Have you ever stopped to think about just how much it costs you every month to maintain your laundry? Not only do you have the expense of store bought detergents, fabric softeners, stain treatment products, whitening agents, and possibly dry cleaning services, but you also have less tangible expenses such as water, electricity, and appliance maintenance.
If you’re like me, you’re always looking for ways to cut back and save money wherever possible. Who doesn’t need a little extra cash in this tough economy, right? I’ve been doing some experimenting with my family’s laundry over the past few years, and have found six simple ways to save big bucks by doing as much as I can myself. Check out how I save my family over $900 per year with the following DIY laundry tips!
1. Choose Your Clothing Carefully.
This is where the savings begin… with your wardrobe. I don’t have a lot of clothes, but what I do have I have chosen intentionally. If you’re ready to start saving money on your laundry then I challenge you to take a hard look inside your closet and begin purging your high maintenance clothing.
I’m specifically talking about those “dry clean only” pieces. That fancy blouse might have only cost you $25 to buy originally, but if you have to pay $5 to have it dry cleaned once a month it’s actually costing you an additional $60/year to keep! Compound that expense by the number of clothes you have to dry clean each month and you’re looking at a small fortune lost annually.
Consider replacing “dry clean only” pieces with clothes you can wash at home. According to some studies, the average US family spends about $35/mo on dry cleaning. By purging your delicate clothing and buying sturdier fabrics, you could save over $400 annually just on dry cleaning bills!
When shopping for new things, also avoid clothing that wrinkles easily. Every time you have to iron a blouse or slacks, money is flying out the window in the form of electricity. Look for “wrinkle free” dress clothes, and keep them hung neatly so that they always maintain a freshly pressed appearance.
2. Use Rain Water For Washing
When I first moved to the country and got onto well water, I was so excited that we no longer had a water bill. It seemed as if the water was free, and we could use as much as we wanted without fear of paying more. It wasn’t long before I realized my folly. We may not have a water bill, but we sure still pay for that water monthly. Every time that electric submersible pump kicks on in the well (which for us is after every 5 gallons used), our power bill climbs a little higher. So much for free water!
And yet… you still might have a chance to find free water elsewhere. As a matter of fact, it falls straight from the sky, like manna from heaven. All we have to do is collect it! (Just be aware of the laws in your area, as unfortunately some places have guidelines or have even made it illegal to collect rain water.)
Rain water is great for wash water because it’s “soft”. It doesn’t have the hard minerals you find in well water, which tends to require more detergent and causes your clothing to be stiffer. When you use rain water you save money on water, detergent, and fabric softeners.
Collect rain water in buckets straight from the sky, or in a rain barrel connected to the downspout of a roof. (Important note: Asphalt shingles have a lot of toxic chemicals in them, so it’s best to avoid collecting water from these kinds of roofs.) Water should be stored in a container that will not allow sunlight to pass through, otherwise it’ll start growing a green film inside the container. Some people filter rain water before using it. This would be particularly important if you live in an area with a lot of pollution.
3. Homemade Laundry Detergent
Making your own laundry detergent at home is not only super easy but will also save you a lot of money over the course of a year. All you need is:
- 1 c. Borax
- 1 shaved bar soap (Fels Naptha, Zote, Ivory, or homemade natural laundry bar)
- 1 c. Washing Soda (not baking soda)
Use a cheese grater to shave the bar of soap into fine flakes. Blend all ingredients together well. You can use a food processor to turn it into a fine powder which will dissolve easier in water. Store in an airtight container. Use 2-3 Tbsp homemade detergent per large load of laundry.
This simple recipe has saved me approx. $0.16 per load of laundry, or over $60 per year! Money in my pocket. Gotta love that.
Laundry bars also make great stain lifters. Just rub the soap directly over stubborn stains before washing. You can use a stiff brush to get the soap into the fibers of coarser materials, such as jeans. Bars of soap are much less expensive than stain gels and sprays, and last a whole lot longer, too!
4. Ditch The Machines!
There is so much satisfaction in washing your clothing manually. Not only do you save money on your power bill, but heck, you might even be able to ditch that gym membership, too!
Nowadays there are some really neat products on the market designed to help you wash your clothes by hand that make the chore much less work. Personally, I enjoy using a plunger washer in a tub of water to get large loads done quickly.
Clothes dryers are completely unnecessary, in my opinion. I got rid of mine years ago, and have never wished for another one since. There’s nothing like hanging clean laundry out in the fresh air and sunshine to boost your spirits and make you feel happy and productive. I have 100 ft. of clothesline hung outdoors which I have found to be sufficient to hold all of my laundry for a week for our family of six.
An added bonus to hanging your laundry outdoors is that sunlight acts as a natural bleaching agent for your whites! No more need for buying harsh chemical bleaches.
During rainy or extremely cold weather I hang our clothes indoors on a retractable clothesline hung over the bathtub, and on a large floor dryer rack which takes its place by the wood stove. During the humid summer months it usually takes a full 24 hours for our indoor-hung clothes to dry completely. But we’re in no rush. We’ve learned to plan ahead if there are certain clothes we know we’ll need in the coming days.
5. Use Vinegar To Soften Your Clothes
Commercial fabric softeners are costly, and often are made from ingredients better left off your skin. A safer, much more economical alternative is plain ol’ white vinegar. That’s right! The same stuff you’ve got in your pantry for cooking can be used in your laundry’s rinse water to remove build up on fabrics and make your clothing just as soft as that other stuff you’ve been using.
Add 1 cup white vinegar to the rinse water for large loads of laundry. You don’t need to add a softener to every load of laundry, either. I’ve found it to be quite sufficient (especially when using rain water) to soften only towels, thick blankets, and stiff jeans. Everything else comes out just fine without any fabric softener at all.
6. Wear Your Clothes More Than Once
If you’re in the habit of throwing your clothing into the laundry hamper after one wear, stop and consider whether the clothes are actually dirty or not before washing them right away. Oftentimes what we’ve put on for the day hasn’t gotten dirty at all, and can be hung up and worn once or even twice more before needing to be laundered. I’ve found this to be especially true of pants and skirts. Get into the habit of hanging gently worn clothes back up in the closet at the end of the day and reduce the amount of wash you have to do on a weekly basis, thereby saving money as well!
As you can see, there are plenty of things you can begin doing right now to save your family money on your monthly laundry expenses. Start slowly by adding one new idea at a time to your routine, or jump in head first and yank that washer/dryer pair out for good! Whatever method you employ, I encourage you to do what you can to save those nickels and dimes wherever possible. You will quickly discover that every little bit adds up in a big way!
What money saving tips would you add to the list?