Most people would love it if their laundry rooms could be more efficient and frankly, more attractive – we hate spending time in there, but when we do, we might as well enjoy it, right? Luckily, the world of laundry is evolving and there are an increasing number of options out there to help people create smarter laundry rooms. Read on as we showcase the state of the art in green clothes cleaning!
Let’s start with the main attraction in the laundry room, the washing machine. The first step to creating a smarter laundry room is getting a smarter machine. According to the Soap and Detergent Association, almost 98% of households still use traditional agitators; machines that submerge the load in water and stir it up to remove dirt from the contents. While they were revolutionary in the 50’s, they’re not the most efficient design anymore. A more recent study states that more sales of high efficiency washers have increased from 1% to more than 15% in only ten years. These high efficiency washers use a more modern front-loading a tumbler system, similar to that of a dryer. Laundry sits in a shallow pool of water and the washtub itself rotates. While front loaders are definitely more expensive than top loaders, the good news is that the price of high-efficiency machines continues to come down. Consumer Reports shows price drops of as much as 33% compared to a year ago. And many consumers got a $250 rebate from the federally-funded Cash for Clunkers program when they traded in their qualifying models.
LG, Maytag, Whirlpool, GE, and Samsung all make energy-efficient, whisper-quiet machines in a variety of colors, from sleek stainless steel to bright crimson and modernist white. Several of the newer machines also offer a steam cleaning option, which does work slightly better than normal cycles but tends to increase energy use. The new AEG-Electrolux Eco Washing Machine is the world’s first machine to use only cold water in a wash cycle. It apparently utilizes a special combination of enzymes during washing that allows its 15.4 lb capacity bin to use only about 13 gallons of water using its Eco Wash setting (versus an average 40 gallons in a standard washing machine). Then there’s the Xeros machine (which means “dry” in Greek) which uses barely any water at all. When doing a load of wash, users throw their clothes in like a normal washing machine. Then a cartridge in the back of the machine adds plastic chips – about 45 pounds (20 kg) of them – to the load. Next, a cup of water containing the detergent is added. After the water dissolves the dirt, the chips absorb the water, without the need for a rinse or spin cycle. When finished, a grill at the bottom of the machine opens to collect the chips.
A dryer is typically the second-biggest electricity-using appliance after the refrigerator, costing about $85 to operate annually. While washers have become more efficient, dryer technology hasn’t changed dramatically in the past decade. The Department of Energy says that most use the same amount of energy, which is why there are no Energy Star models, and state rebates won’t apply. The most efficient way to dry clothes is still the old fashioned way – fresh air and a drying rack.
Otherwise, there are also several washer-dryer combo units on the market that have long been popular in Europe, such as Innovative Washing‘s EdgeStar units or LG’s All-in-Ones. However, since high efficiency washers spin far more water out of clothes compared to their less efficient predecessors, using a newer washer means shorter run times for dryers, lowering energy costs as a result.
Maximizing Your Space
Today’s laundry rooms often pull double duty, becoming an outpost for shoes, sports equipment, craft junk, and junk all around. Part of creating a smarter laundry room is creating smarter storage. Utilize shelving to store supplies and products, reducing clutter and making the most of the space that you have.
Many retailers like Target, Container Store, and Stacks and Stacks offer great and inexpensive storage solutions. 2 modern offers eco-friendly and super cool wall-mounted storage units if you don’t mind spending a bit more money. If you’re DIY inclined, sew together old towels to make colorful laundry bags for members of your family or use old wood from past construction projects to build shelving. An organized laundry room is far less unpleasant than a disorderly one.
For those people who spend a considerable amount of time in the laundry room, there is no reason to check your tech in at the door. Create a tech space in your laundry room where you can plug in your laptop and watch some Hulu while you fold laundry. Bring in your iPod and blast your favorite tunes while you iron (if you iron!). If you do it right, the laundry room could actually become a secret sanctuary. Why not set yourself up with a flat screen? Alternatively, if you’d rather not have to spend a minute longer in the laundry room, Maytag has some rather ingenious machines that literally e-mail and text people when the load is done. While they’re not available on the mass market for individual households, you can check them out at Wheelock College in Boston. If you’re really smart and tech savvy, you might even be able to hack your own machine to tweet you when it’s done.
Focused on doing away with dirty, Method was started to bring consumers environmentally friendly alternatives to the harsh chemicals traditionally found in cleaning supplies. Method’s founders, Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, realized people wanted cleaning supplies they didn’t have to hide under the sink or in the closet, so they got started developing new alternatives to old standards.
That’s why you should check out Method’s brand new laundry detergent. Made with smartclean technology™, a patent-pending formula using a radical technology, Method Laundry delivers outstanding cleaning power but with 1/4th the dose of the leading national brand. Imagine 50 loads in one lil’ bottle that works in H.E. + standard machines.
Don’t forget to enter the Method Laundry Room Sweepstakes today for a shot at winning a stunning green laundry room renovation worth $8,500! Inhabitat has teamed up with Method to stock your laundry room chock full of a year’s worth of laundry supplies, a new energy efficient washer and dryer, and a set of eco-friendly laundry room furnishings. The competition ends on April 16th, so if you haven’t applied yet it’s time to get cracking!