9 Ways to Save Money on Laundry

Photo: aLindquist

It's that time of year again. The kids are heading off to school, and you have to pay a little more attention to the laundry. Your hampers will be overflowing with sports gear and school clothes in no time, but getting your kids' clothes clean doesn't have to be expensive. (See also: 16 Ways to Make Your Clothes Last Longer Without Spending Big)

1. Wash Less Often

You don't have to wash your clothes after every wear. Depending on the item, you can go days before it has to be tossed in the hamper. For example, you only need to wash your jeans every four to five wears. And certain tops can be worn up to three times before washing. Consult the Real Simple When-to-Wash-it Handbook for more information.

2. Wash Only Full Loads

You may use less water when washing a half a load versus a full load, but you are using the same amount of energy. Don't waste it. Always fill the washer before starting it up.

3. Wash in Cold Water

Up to 90% of the energy used to wash your clothes is just to heat up the water. So wash them with cold water, and you'll be saving cold hard cash.

4. Use Shorter Wash Cycles

Unless your clothes are filthy, skip the heavy-duty cycle in favor of a shorter cycle. This will help you use less energy and save money in the end.

5. Use Less Detergent

Be careful how much detergent you are dumping into the washer. Most of us fill to a line on the cup that we can barely see, and some of us skip the cup all together. You only need about a ¼ of a cup, so read the directions on the bottle of detergent and don't waste your cash by wasting detergent.

6. Skip the Dryer Sheets

I don't use dryer sheets. After my daughter was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, I tried to rid our home of anything that carried a chemical odor. (Even if your dryer sheets smell like lavender, they aren't actually made of lavender.) I didn't want her little lungs inhaling chemicals all day long. I haven't missed them one bit.

7. Skip the Dryer

Even in the colder months, you can hang your clothes to dry. You can use drying racks or your shower curtain rod. I've even been known to throw damp clothes over the top of a door. Any time you can skip using the dryer means you are using less energy and spending less money.

8. Remove Lint From the Dryer

If you do use the dryer, make sure you keep it clean. Don't forget to clean the lint trap and the dryer vent, too. It is a money hazard when lint builds up in these two spots because moist air can't escape and the dryer has to work harder.

9. Avoid the Dry Cleaner

If you can, avoid buying clothes that are dry clean only. But don't fret if you get home from the store and find that all of your daughter's must-have back-to-school clothes are dry clean only. Some of them can be hand washed in the sink and hung to dry, while the rest can be tossed in the dryer with a little Dry Cleaner's Secret. It only takes 20 minutes to clean up to five garments, so don't leave them in longer than you need to.

And there you have it. Clean clothes at a fraction of the cost — and more money to spend on you. Happy laundering!

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Meg Favreau's picture

In my last apartment building, the dryers would only get a full load of clothing about half-dry -- definitely not worth the $1.25. I started line-drying everything on a rack (sheets went over the shower rod). My clothing got dry, and I saved $1.25 a week.

Anybody have other suggestions for saving money on laundry?

Guest's picture

Line drying works all the time especially if you live in a city where it seldom rains.

Guest's picture

I don't care for the stiff feeling of laundry that is hung to dry. I toss it in the dryer on the no heat setting for about 10 minutes and it 'softens' the laundry. It also seems to knock off any pollen if you hung the clothes outside (A GREAT tip passed on to me by someone with awful allergies!).

Guest's picture

Make your own laundry detergent! I made a 5 gallon pail of detergent at the beginning of the year and am not quite halfway through it, doing laundry for 2 people. Cost me less than $10 for the ingredients. You can easily spend $10 on one bottle of detergent at the store that might last a month or two. HUGE savings!
You can find detergent recipes and ideas really easily online.

Guest's picture

With high efficiency washers, only a tablespoon or two of detergent is needed. I've saved alot since hearing this from a HE washer repairman!

Guest's picture

I hate dry cleaning, it stinks and costs too much.

Will have to check out "dry cleaner's secret". thanks!

Guest's picture

i added a second tension shower rod in each of my bathrooms, hung high and centered over the shower/tub so i don't end up with wet floors. total cost of $22 for both and no mess. you can see them here:

Guest's picture

Iron your clothes as soon as they get out of the washing machine. Your clothes will be softer, not wrinkled and the dampness from the clothes will make free steam so your iron doesn't have to work that hard and when you "line dry them" they will dry much quicker

Guest's picture

I agree with another commenter, make your own laundry detergent. It's super easy and you can make a large batch for hardly any money at all. I just wrote a blog post about how to make laundry detergent (including 8 laundry detergent recipes) at http://bowlfullofgiggles.com/how-to-make-laundry-detergent