We all have it – some more than others. The average family washes 600 loads of laundry per year. Currently, my laundry piles grow at an exponential rate with our new baby making the biggest contribution. At the beginning of this year, I made a few drastic changes to our laundry “habits” and procedures. Here a few of the ways we’ve decreased our laundry footprint:
1. Wash it only when it’s dirty – I know a lot of you will probably balk at the most logical of the laundry basics, but it’s amazing how many times pieces of clothing get tossed in the hamper without a second thought. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t wear anything that is stained or smells or is obviously disgusting. Our bath towels and layering clothes, such as hoodies, are washed weekly. We wear our pajamas 3 or 4 times before laundering. I don’t toss my jeans in the hamper after one wear – I just don’t think it’s necessary.
There are definitely some items that MUST be washed after each wear (or before) – undergarments (excluding bras), all baby items, workout apparel, any new garments, and anything that’s obviously dirty. I find these pages on Real Simple’s website EXTREMELY helpful when looking for guidelines.
2. Save on detergent – We all have our favorite detergents that we swear by. We associate their scents with “clean.” I opted to change to a “free and clear” detergent when I found out I was pregnant. I have to admit, it was really hard for me to get used to the lack of my favorite detergent’s scent, but in the end, my clothes are clean, and I don’t have to worry about our little one’s sensitive skin.
I certainly recommend investing in a warehouse club membership, such as Sam’s Club or Costco. They have bulk-sized containers of all your favorite brands at great prices. I was very surprised to find our free & clear brand of detergent in a 172 oz bottle for only $11.88. That is enough detergent to wash 110 loads. 11 cents per load is a great deal! And that’s if you use a full capful. Most loads of laundry actually require only half of what we actually add to our loads. More detergent DOES NOT mean cleaner clothes. Putting too much detergent in your washer can lead to damaging build up and can actually make your clothing dingy.
You can also attempt to make your own detergent. I really don’t have the time to try this option right now, but maybe in the future, it could save even more of our hard-earned cash.
3. Eliminate fabric softener – This was, by far, THE most difficult for me. How could I get rid of our spring fresh goodness?! Some infant clothing is made with flame retardant fabric that can lose its effectiveness with the use of fabric softener – a HUGE reason we switched to a cheaper, all-natural alternative. I use 1/4 cup of white vinegar in my washer with each load. So now you’re asking the obvious – vinegar in your laundry??? Yes, vinegar. It’s super cheap and not only does it soften our clothes, it helps keep my washer clean. Our washer and dryer are in the basement so the need for one of those automatic fabric softener balls you drop in at the start of the load is a must. And no, our clothes have NEVER smelled like vinegar.
We’re also saving $80 a year on eliminating dryer sheets which I have actually not missed one bit. Static has not really been an issue for us thus far, and if it becomes one, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.
4. Keep your machines clean! – How many of you have ever considered the redundant task of washing your washer? Detergents and fabric softeners can actually cause irreparable damage by leaving gunky build-up behind, while the ever-present lint can decrease the efficiency of your dryer and can even become a fire hazard!
I clean my washer monthly using baking soda and vinegar. I run an empty, large load of hot water and 1 cup of baking soda. During the rinse cycle, I add in a cup of white vinegar. I also use an old toothbrush to “detail” the bleach and fabric softener dispensers and remove the extra-tough gunky build-up left by the detergent. I’ve had my washer for 7 years and have not had a single issue with it.
Cleaning your dryer’s lint trap with EVERY load is also a must. It helps keep your dryer running at its peak and also prevents the vent tube from backing up with lint which can create a serious fire hazard.
There are so many other little things you can do that help save money in the laundry world – Hang drying, running only full loads, and washing in cold water are just a few. I hope this helps some of you take the plunge to change up a few of your dirty laundry “habits” so you can start counting your savings!