Reducing the environmental impact of clothes dryers

First published August 2008, last updated October 2012

In a previous article, I outlined the benefits of using clothes line over a clothes drier – the major positive being a reduction in energy consumption. In some situations, a clothes line just isn’t an option, so here are some tips for reducing environmental impact of clothes dryer use – and the impact on your wallet.

Lint is evil
If there was top ten for clothes dryer tips, this would surely be no.1. Clean the lint filter. Regularly.
Threaten your family members with a slow and excruciating death if they don’t co-operate. Scare your children by telling them when they don’t empty the lint filter after each use, a dolphin dies.

That’s a little over the top I guess, but a clogged up lint filter can extend the drying time (and therefore boost energy use) by a massive 30 percent! 30% increased running time also translates to less useful serviceable life.

Additionally, a build up of lint is a safety issue. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 15,000 fires occur in clothes dryers each year and lint is believed to be one of the major causes.

Proper loading

Ensure your dryer isn’t overloaded. Air needs to circulate easily between the clothes in order for drying to be most effective.


Open a window when using the dryer. A closed up laundry gets very humid and that humid air just gets sucked into the dryer; decreasing its effectiveness. If your dryer has an exhaust leading to the outside; ensure that it’s cleaned regularly.

Separate loads

Heavier items should be dried separately to light weight clothes.

Cool it

Many modern clothes dryers have a cool-down cycle which allows the clothes to complete drying with the remaining heat in the dryer. If you live in a dry climate, a cool cycle can be extended.

Spin it

A load of clothes contains around half a gallon of water – that’s a lot of moisture to remove. Over and above that, the clothes dryer is just working too hard, so ensure you use the fastest spin cycle possible in your washing machine.


If your dryer is used a great deal, try and co-ordinate the timing so that loads quickly follow each other – this is a bit like warm starting a car and takes advantage of left over heat in the dryer.

Energy star ratings

In the USA, clothes dryers are not energy star rated due to all models use similar amounts of energy. However, the U.S Department of Energy recommends that if you are looking to purchase a new dryer, buy one with a moisture sensor. It will automatically stop when your clothes are dry. This saves energy and also helps save your clothes as it prevents over-drying.

All of the above tips help save time and energy in drying clothes; they’ll also help with extending the life of your dryer – that’s not only better for the environment, but will save you money too! Don’t forget to check out my article on clothes lines – it’s an even greener way to dry your clothes that will leave them smelling fresher and cleaner than a clothes dryer ever can.

Have some handy hints for getting the most with the least from a clothes dryer? Please share your tips below!