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Looking for even more ways to save money and live a frugal life? I’m diving into some frugal laundry strategies to see what can shave the most dollars off of my bills each month.
Frugal Laundry Strategies
frugal laundry detergent, how to save money on laundry, how to save money when washing clothes
One of our goals this year and over the course of the next few years is to become debt-free. After so many years of living frugally we had been somewhat burned out and the regular little strategies of saving money never really seemed to add up to much. But now with our more firm goal in mind, we want to do whatever we need to for stretching our very limited budget and seeing how much we can really save, without having to go to the extremes that are hard to continue in the long term.
With 3 children, we go through quite a bit of laundry. I can only imagine what those of you with 4, 5, 6 or more children have to deal with on a daily basis! Of course, ours are all in the mess-maker stages right now which means there is no such thing as wearing an outfit for more than one day. The nice thing is that all of the clothes are little so we can really pack a large load into our washer.
–Too many kids clothes? Here are some tips on how to create a minimalistic kids closet.
I’ve been doing all of the “regular” money-saving strategies for a long time but recently I’ve been trying out some new methods of cutting back to see how much we can save. Despite not feeling like we use much energy, our electric bill still seems too high and I’d love to cut it down as far as possible. You might already know some of these tips but I hope that this article will at least encourage you to try some frugal strategies when it comes to washing and drying your laundry.
Frugal Washing Strategies
Never wash in warm water. Unless you have some really crazy stains or bacteria that truly only come off with warm water (in which case, pre-soaking still may be a better method), there is no need to wash in warm water.
Hot water can damage clothing and can also cause shrinkage. For basic spots and stains (food, dirt, etc), I’ve never had trouble with getting clothing clean using cold water. And believe me, food stains are collected at my home on a daily basis…. x5. Mr. Electricity (see above) reports that washing a load of clothing in warm water costs about $0.68 while the same load in cold water costs about $0.04. If you wash one load of clothing per day in cold water instead of warm water, at those rates in a year you would save $214. That’s significant.
–Want to save money while washing dishes? Here are my tips for that!
Consider how much soap you really need. If you are making your own laundry detergent, you already have lowered the price of washing soap. However, have you really stopped to think about if you actually need the amount of soap that you are using? If you are using a regular detergent from the store, Tide, for example, your cost per load of laundry is around $0.21 (just for the detergent). Homemade Laundry Detergent usually costs between $0.05-$0.10 per load so you already have significant savings if you use that versus buying it in the bottle from the store. I’m quite partial to the Homemade Laundry Detergent recipe in my book, Little House Living (no borax!), although you can find another recipe for Homemade Laundry Detergent here.
Recently I decided to try a little experiment. I have a little scoop that I use to put in my laundry detergent and I always fill it half full and add that amount to a load. What would happen if I only filled the scoop 1/3 of the way full? I’ll tell you…nothing changed. My clothes were still the same amount of clean and didn’t smell any dingier than when I filled the scoop to the normal amount. For the sake of easy math, we will estimate that my detergent costs $0.10 per load and by using less I’m reducing that to $0.06 per load. If I washed daily and used the lesser amount, I would save $14.60 per year. If I switched from store-bought detergent to my homemade amount and used the lesser amount, the savings would be $54.75 per year. Not astronomical savings but a very easy way to save a bit of money.
How much cleaner will a full-length wash get your clothes? Another experiment I began doing was testing out the “quick wash” feature on my washer. A regular cycle on my high efficiency, front loading washer took 1 hour and 15 minutes whereas my average quick wash cycle was 20 minutes.
A regular wash with a high-efficiency washer costs $0.22 per load including electricity and detergent (if you figure washing in only cold water and using a homemade detergent at its regular price). Keep in mind that a top-loading washer will cost more (about $0.36 per load). With my digging around I could not find out how much water a quick wash uses so for the sake of easy math we will just say that it costs 50% less to run the quick wash overall. That would make one load of clothes, washed in a HE washer with cold water and homemade detergent about $0.16 or about $0.23 per load for a top-loading washer. Figuring one wash per day, this could save you between $21.90 and $47.95 per year.
Again, not a huge savings but still something to look into. My favorite part of this tip is that a quick wash saves so much time doing laundry! I like to get up early and if I start laundry when I get up, I can be almost completely done by the time the kids get up. No more waiting for laundry to finish washing so I can get about my day.
Frugal Drying Strategies
You can hang dry no matter where you live. I must have heard it hundreds of times over the lifetime of this blog, “I can’t hang laundry outside because….” Guess what? I can’t hang laundry outside either (allergies) but I can still hang my laundry to dry.
Running one load of laundry in the dryer (electric) costs at least $0.44 to $0.66+ per load depending on your cost of electricity and if you are using a gas or electric dryer. Using the “Air Dry” cycle might save you a little bit of wear on your clothing but overall it doesn’t save much more money than running a regular dry cycle. The best way to save on drying your laundry is by hanging.
