer doesn’t need a full hour to dry a load of laundry, so by using the moisture sensor setting your clothes will still be dry but your dryer won’t run longer than it has to. However, if your dryer doesn’t have a moisture sensor you can still accomplish the same thing by….

4. Dry your clothes for less time. If you have an older dryer that doesn’t have a built in moisture sensor, try drying your clothes for less time (we recommend 40 minutes to start). If after 40 minutes your clothes aren’t dry simply continue drying them in 10 minute increments until they are. After all, you can always add dry time, you can’t take it away.

Here’s a magnet that Pono Home gives to customers to put right at the point of use, that reminds people about all these tips!

Washer and dryer efficiency Pono Home

If you’re looking for more ways to save water, energy and money around your home, be sure to check out our green home improvement projects: Green Living Ideas, after all, is a top 20 home improvement website!

Photos courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons (Washer and Dryer)

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About the Author

graduated from Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) with a degree in journalism and has made sustainability and eco-conscious living mainstays of both his professional and personal life. It was during his time at PLU that he began his journey with sustainability and it's what has led him to writing for Green Living Ideas. He currently resides in Honolulu and works for Pono Home, an energy efficiency company focused on reducing carbon emissions and promoting a healthier, greener lifestyle.

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