How to Recycle Washing Machines

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,