Green Idea: Reduce Your Overall Amount of Laundry

In the early days of the Green Baby Guide, I admitted to some baby “rules” I violate to save the planet.  One of them is separating baby clothes from the rest of the laundry–a guideline I heard during our childbirth class and read in various baby books and websites.   I am not sure what the reasoning behind that bit of advice is; certainly if someone in the house has a contagious illness there are easier ways to catch it than wearing clothes that have been washed in the same load.

The average family of four does more than seven loads of laundry a week.  Many people wash even more than that, according to the answers to this Yahoo question.  We (three of us) don’t do any more than three–maybe four–loads a week, and that includes diaper laundry! (We also use cloth napkins and dish towels instead of paper towels.)   Reducing the amount of laundry you do can save thousands of gallons of water, not to mention electricity.  If you have a 40 gallon top-loading machine and wash a load a day, you’re using over 14,000 gallons of water to wash your clothes every year!  Tumble drying all those clothes could release as much as 1,825 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere in a year’s time, depending on where you live.

So how can you cut down on laundry?  Here are three ideas:

  • 1. Don’t be so obsessive about cleanliness. Re-wear clothes and re-use towels until they’re actually dirty. It’s okay to change sheets no more than once a year. (Just kidding on that last one.)
  • 2. Wash full loads. A load is full when it’s filled to the top with clothes without stuffing them in.
  • 3. Don’t sort clothes. If you have trouble making full loads all in one color/fabric type, try combining them. (Make sure to wash in cold water so your whites don’t turn pink.) I do separate clothes by color, which means I wash whites much less frequently than darks, since we prefer darker clothes.

Doing much less laundry works for me.  (For more Works for Me Wednesday tips, check out Rocks in My Dryer.)  How many loads of laundry do you wash per week?   Any more tips for reducing the amount you do?

More Green Baby Guide laundry posts:

Offsetting Water Used to Wash Cloth Diapers

Line Drying Trouble-shooting

Using a Drying Rack to Fight Global Warming

Washing Cloth Diapers in an Apartment: Eco-friendly or Totally Nuts?

Save Energy, Money, and Water with a Front-loading Washing Machine

The Cheapest Eco-friendly Laundry Detergent

Green Breakthrough: Save Energy by Washing Cloth Diapers in Cold Water

Finding Diaper-friendly, Earth-friendly Detergent

Washable vs. Disposable: Environmental Debates to Ponder


  1. Wow – I can’t believe that 7 loads is considered normal! We’re a family of four and with 2 loads a week of cloth diaper laundry, we do an additional 2-3 per week. Generally our average is 4 loads WITH cloth diapers. Maybe we have more clothes than the average family, so we can go longer? 😉

    We definitely wear our clothes more than once, and my daughter has “play” clothes she puts on every day after preschool, folding and putting away any clean “school clothes” rather than just automatically putting them in the washer. We also re-wear jeans and most pants (numerous times – don’t know if I should admit to that! lol!). Bibs at meal times (for the kids!) also help reduce laundry from soiled clothes at every meal. And your tip on reusing towels after showering helps to cut down on laundry tremendously. I know many feel the need to wash a towel after every use, but that just seems excessive to me.

  2. We pick one day a week to do laundry (Sunday), including cloth diapers, and do it all then. I usually end up with 4 loads; 1 dark, 1 light and baby clothes combined, 1 daipers, and 1 that is my husbands construction clothes and the rugs from around the house. Every once in awhile I had to do diapers mid-week, but I just bought a few more and now we can last the whole week.

  3. Really, there are people who wash towels after every use? But you only use them on yourself when you’re clean! We wash towels once a week, sheets every 2… or 3… or when I remember. 🙂 I think we typically do 3 loads a week (no diapers) for a family of 3. I typically wash most clothes in cold water, with one warm water wash per week for towels, sheets, socks, and underwear (just because I feel like those get yuckier than shirts and pants).

  4. washing towels after every use! Whoa! Yep, that seems excessive to me.
    I usually wash on the weekend and do about 5-6 loads. That includes cloth diapers. It’s probably more than I need to do but Rod’s business shirts can’t be re-worn. Too stinky. I can re-wear mine.

    Anyway, I don’t change the sheets until I have to chisel them off the bed. (j/k)

  5. I do a lot of these too. Just about to have a baby, and we’ll be cloth diapering.

    I will warn you, however, that I have had a red shirt turn white socks pink even in cold water. I was so steamed!

  6. We’re a family of 5, and I do about 5 loads of clothes a week (one load per person per week, seems reasonable, right?). I also wash towels once a week, but with 5 bath towels, a couple hand towels, washcloths, rags and any other towels we’ve used to clean up spills and what not (we rarely use napkins or paper towels), I often have 2 loads of towels per week. That doesn’t include sheets! I don’t wash sheets every week (don’t have time). So, throw a load or two of sheets in every couple months…

  7. These are such simple things to do and yet not everybody thinks about them. It is staggering how much water is used in one load of laundry.

  8. Your 3 points -Unfortunately I do all those things most because I am lazy. Also, if I the cloths don’t look dirty I let them re-use them in a few days. Just don’t have the time, money to only let them wear once then wash like most parents redardless if they look clean or not.

  9. Berry+ is a great laundry soap that can be used on all your laundry, no matter how its combined. Berry+ is a 95% berry-based, 100% plant-based laundry soap. It comes in a convenient microdose (about half a teaspoon), so you’ll never have to lug that jug or overdose on detergent again. One tiny microdose cleans any small, medium, large or oversize load of laundry up to 30lbs. It was designed to be the gentlest soap around, without anything to irritate even the most sensitive types. Berry+ was also designed to work any way you wash: HE, front-loader, top-loader or even in the sink. Visit our website ( to learn about or purchase Berry+ or like us on Facebook:

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