20 tips to save on laundry

We come clean on how to save 90% or more on laundry detergent and how to cut your washer and dryer's operating costs.

By Stacy Johnson May 21, 2012 8:58AM

This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyA typical American family does about 400 loads of laundry every year -- or about eight loads a week. And it isn't cheap. Laundry detergent alone can cost about 20 cents per load. Add that up and you're spending $80 a year on soap. 


But you don't have to. In the video below, Stacy Johnson explains how you can save 90% or even 100% on detergent. Check it out, then read on for more ways to save on laundry day.

1. Skip the detergent. Want to save 100% on laundry detergent? Don't use it. Modern washing machines work by agitating laundry in water. The agitation is enough to clean lightly soiled clothing. Don't believe that? The blog Funny about Money conducted just such an experiment and concluded, "By and large, all of the freshly washed clothing came out with an odor: It smelled of clean water!"
2. Make your own detergent. When you do need detergent, you can save about 90% by making your own.
  • one bar of soap.
  • 3 gallons plus 4 cups of water.
  • 1 cup borax.
  • ½ cup washing soda.

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Grate the bar of soap with a cheese grater. Drop the pieces into the boiling water and cook until the soap dissolves. Pour 3 gallons of water into a large bucket. Add in the soap and water mixture. Add in 1 cup of borax and half a cup of washing soda. Stir until the ingredients thicken. Use about ¼ cup (the size of a normal laundry detergent cap) per wash cycle.

Image: Laundry (© Somos Images/Corbis/Corbis)3. Use less. If you're using store-bought laundry detergent, don't pour in an entire capful. Laundry detergent caps have a line about halfway down -- the amount the manufacturer wants you to use for soiled clothes. See if you can use less and achieve the same result.  Unless my clothes are truly dirty, I only use about 2 tablespoons per load, about half the recommended amount.


4. Don't wash as often. I save the most on laundry by doing less of it. I'll wear the same jeans two days in a row, use the same towel for three showers, and hang up anything I've worn less than a couple of hours. It's all still clean, so why wash it again? I've cut down from five loads of laundry per week to three this way.


5. Don't buy dry-clean-only. A friend of mine buys dry-clean-only linen shirts for work. He goes through five shirts a week. Our local dry cleaner charges $2.50 per shirt, which adds up to $12.50 per week or $600 a year. For half that much, he could buy high-end washable shirts.


6. Buy store-brand detergent in bulk. You'll save money buying laundry detergent in huge sizes from warehouse stores, and you'll save even more buying the store's generic brand.


7. Wash in cold water only. Nearly 90% of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water. I wash everything in cold water with whatever laundry detergent I have on hand, and my clothes always come out clean. But if you don't want to use cold, use the warm setting with a cold rinse. Switching from hot to warm can cut energy use by 50%.
8. Wash only full loads.  You'll use less energy. Need to do laundry more often because you've run out of, say, socks? It's cheaper to buy more of an item so you don't have to keep running a nearly empty washer.

