iStock_000012772469Medium.jpg In the spring and summer, I abandon my dryer in favor of a clothesline to save energy and money. But there is not a single time of year I can imagine life without a washing machine. Attaching clothes to a line is one thing. The idea of pulling out a washboard and washing every blanket, pair of jeans, sweater and sock by hand is another. Chances are you feel the same way. But some day you will have to give up your washing machine, either because it breaks or because you purchase a more energy efficient model. At that point, what can you do with your old one? Plenty. Unlike refrigerators and freezers, washing machines do not contain hazardous chemicals that make them challenging and expensive to break down. Like other appliances, they are made of mostly metal, which is easy to recycle. We share several ideas for finding places that will take your unwanted washing machine.

What are washing machines made of?

Washing machines are made almost entirely of metal and plastic. The body is made with steel. So is the drum or wash tub (where the clothes are held), although it may be coated with porcelain to prevent it from rusting. The buttons and dials on many washing machines are made with plastic, as are some interior components. The washing machine cord is made of copper coated with plastic. Washing machines contain small motors that turn the drum during the different wash and spin cycles. Those motors contain a small amount of oil. Otherwise, a washing machine contains no toxic components. Steam powered washing machines first appeared in the mid-1800s. Electric washing machines, like the ones available today, did not debut until the earliest years of the 20th century. Early washing machines wrung out clothes, which was hard on the fibers. In the mid-1900s, companies began offering washing machines that spun the clothes instead. Those quickly became the most common model in U.S. households. The earliest washing machines were top loaders (although they looked very different from the washing machines of today) and they retained a huge percentage of the market for nearly a century. Consumers can now purchase reasonably priced front loading washing machines as well. There is no definitive answer on which is better. For a comparison of traditional top loading washing machines, high efficiency top loaders, and front loading machines, check out this article from Good Housekeeping.

How to recycle washing machines

Many companies that sell washing machines will take your old one away when they deliver the new one. Examples include Lowes, Sears and Home Depot. If you need to dispose of your old washing machine yourself, your local solid waste management company should provide you with a place to take it. Check with them to learn more about your options. Scrap metal dealers are often interested in old washing machines. Some will even pay you for them when the value of the metal is high enough. Do a search online for scrap metal recyclers and call them to determine their policies. You might also check Craigslist or another community bulletin board to see if anyone offers an appliance pickup service in your area. These folks will often pick up your old washing machine for free, knowing that they can sell it to a metal recycler. It means you do not make any money off your old washing machine, but it is also a good option if you have no way to transport the appliance yourself. If you are having a hard time finding a place to take a washing machine, use 1800Recycling’s Recycle Search tool to locate the appliance recycler nearest you. Some utility companies and government entities offer rebates to homeowners who purchase new washing machines and other appliances. Their reasoning is that your new washing machine will be much more energy efficient than your old one, which will decrease energy consumption for you and the utility. EnergyStar, a program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has a page on their website that will help you identify appliance rebate programs in your area.

How to reuse washing machines

Many communities have secondhand appliance shops that accept or purchase old washing machines for resale. Look online for appliance repair businesses near you or ask friends for referrals. Some thrift stores will take washing machines, especially if they are working. You can also check with local nonprofits or your faith community to see if they know of a low-income family that could benefit from a good-quality used washing machine. It will save them a lot of time-consuming, expensive trips to the local laundromat. For the creative folks out there, drums from washing machines can be repurposed into art or useful items around the home. Check out this blog post from reCreate Design Co. It shows washing machine drums transformed into tables, outdoor fireplaces, stools, light shades and more.