Wash Clothes Wisely

The average American family washes about 300 loads of laundry per year, which is up to 40% of household water use.  Follow a few simple tips on how to wash your clothes wisely and you can save both water and money and extend the life of your clothes.

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Annual Savings
$0 - $0
Upfront Cost
These are estimates

Energy and water savings

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kWh Electricity
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Therms Natural Gas
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Gallons Gas
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Gallons Water
  • Save precious water resources
  • Save energy and money
  • Prolong the life of your clothes

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The Action
We will follow the tips and wash our clothes wisely!
Is this action for me?
Yes, anyone can do this action!
When and Who?
This action can be done anytime by anyone.
How long will it take?
Quick - just a few simple tips to follow.
What is the cost?
No cost - and extra savings!


  • Save precious water resources

  • Save energy and money

  • Prolong the life of your clothes

The Basics

There are a number of simple ways to use your clothes washer more efficiently and effectively to save water, energy and money and extend the life of your clothes. Check out the tips below and start saving!


Think about whether it needs to be washed
Fill washing machine to capacity
Sort properly
Wash in cold
Choose the right cycle
Use just enough detergent
Pre-treat stains
Post a list of tips

Wash less

Did you know many people actually over wash and over dry their clothes?  Before you wash your next load of clothes, take a minute and think about whether your clothes are actually dirty.  If your clothes have only been worn once, they might not need to be washed.  Of course for underwear, socks or workout clothes, you want to wash them every time.

But for dress shirts, sweaters and pants and particularly jeans, you can wear them a few times before washing unless you were sweating or they are stained.  Bottom line - if they don’t pass the smell test, they need to be washed.  Check out the Consumer Reports recommended list of How Often to Wash some common items.

Fill it up (but not too much)

Nothing can be more satisfying than an empty clothes hamper, but resist the urge to do a small load of laundry just to get it out of the way. Each load of laundry uses water and energy, and it’s all about making that count. One of the easiest ways to save water and energy is to make sure to wash full loads.  However, filling the machine too full can result in clothes not being washed properly, so don’t overload.

Make sure to leave enough room for the water and detergent to do their work, generally filling the washer 2/3 to no more than 3/4 full.  Also, load loosely and don't pack it in!  Sorting is also very important, don’t throw everything together just to get a full load.  Very dirty clothes should be washed separately, as well as colors and certain types of fabrics.

Go cold

Up to 75% of the energy used for washing clothes goes to heating water.  Washing in cold water saves energy and can reduce your energy bill.  Even better, washing in cold water can make your clothes last longer.  Warm water causes clothes to fade faster and also causes shrinkage.

Concerned about whether your clothes will get clean in cold water?  No need.  Most detergents are now developed to work well specifically in cold water.  If you're not sure, check your detergent label to make sure it is formulated to work in cold water.  If you have an occasional load that is more soiled or things like socks or gym clothes that you want to wash in warm, use cold for the rinse cycle.  This can still significantly lower your energy use and save money.

Set it right

Using the right settings on your machine can help save water and energy.  If you really need to run that small load, use the small load or low water level setting.  If your clothes aren’t overly dirty, avoid using the pre-rinse cycle.  Check the instructions and make sure to add the right amount of detergent.  If you use the right amount of detergent, and not too much, you can skip the extra rinse option.

Washing only as much as needed will save not only water and energy, but time as well.  Finally, make sure your washer is removing as much water as possible before you dry.  Using the high-spin cycle will cut down on time in the dryer later on and save energy and money.

Pre-treat and hand-wash spots

If there are specific stains on clothing, it’s a good idea to treat these spots with an appropriate stain remover or a dab of detergent before running them through the machine. For some items, it might not even be necessary to run a machine wash. Hand washing could be more than enough for a small spot, allowing you to continue to wear the item before washing.

Upgrade your machine

Upgrade your washing machine to a more efficient model and save significantly on water, energy and money, particularly if it was built before 2003.  Check out the Upgrade Clothes Washer action!