For many of us, living a more energy-friendly lifestyle is pretty high on the New Year's Resolutions list.
With rising electricity costs (5 percent in 2022 alone!) and a growing need to take care of our planet, cutting back on our consumption has become increasingly important, and that includes the chores we'd prefer not to think about, like doing the laundry.
The average load of laundry consumes 400-1300 watts per load, equating to as much as $150 annually in California, $144 in New York, and $60 in Texas — that adds up!
Sure, there are ways to optimize your washing routines to make them more energy efficient, like opting for cold water cycles, air drying your clothes, and scheduling your loads to run during cheaper, off-peak hours — but what about the machines themselves?
Proper maintenance is essential to keep your washer and dryer running as efficiently as possible, and in this blog post, we're breaking down seven critical tips to keep your washer and dryer running at peak energy performance. Keep reading for all the details.
First things first, before we even turn the machine on, it's essential to check whether or not it's level. If you've ever noticed that your washing machine shakes, vibrates, or rocks when running a spin cycle, you're probably working with an out-of-balance machine.
A washing machine that isn't level has the potential to damage your flooring and can lead to more significant mechanical issues (and expensive repair costs) down the road, like flooding or the supply hose coming loose. To fix it, you'll need a level, an adjustable wrench, and around 10-20 minutes to get the job done — no special skills required!
This handy guide from The Spruce can walk you through the steps.
You'll want to clean your washing machine thoroughly every one to three months.
Now we know what you're thinking, "Isn't my washing machine made for cleaning? Doesn't that mean it cleans itself?". We get it. We wish it were true, but unfortunately, it's not, and that means we need to give our machine a regular scrub down to keep it running efficiently.
We always recommend checking your machine's manual for proper cleaning instructions before opting for a DIY approach, but generally, white vinegar will get the job done. However, your method will look slightly different depending on whether you're cleaning a front-loading or top-loading machine.
For a front-loading machine, first use a soft cloth and a mixture of warm water and vinegar to wipe down the inside of your drum, ensuring you get into all the crevices and paying particular attention to areas where water and residue may gather. You'll then want to run a hot water cycle, but instead of using detergent, use one cup of white vinegar in the detergent drawer.
After that cycle is complete, run one more cycle with hot water only to wash away any remaining residue, and you're done! Thirty minutes of work for a clean machine.
For a top-loading machine, the process is similar, but you'll need a bit more vinegar. Start, once again, by using a soft cloth and a mixture of warm water and vinegar to wipe down the inside of the drum, paying particular attention to the areas around the lid and rim. Then, use four cups of vinegar and a hot water cycle to begin the deep cleaning process.
This time, though, once the machine has filled, pause the cycle and allow the mixture to sit for one hour, soaking the drum. After the hour, open the lid, add one cup of baking soda, and resume the wash cycle until complete. Afterward, leave the lid open to finish drying out the drum. *Poof* — a clean machine!
Now, this third tip doesn't save you energy, but it will help protect you from mold and bacteria building up in your machine, and if you ask us, that's just as important.
If you have a front-loading machine, wipe the rubber seal around the door after every wash! All you'll need is a dry microfiber cloth. Quickly run the cloth around the inside of the seal with your hand, and you'll prevent dirt, debris, and odor-causing mold and bacteria from building up inside your machine!
In addition to cleaning the inside of your machine, you'll also want to clean out the detergent compartments at least once per month.
Over time, detergent and fabric softener can build up in your detergent drawer, leading to blockages that prevent detergent from getting into the machine effectively.
To clean your drawer, remove it from the machine and use warm water to clear away accumulated residue. You can use an old toothbrush to scrub away leftover soap and give the inside of the drawer's housing a clean, too. You'll want to pay extra attention to the area above the drawer inside the cavity, as this is a particular spot where mold and bacteria can gather. Once clean, allow everything to dry and return the drawer to its place!
