According to Energy Star, the average American family washes about 300 loads of laundry each year. That’s a lot of clothes to fold — and a significant part of a family’s budget. Making a few small changes with how you wash, dry, or dry clean your clothes might help you save money. Here are a few tips on how you can change some of your laundry habits for maximum saving.
How to save on washing
- Use cooler water
According to Energy Star, water heating consumes about 90 percent of the energy it takes to operate a clothes washer. Using less and cooler water will help you reduce the amount of energy you use (even switching from hot to warm can cut your energy usage in half). That energy savings will add up over time. Unless you’re trying to get rid of oily or tough stains, cold water should work just fine for your loads.
- Load your washer up
Make sure that you wash (and dry) full loads. The same amount of energy will be spent if you fill your washer up halfway or to the top (unless you have options), so wash as much as you can. Be careful not to overload the washer, though. If you’re going to wash a smaller load, use the appropriate water-level setting.
- Avoid the sanitary cycle
If you have a sanitary cycle on your washer, only use it when necessary. Using this cycle will increase your energy use significantly.
- Take care of your washer
If you have a front-loading washer, use a high efficiency detergent. That’s what your washer is actually designed to use. Using regular detergent might create too much suds, which could lead to mechanical problems over time. Also, if you have a front-loading washer leave the door ajar for an hour or two after use so that you don’t trap moisture, which might lead to mold and ruin your machine. Be sure to check your manufacturers manual to see how you should care for your washer.
- Get a new one
According to Energy Star, washers manufactured before 1998 are significantly less efficient than newer models. If your goal is to lower your electricity bill or reduce the the amount of energy your household uses, consider upgrading to an energy efficient washer. An Energy Star washer, for instance, cleans clothes using 50 percent less water and 37 percent less energy than standard washers. Switching or upgrading to more energy efficient appliances will help you use less energy and cut your power bills. According to Consumer Reports, front-loading washers (as opposed to top-loaders) generally use the least water and spin the fastest, which will result in the most savings.
How to save on drying
- Don’t over-dry
Generally, most dryers use similar amounts of energy. That said, you can still save on drying by making sure you don’t over-dry your clothes. There’s no reason to keep the dryer running if your clothes are ready to be folded. If your dryer has a cool-down cycle, use it to allow your clothes to dry with the heat that remains in the dyer. Also, you can save on energy by upgrading to a dryer that has a moisture sensor so that it automatically shuts off when your clothes are dry.
- Clean your filter and inspect your vent
Make sure that you clean the lint screen in your dryer after every load so that you can improve air circulation, improve your dryer’s efficiency, and prevent fire hazards. You can use a toothbrush to scrub it clean once a month. It might be worth using the long nozzle tip on your vacuum cleaner every so often to remove lint that builds up in the lint screen slot. Cleaning the lint filter is particularly important if you use dryer sheets, which can leave a film on the filter that will reduce air flow and affect the performance of your dryer over time.
Also, be sure to inspect your dryer from time to time to make sure that the vent is not blocked. Doing so will help save energy and may prevent a fire.
- Don’t use a dryer
Using a drying rack or drying your clothes outside will help you save money and may extend the durability of certain garments. In fact, air drying is recommended by clothing manufacturers for certain fabrics.
How to save on dry cleaning
- Know your fabrics
Certain fabrics like polyester, nylon, wool and cashmere can be hand washed with cold water and a bit of detergent. Some types of silk can also be hand washed. After rinsing, lay the fabric flat to dry. You’ll want to hang silk garments. Some stores sell shampoos specifically to clean wool or cashmere.
- Ask for a deal
If you regularly dry clean your clothes, don’t be afraid to ask for a deal even if there’s no discount advertised. Asking for a deal might be particularly effective if you’re a loyal customer at a certain dry cleaning place.
- Consider home dry cleaning kits
Products like Dryel In-Dryer Cleaning Starter Kit or Woolite Dry Cleaner’s Secret are cheaper alternatives to taking your garments to a professional dry cleaner. Reviews are mixed on how effective these home dry cleaning products are, so be sure to properly research and comparison shop. Still, if you’re looking to cut your dry cleaning bill, it might be worth a shot to try one of the products. It will cost you about $10 for a box.
Outsourcing your laundry?
In her blog, Wealthy Single Mommy, Emma Johnson explains why she spends about $25 to get someone else to do her laundry. “Sending my laundry out is about economizing time and energy. Investing in laundry service makes me richer because it makes me happier,” she writes.
There’s really no easy answer to determine whether having someone else do your laundry is worth it or not. Sure, you can calculate how much more you might spend — or save — outsourcing your laundry, especially if you don’t own your own washer or dryer. Add up the costs of what you spend to wash or dry, multiply that amount by four if you wash clothes weekly, and then factor in the cost of detergent and any other laundry products you buy. Compare that amount to what it might cost to outsource your laundry.
If you own a washer and dryer, you might have to get down and dirty with the numbers and calculate how much you spend on laundry products, how much it costs to operate your washer and dryer weekly or monthly, and what maintenance costs you might have.
Of course, time plays a factor as well. You’ll have to determine how much your time is worth. For some people, doing laundry isn’t a chore, but an enjoyable experience. Others who hate doing laundry might consider paying someone else to it.
Consider these questions if you’re thinking about paying someone to do your laundry:
- How much more will it cost or save you?
- Are there affordable laundry service providers in your area?
- How convenient is the service (or not)?
- Are there deals you can buy to test out the service?
- How do you feel about someone else handling your dirty clothes?
- Do you have kids you could outsource the laundry to for a cheaper price?
- Are there other ways to cut on laundry costs?
- How valuable is your time?
You might consider utilizing the service every so often for periods when you feel overwhelmed.