I talk about laundry A LOT. And there is a good reason for this since laundry accounts for 8 percent of all household greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Lucky for us, advancements in sustainable technology have made it much easier to do chores around the house in a more environmentally-friendly way. A great example of this is eco friendly washing machines! An eco washing machine is a washer that uses less energy and/or water than a conventional machine. Some washers can also be made from recycled materials, which is a definite asset on top of the carbon footprint reduction benefits.
Why consider an eco friendly washing machine?
Saving energy and water by switching to a sustainable washing machine is a win for the environment and your pocketbook! This is because 90% of all energy used to wash your clothes comes from just waiting for the water to heat up. With the average household doing almost 400 loads of laundry a year, this is where energy efficiency washers (with cold water settings, smaller drums, and shorter cycles) can make a huge difference.
While eco friendly washing machines can sometimes be more expensive off the bat, you will save money in the long run! If you buy a high-quality one, it should last anywhere between seven and ten years… that is a lot of years to cut down your energy and water bills!
Last but not least, eco friendly machines are generally much quieter to run and gentler on your clothes. This is because traditional washers are loaded from the top and use an agitator to free dirt and oils. While effective, agitators can be noisy and are very rough on delicate fabrics. Most eco friendly models are front load washers since they use about 45% less energy and 50% less water, but we will get more into that later.
Things to consider when shopping for an eco-friendly washing machine
What to consider?
1. Does it save water and energy?
This one might seem a little obvious, but the energy and water usage of different washing machines marketed as “eco-friendly” vary! This is why making an informed purchase and doing your research is important before buying energy efficiency washers.
ENERGY STAR is going to be your best friend here since ENERGY STAR-certified washers use less water and energy to run. They do this by identifying the Integrated Modified Energy Factor (IMEF) and Integrated Water Factor (IWF) of a model. IMEF is a measure of the energy used to run the spin cycle and heat the water. While IWF measures the gallons of water consumed per cubic foot of drum capacity. A water-efficient washing machine will have a low IWF while an energy-efficient model will have a higher IMEF.
On their homepage, there is an easy selection process where you can filter out different brands, price ranges, and more! You can also check their yellow EnergyGuide label to estimate the model's energy use and compare it to similar models.
2. Is it second-hand?
A second-hand washing machine? “Really, Candice?” you ask me. Yup! Buying a model that is energy efficient and also second-hand not only gives you the energy and water-saving benefits down the road, but you are also offsetting the footprint you would have gained from the manufacturing and transportation of a new machine.
3. Does it have certifications to back it up?
As always, you want to be on the lookout for companies that are greenwashing and have the certifications to back up their eco-friendly claims (this goes for dryers too by the way!). When buying an eco friendly washer and dryer, look for certifications like ENERGY STAR. AAFA Certified washers also use steam to remove bacteria and dust mites from your clothing, this can be a great alternative for anyone with allergies and sensitivities to the toxins in laundry detergent.
4. What do reviewers say?
I always check the reviews before I buy anything these days. And when doing so, you have to consider what is important to you! When looking at reviews of front load washers (most eco friendly washers are front load), one of the most common complaints is that they tend to develop mildew and a smell faster than top load agitator washers. While annoying, you can always use a green cleaner to clean your front load washer and combat smells!
5. Does the company have transparent reporting?
Be on the lookout if the company you are buying from has transparent reporting for their scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions! LG and Samsung are two examples of companies that sell efficient washing machines and are also on the reputable side for reporting their carbon emissions.
What to avoid?
1. Is it too big or too small?
Every eco washing machine has a different width and drum capacity and larger drums tend to use more water and energy with each load. If you have a large family and find yourself doing laundry quite often, then you might want to opt for a larger size. But if you are just one person and you aren't filling up your washer to the top before you run it, stick to a smaller size.
2. Am I buying just to buy?
As I mentioned earlier, a huge portion of the environmental impact of washing machines comes from the manufacturing and delivery of the unit. Remember, the first R in the 5 R’s of Zero Waste is Refuse. This means that even if you buy a new efficient washing machine, the energy and water savings you will gain might not make up for the emissions that were produced in order to get it to your home in the first place. With that in mind, don’t buy a new machine unless your old one is beyond repair!