Wool dryer balls bounce around in your machine, helping to speed up drying time by absorbing moisture and creating space for air to flow around your clothes. Their movement also assists in preventing wrinkles, eliminating static, and softening fabrics (goodbye, chemical-filled fabric softeners!).
OUR PICK: These Wool Dryer Balls from the Smart Sheep Store are our picks if you're looking to invest in some dryer balls of your own. They're made from 100 percent bleach-free sheep's wool and are good for more than 1,000 loads — that's over four years for the average American family!
Good energy-efficient dryer maintenance starts with clearing out your lint trap after every use. Lint build-up can contribute to poor ventilation and reduced airflow and lead to an increased fire risk — all things we'd like to avoid.
You'll also want to ensure you're wiping your moisture sensors once or twice a month to keep them clear of lint and residue from dryer sheets. When your moisture sensors are blocked, it is challenging for your machine to detect when a drying cycle has finished, leading it to continue running and wasting unnecessary energy along the way.
We always recommend consulting your machine's manual for proper instructions on cleaning the moisture sensors, but for the most part, wiping them down with a damp, non-abrasive cloth will do the trick just fine!
Outside of the day-to-day dryer maintenance mentioned above, you'll also want to schedule an annual (or bi-annual) deep clean to keep your dryer running smoothly and efficiently.
Think of a dryer deep clean as a step above clearing the lint trap. You'll remove the dust and debris built up within your dryer's vent system (where lint goes when the lint trap does not catch it) and get into all the hard-to-reach places inside your machine. To start the deep cleaning process, always begin by unplugging your dryer.
Once you've powered down, you can disconnect the vent from your wall and machine and use a dryer vent brush and vacuum cleaner fitted with the hose attachment to dislodge and clear away lint and other accumulated dust and dirt.
After clearing out the vent and the space below your dryer's lint trap, you'll also want to deep clean the lint trap itself. To do so, remove the lint trap from the machine, clear away any visible debris, and then use hot water, liquid soap, and a soft-bristle brush to scrub away any residual contaminants. Once clear, let it air dry and return it to the machine.
The final step of the deep cleaning process is wiping down the inside of your dryer drum. Use a non-abrasive cloth, warm water, and non-flammable dish soap to remove lint and built-up dryer sheet residue, and then follow it up by wiping down the drum with a clean, damp sponge.
Once finished, plug your machine back in and tumble a load of clean towels or rags to dry the inside — easy!
OUR PICK: If it's your first time giving your dryer a thorough cleaning, you're not alone, and the Sealegend Dryer Vent Cleaner Kit has everything you need to get your machine spotless. It includes a thirty-foot dryer vent brush that can be used by hand or attached to an electric drill for additional spin, a dryer lint vacuum attachment that's compatible with most standard vacuum cleaners to get in all the nooks and crannies, and a long lint trap brush that's ideal for cleaning in the gap below your lint trap and exhaust port (as well as the coils behind your refrigerator!).
While heat pump dryers are still few and far between here in the U.S., accounting for only about one percent of dryer sales last year, their popularity is on the rise, largely thanks to their increased efficiency, lower operating price, ventless design, and gentler drying process.
If you make the switch, they're worth it (and you can even save $840 through Inflation Reduction Act incentives), but their maintenance looks a little different than your average dryer, so there are a few things you'll want to keep in mind.
The most significant difference with a heat pump dryer is that it has not one but two lint traps, one that's emptied after every use and one that's cleared out during your regular deep clean routine. Rather than having to clean out your dryer vents once a year, you'll be swapping that off your to-do list to focus on your machine's condenser coils, ensuring they are clear of lint to help keep things running at top efficiency. This ventless, dual lint trap system makes cleaning easier than traditional machines and helps to reduce the risk of fire if lint builds up — win!
And there you have it! A deep dive into energy-friendly laundry room maintenance for your washer and dryer. We hope you've learned a thing or two and that moving forward, that weekly laundry routine feels a little less daunting, knowing your machines are running at their best to help save you energy and money every step of the way.
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