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The Hazards of Greening Your Life

By Jill Velez, June 5, 2009  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Jill Velez
Washer If you think like I do, when you need to replace appliances and other household items you go for the most environmentally-friendly choices out there, like Energy Star® certified models and water-saving appliances such as tankless water heaters and front-loading washing machines. I'm fortunate to live in Austin where the city offers rebates on appliances like these, so not only can you save money in energy and water consumption costs, but you can get a hefty rebate. I got $100 back from the City of Austin when I bought my front-loader washing machine a few years ago, which is no small change! But alas, my relationship with my beloved 6-year-old front-loader came to an abrupt halt last month when it started making a REALLY LOUD banging noise during the spin cycle. The repair man asked me questions like: "You used 'HE' soap, right?" and "How much soap did you use?" I quickly realized that I had not done enough research. I swear I read the manual but, as it turns out, it was going to cost more to repair my washing machine than to buy a new one. Ouch! Hence, the reason for this post. If I didn't know that you should only use "HE" (high efficiency) soap, maybe there are others out there who don't know! And also, even though I always use eco-friendly soap like Seventh Gen or Ecover which are "HE" soaps (it says so on the label), I apparently used too much and created excessive suds that washed away the grease in the bearings and completely ruined my washing machine. Since this happened I have talked to many others who did not know this, so let me offer some advice to help you save your washing machine! Only use HE soaps, and follow the manufacturer's recommendations to figure out how much soap to use. The Soap and Detergent Association (who knew?) has created a very informative PDF that I now highly recommend everyone check out. Have you discovered some little known hazard while greening your life? Please share your knowledge to help others avoid the same issues by posting a comment below. Thanks!
Category: Green Action




Katie says ...
:( hm.well at least you tried
06/05/2009 10:42:19 AM CDT
Jennifer Santos says ...
I just learned this from my mom's washer because I just moved back in with her. Good thing she told me or I would've started using my detergent I had.
06/05/2009 10:44:05 AM CDT
Lain says ...
There's a Soap and Detergent Association? Wow. Thanks for the info!
06/05/2009 10:49:32 AM CDT
Michelle says ...
This is a great article. In addition, if you have a water softener system and use the "special" soap (basically HE), it's important to follow the guidelines to the T! Because HE soap has removed many of the water softening chemicals it is CONCENTRATED. Because we've been taught all our lives to use the amount instructed on consumer detergents, which on its own is too much, HE soaps, water softener designed soaps can wreak havoc on your septic tanks, appliances and water lines. USE A FRACTION of what you would normally use...your clothes and dishes will still be just as clean.
06/05/2009 10:54:51 AM CDT
Joan Morais says ...
I make my own laundry soap, it is very low sudsing, costs only one penny per load and works well cleaning the clothes. You don't need a lot of suds to get clothes clean.
06/05/2009 11:47:00 AM CDT
Allison says ...
Thanks for the heads up on the dangers of not reading the um, Owner's Manual! Did you read the bottle of Seventh Generation? Clearly marked instructions.
06/05/2009 12:02:33 PM CDT
Ashala Garen says ...
Thanks for the very informative PDF. Now I have a great handout for clients buying high efficiency laundry appliances. Something else to note is the need to use your clean washer cycle every 30 days or every 30 loads. This prevents mildew from growing in your washer. If your frontload washer has no clean washer cycle, use express wash & put a cup of bleach or Afresh tablets right in the drum.
06/05/2009 12:21:20 PM CDT
Maureen Thomson says ...
Thanks for this helpful info. I just gave my slightly used front-loader to my daughter and I had no idea that it might require different detergent. I've passed the link along to her with a warning to read the manual.
06/05/2009 12:29:07 PM CDT
Elliott - 21st Century Dad says ...
and what about the appliances that get discarded? They surely have an impact too.
06/05/2009 12:35:55 PM CDT
Andrea says ...
That's good to know! My washer does not require HE soap, which is good, because I make my own laundry soap. For those of us trying to be green *and*frugal, this information is fantastic for helping us make responsible choices.
06/05/2009 12:52:46 PM CDT
Robin says ...
I'm so glad to know about the maintenance cycle!! My washer smells and I never knew why!! Now I'll run the bleach cycle and kill the mildewy odor!
06/05/2009 1:03:35 PM CDT
cathy says ...
Thanks for the tip...my HE machine is being delivered as I type. I know to only use HE detergent (and was pleased to find out the the Seventh Gen. that I use will work for this purpose) but had NO idea how much to use.
06/05/2009 1:03:59 PM CDT
Jennifer says ...
I use half the suggested amount of soap, unless something is REALLY dirty. in general, most manufacturers ensure you buy lots of their product, so halving the soap ensures it lasts longer, the clothes still get clean, and i feel better about the wastewater generated. apparently now i can feel better about the mechanics of our machine, too.
06/05/2009 1:16:17 PM CDT
~M says ...
From what I've read, you should never use more than 2 tablespoons of detergent. I use an old children's medicine cup to measure precisely and save money!
06/05/2009 1:18:42 PM CDT
RMSorg says ...
Jill, Thank you so much for this information. I have not yet made the change to an energy efficient washing machine but when I do I will be the wiser thanks to your post. Appreciate the share! RMSorg
06/05/2009 2:59:23 PM CDT
Claire says ...
It's not "green" in that it's conventional/petrol-based, but "all small & mighty free clear he" detergent is 3x as concentrated as "regular" detergent so you only need a few tablespoons. Works great, and because it's so concentrated, the shipping (read: carbon footprint) is MUCH reduced. Also, fits nicely in my cabinet! Pricey but often goes on sale at local Fred Meyer (a.k.a. Kroger), so I stock up. Most "green" detergents I've tried don't work well on my kids' filthy dirt/food covered clothes! Hope this helps someone!
06/05/2009 8:08:28 PM CDT
Sean says ...
Great tip Jill, sorry to hear about your machine though. It's worth noting that not all detergents that are okay for HE machines are marked clearly as such. Biokleen comes to mind. If you read the directions it says that it is HE compliant, but you should just use half the recommended amount (1 tbsp I believe). I can't think of any extra tips right now, but thanks again for putting out the good word!
06/05/2009 10:24:39 PM CDT
Angela says ...
I guess because I have worked for a major appliance manufacturer, I am careful to read appliance manuals! I'm always surprised to hear when people don't realize, or believe, that they must use HE detergent. Also, if your front loader has suds left in the door when the cycle is complete, you're using too much detergent. You should also leave the door open until the inside of the washer is completely dry. I just leave it open all the time when not in use. It controls the smell and mildew.
06/06/2009 8:32:53 AM CDT
Maureen Fox says ...
When we had a similar occurrence with our front-loading machine a few years ago, the repairman (who also said it would cost more to repair than replace) claimed it was because the water is too hard in my city--so we ended up buying a cheaper top-loader to replace it. Now I wonder if it isn't the same thing that happened to your washer--maybe I used too much HE soap here and there, although I really can't recall that being the case. Either way, don't you think there would be a way to prevent this from happening in such an expensive machine?
06/13/2009 8:13:23 AM CDT
Brent Pohlman says ...
Great example..some of the hazards of going green. Will reference in an upcoming blog. Brent Pohlman Midwest Laboratories
06/17/2009 7:20:10 AM CDT
Justin Levi says ...
This is a very informative article, I just bought an Energy Star washing machine. I will be careful to follow direction. Thanks so much.
11/20/2009 4:08:57 AM CST