3. Will it need replacing soon?
I would also recommend checking out the manufacturer's repair and warranty policies before you purchase an eco washing machine. From an environmental standpoint, trying to repair something that is broken is always better than buying new ones! For context, a good quality washing machine should last anywhere between 7 and 10 years.
Our top recommendations for energy-efficient washing machines
This front load washer is ENERGY STAR certified and made their “most efficient washers of 2022 list’! This model has an IMEF rating of 2.2 and a IWF rating of 3.7, using on average 84 kWh and 2,379 gallons of water every year. It also has an EcoSilence™ Motor which is known to be energy efficient and especially quiet.
This Samsung front-load eco washing machine has a bigger drum and is ideal for a large family. But my favorite thing about this washer is that it is FAST and can wash a full load in only 28 minutes! As if it couldn't get any better, it has 4.7 stars and is ENERGY STAR certified since it has an IMEF rating of 3.1 (using about 99 kWh/year), and a IWF rating of 2.9 (using about 4,235 gallons of water a year).
ENERGY STAR gives this washer a IMEF rating of 3.1 and an IWF rating of 2.9. I would say both of these are pretty impressive as this LG washer only uses 105 kWh of energy a year and about 4,423 gallons of water (with a cold wash option!). While on the pricier side, it can cut wash time by up to 30 minutes with its TurboWash® technology. It’s also certified asthma and allergy-friendly since it uses the power of steam to remove over 95% of pet dander and dust mites. PS. If you have skin sensitivities I would also recommend switching to all-natural bleach!
Like their Smart Dial Front Load Washer, the claim to fame of this washing machine is that you can do a full load of laundry in only 28 minutes. Reviews for this one do vary, but overall it has 4.4 out of 5 stars on the Samsung site and 4.5 stars on Best Buy. It’s also one of the more affordable washers on this list. Finally, this front load washer uses 3,807 gallons of water a year (with an IWF score of 2.9) and about 93 kWh of energy per year (with an IMEF score of 3.1).
With an IWF score of 3.2 (using 4,248 gallons of water a year)) and an IMEF score of 2.92 (using 85 kWh/yr), this is one of the most energy-efficient washers on this list. It is ENERGY STAR certified, using Perfect Steam™ technology to clean and sanitize the clothing quickly (with an 18-minute fast wash cycle, wow!). One of the coolest things about this washer is that the machine automatically modifies water levels to the number of clothes in the unit. I love that idea! The machine's motor is also backed by a 10-year motor and lifetime tub warranty.
Another steam washer with an ENERGY STAR certification! This front-load eco washing machine can tackle a full-size load in just 29 minutes. And when compared to a normal cycle alone, this washer uses Save Energy+ to save up to 30% more energy. The doorstop props also help to keep the drum fresh and avoid smells between loads. This washer has an IMEF score of 2.92 (using 120 kWh/year) and an IWF of 4.7 (using 4,899 gallons/year). Not too shabby!
How to recycle your old washing machine?
You should always check first if you can recycle your washing machine before you kick it to the curb! I know how confusing recycling e-waste can be, especially because washing machines are a mix of metal AND plastic. With this in mind, you have a few different options when it comes to recycling an old washing machine:
- Take it to your local recycling center! I love the website RecycleNow.com because they have a handy recycling tool that tells you where your closest recycling facility is. All you need to do is enter the item you want to recycle and your postal code, it’s very simple!
- Donate it to a secondhand shop or sell it online! I usually don’t recommend buying electronics second-hand since they can break quickly and damage the wiring in your home (this can cause power outages or even a fire if you aren't careful). But sometimes, people will buy electronics that no longer work to recycle or reuse certain parts within the unit - this is still better than 100% disposal!
- Occasionally, you might find a retailer that will take back old machines and you can recycle it right through the manufacturer! Lowes and Homedepot are two companies that will often take your old machine away to be recycled if you purchase a new one from them.
A final word on eco friendly washing machines
Energy-efficient washing machines are here to stay! Between saving energy and water, they also tend to be quieter and offer faster cycles with variable drum sizes and price ranges. If you aren’t in the market for a new washing machine yet, there are also other things you can do to be more eco friendly while you do laundry like using switching to biodegradable and natural laundry detergents, using eco friendly dryer sheets, stripping your extra dirty laundry items with vinegar, and re-wearing your clothes when possible. If you found this post helpful, please help someone by sharing this article – sharing is caring 🙂!