—Here’s a cute little DIY Clothespin Bag!
You may not want to hang dry all of your clothes and that’s ok. I usually do not hang socks and some undergarments or certain towels. They tend to get crunchy and a weird texture. If you wash every day and decide to only dry half of your clothing in the dryer, it will save you $80.30 – $120.45 per year. That’s a great savings!
If you are unable to hang your clothes outside like I am, some great alternatives can be:
- Using a drying rack. Amazon has a large selection. I have a metal drying rack since the wooden ones tend to mildew after a while if you live in a humid area.
- String a laundry line in a warm room in your home. I utilize this method in the summer.
- Hang up clothing on hangers in doorways of unused areas. There are plenty of places to hang clothes if you just look!
I’ve seen some articles and websites that claim that hang drying your clothes isn’t worth the time and even go so far as to figure out your “minimum wage” for hanging laundry saying that it takes on average 25 minutes to hang a load. Personally, I’ve never had a load take me more than 5-10 minutes to hang up and I think it’s well worth my time to save the money as well as extend the life of my clothing.
Quick Frugal Laundry Tips
Here are some additional tips to consider along with the strategies above:
- Always clean out the lint trap in the dryer. Do this on the dryer before every load and on the outside vent a few times a year.
- Never wash a partial load. If you have one or two items that need to be cleaned immediately, hand wash, or soak them until you can run them with a regular load.
- Always use a moisture-sensing dry cycle if your machine is equipped. Timed dry can over-dry your clothing.
- Wear clothing twice if possible. Use towels many times before washing.
- An iron is the cheapest way to remove wrinkles from clothing. Don’t use the dryer as an alternative.
- Make whatever laundry products that you can at home. I have wonderfully effective recipes for both fabric softener and a stain stick in my book, Little House Living. They only cost pennies to make!
- Use a magnet ball in the washer. Softens the water and you only require 1/2-1/4 the soap per load! – Lehla B.
- Use wool dryer balls, and dry on low heat what you don’t hang. – Kyla S.
- Try using Soap Nuts. – Jennifer H.
- Wash/dry during non-peak electric hours. – Sarah C.
My Weekly Laundry Routine
Perhaps you’re wondering how this all looks when you put it together. Maybe my “non-extreme” strategies actually do seem a little extreme to you. Here’s what my laundry routine actually looks like within the scope of a week.
I wash laundry twice per week, washing 3 -4 loads per week total. One to two loads of kids clothes, one load of adult clothes, and one load of towels and/or sheets.
On my washing days, I start one load using the methods above (quick wash, less detergent, etc). The load is done in 20 minutes. After that time I remove the laundry from the washer and start the second load with the same methods.
While that load is washing, I sort the wet, clean laundry, placing some of the clothes/towels in the dryer and hanging up what I can. I hang the clothes on a drying rack in our living room, next to the heat register. I also hang some clothing on hangers in the large doorway that divides our living room and schooling area. By the time I’m done, the other load in the washer is usually done. I follow the same method, dividing the clothes by what needs to go in the dryer and what can be hung up. After I’m finished I can start the dryer which is full of each half of the loads. Then I finish my hanging.
This is my laundry routine for winter. The hanging clothes actually help add humidity to our home when everything is so dry. During the summer, I, of course, won’t have the heat running and I don’t want the added humidity in my house so all clothes get hung up on my laundry line which I string back and forth in our sunroom/entryway.
It doesn’t sound so extreme when you put it all together in the scope of a routine, does it?
How Much Can You Save?
I know that was a LOT of info and tips so I will sum it all up for you here.
Regular Load of Laundry
If you do a regular load of laundry, use hot water, expensive detergent, and you run the entire load through the dryer, it will cost you around $1.73 per load, not including things like stain remover, dryer sheets, etc if you use them.
Frugal Load of Laundry
Using all of the tips here, a load of laundry will cost you about $0.16 to $0.60 per load, depending on whether or not you dry it.
Washing one load every day using regular methods, your cost of laundry for the year will be around $631.45.
Washing one load every day using frugal methods and line drying, your cost of laundry for the year will be around $58.40.
A savings of $573.05!
Isn’t that crazy? Each thing individually doesn’t add up to muhc…maybe even just a few pennies per load when you add up something like using a smaller amount of detergent. But when you put them all together and look at the cost savings overall, the figure is impressive. I definitely have plenty of other things I rather spend my $573.05 per year instead of laundry!
–Get 50 more tips for saving money here.
Plus, the washer and the dryer are just 2 appliances in our homes…if we were to work on more frugal strategies with all of the appliances, just how much might we be able to save?
Which of these frugal laundry strategies do you use? Which one will you try and add to your routine next?
These Frugal Laundry Strategies were originally published on Little House Living in January 2018. They have been updated as of January 2020.