Old washing machines are inefficient with both water and energy. When shopping for a new machine, look for the Energy Star certification to reduce your water and energy usage. Choose a front-facing washer, especially for washing synthetic materials (such as fleece, polyester or spandex). These garments release microscopic plastic fibers into the waterways. Top-loading machines release 6-7 times the number of the microfibers as front-facing machines.
To be as environmentally-friendly as possible, skip the dryer completely and use a clothesline or drying rack instead.
Certain fabrics such as wool, lace, cashmere or silk may need to be hand washed.