Home Experts: Local News
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.
Story Updated: May 22, 2012
A 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.
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.
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%.