9. Adjust the water level. If you do have to wash a partial load, adjust the water level on your washing machine to fit the size of the load. The California Energy Commission says the average washer uses 40 gallons of water per load. If you fill only a third of the washer with laundry and still use the highest water setting, you're wasting about 27 gallons.
10. Set the wash cycle to a lower setting. Only heavily soiled clothes need the highest setting. Everything else will get clean in less time. I typically wash my clothes with the lowest setting on my washing machine.
11. Use high-speed spins. If your washing machine has a "high spin" setting, use it. The high-powered spin does a better job of removing excess water from your clothes, cutting down on drying times.
12. Don't overload. Your washing machine won't perform efficiently if you overload it. If it's too full, the detergent won't distribute evenly, and the clothes won't be able to agitate against each other. 
13. Save the suds. Some washing machines have a suds-saving feature. The setting reserves the wash water and uses it again on another load. If your machine has this setting, use it. It'll reduce your water usage by 50%.
14. Replace fabric softener with white vinegar. A bottle of fabric softener ranges from $2.97 to $9 at Wal-Mart. Save your money and add one-fourth of a cup of white vinegar to each load during the rinse cycle. The vinegar softens cloths and helps prevent static cling. A 16-ounce bottle costs about $1.50.
15. Clean the dryer's lint filter. Clean the interior lint filter by hand between every load. Once every four to six months, use a vacuum with an extension tube to clean out the exterior lint filter on the back of your dryer. Lint buildup prevents your dryer from operating efficiently, making it take longer to dry your clothes.
16. Don't over-dry. Many modern dryers have a water sensor that automatically turns off the dryer when your clothes are dry. If you have this setting, use it. If you have an older dryer, check on your clothes every 20 to 30 minutes. Once they feel dry to the touch, pull them out immediately.
17. Line dry. Line drying is free. If you don't have a backyard, purchase a drying rack or an interior clothes line. I installed a retractable clothes line in my kitchen so I can pull it out when I need it and hide it when I don't. Perfect for delicates.
18. Take advantage of off-peak hours. Some utility companies have lower rates during their off-peak hours (generally during the evenings or weekends). Call your utility company, find out the exact times, and run your dryer then for easy savings.
19. Dry similar fabrics together. Load your dryer with similar fabrics for maximum efficiency. For example, dry lighter synthetic fabrics (like tank tops and T-shirts) together and heavier natural fabrics (like towels and jeans) together. 
20. Skip the iron. Ironing consumes electricity and time. Instead, hang or fold your clothes as soon as you take them out of the dryer. Or take what you plan to wear that day with you to the bathroom when you shower. The steam from the shower can remove the wrinkles.
More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:


May 21, 2012 2:38PM
I switched from using hot / even warm water during my washes and noticed a difference on the power bill. I also noticed my clothes stay looking new longer and do not fade as fast by using only cold water to wash.
May 21, 2012 8:20PM
I bought a HE washing machine two years ago and it only uses a very small amount of water and automatically senses the amount of clothes in the machine and sets the water level accordingly.  My water bill dropped almost 12% per month just from this new machine.
May 21, 2012 9:55PM
I was a loyal Tide user, then I had a friend tell me about this laundry soap called Foca. I was VERY skeptical so I bought a small bag and put it to the test. Well, it's amazing!!!! I am very picky about clean clothes and it passed my test!!! And its so dang cheap! Just use 1/2 cup instead of the whole cup it says, or you'll have too many suds.
May 22, 2012 1:55AM
Another way to save energy & money on drying clothes ( esp jeans,  sheets & towels) is to NOT dry them immediately.  After they spin dry take them out & drape them over your washer & dryer  for a bit. You will soon learn how long.... an hour or so. This varies by  humidity & indoor temp, weight of fabric etc. Then throw in the dryer &  finish drying. If you have an outdoor clothes line that is even better, but so few of us do.
Jun 5, 2013 4:18PM
Les falto el tip de reutilizar el agua de la lavadora si esta en casa, haga que su lavadora desague en un tanque apropiado y con ella lave baños, patio y entradas. tambien la puede utilizar para vaciar sus baños.

May 22, 2012 2:15AM
I have a 100% cost effective means of doing laundry---DONT!!.
May 21, 2012 9:05PM

There are some idiotic and absurd suggestions in the article that I don't get paid to refute, so I'm not giving free advice.


I can't help being a know-it-all, so I will offer the following. DON'T use cheap detergent.  Tide and Cheer are the absolute best detergents on the market, period.  No arguments will be acknowledged, hehe. If you want to save on detergent, use a little less rather than use a cheap detergent or, gawd forbid, no detergent at all (who the h ... thought of that?)


I use cold water, use a high efficiency LG washer, don't over dry, and maximize loads.  Again, who writes this sh ..?  There is so much crap to sort out from the useful info. 

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