Don#039;t wash your energy down the drain

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 19, 2003

In a typical U.S. home, appliances are responsible for about 20 percent of the utility bills.

According to the Soap and Detergent Association, an average American generates more than one-quarter ton of dirty laundry each year.

This adds up to 35 billion loads of laundry a year and 1,100 loads of laundry started every second.

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Laundry habits in the United States are different from those in Europe.

The average washing machine in the United States uses 16 gallons of water, while the average European machine uses only four gallons.

While European machines use less water, they also have a longer wash cycle n 90 minutes.

Most wash cycles in this country last 35 minutes.

These differences are attributed to the American consumer's preference for top-loading machines.

In Europe, front loaders are the washing machine of choice.

Although we prefer top loaders because of their capacity and convenience (no bending or stooping to load), our garments suffer more wear and tear because of it.

Most top loaders use an agitator that beats the clothes as they wash.

Front loaders tumble clothing inside a rotating tub, which is a gentler action.

Despite all this washing and drying, American consumers are not getting the most satisfying results.

Clothes are coming out of the washer dirtier and more worn than in other developed countries.

As washing machines have changed considerably since the 1960s, consumer washing habits have stayed more the same.

New washers come with an array of cycle choices, even ones that can be custom-programmed by the consumer.

But most people stick to the basic warm wash, cold rinse, regardless of the fabric or type of dirt.

The Association says detergents work best in warm to hot water, which boosts their stain-removing power.

Over drying wastes energy.

It gives a stiff feel to some items and causes shrinkage in others.

Leaving garments in the dryer after it has shut off can cause wrinkling, especially in permanent press articles.