According to the Consumer Energy Center, the average American family does almost 400 loads of laundry per year, or roughly 7.6 loads per week. As the price of energy, water, and basic household items rises, there are some simple steps you can take to minimize the cost of this very necessary chore:
1. Use the least amount of detergent possible. Any extra soap makes the machine work overtime rinsing all the suds away.
2. Always wash on a cold cycle. This reduces energy intensity.
3. Only use warm water for pre-soaking heavily soiled clothing.
4. Always use cold water in the rinse cycle. Warmer temperatures for rinsing don’t clean any better than cold water.
5. Only wash full loads. You waste energy, and to a lesser extent water, when you wash smaller loads, since you use as much (or nearly as much) energy as you would for a full load.
6. Use the shortest washing cycle. This can result in energy and water savings. Longer washing cycles may seem like they clean more deeply, but are not really necessary except for the most soiled clothing.
7. Switch to a front-loading washing machine.
8. Purchase machines with the Energy Star label. This will save you a third off your energy bill and cut your water costs by more than half.
9. Keep the lint trap clean. A dirty lint trap means your equipment is working harder and spending more energy.
10. Line dry on racks. The ultimate drying cost-cutter.
Finally, buy generic brand detergent - or save even more by making your own. Here’s an easy recipe for home-made laundry detergent:
DIY Laundry Detergent (Makes approx. 500 loads)
You will need:
1 bar of soap (any brand)
1 cup of Borax
1 cup of washing soda (not baking soda)
A large pot (2 gallons minimum)
A long spoon
2 empty gallon jugs or containers (empty milk cartons work well as do empty water jugs with spouts)
Grate the bar of soap into your large, empty pot.
Add one gallon of water into the post with the grated soap. Cook on medium heat until the soap has completely dissolved.
Add 1 cup of Borax and 1 cup of washing soda to the soap/water mixture.
Bring the soap, water, borax, and washing soda mixture to a boil until it thickenns.
Once the mixture thickens, remove it from the heat and add one gallon of cold water. Stir well.
Pour the mixture into your gallon containers and allow to cool for at least 24 hours. You may want to use a funnel to help guide the hot mixture into the containers.
A few words of advice:
The mixture will coagulate and become very thick. If you prefer a runnier consistency, try using half a bar of soap instead of a full bar.
Use half a cup of the detergent for each full load of laundry. The detergent will not create suds like commercial detergent does. This does not mean your clothing is not being cleaned well. This homemade detergent cleans beautifully. It is also compatible with HE washers.
Feel free to add a cup of baking soda for extra odor removing properties and/or a cup of white vinegar to break down stains and grease.
1 box of borax $5.00
1 box of Arm and Hammer washing soda $3.00
1 bar of Ivory soap $1.00
Total – $9.00 for 500 loads
Tide Liquid Detergent Original Scent 50 fl. oz. (32 loads) $9.00
500/32 = approx. 16 bottles of detergent
16 x $9 = $144 for 500 loads
Savings per year:
$144 – $9 = $135
Morgan is a freelance writer and blogger living in Southern California with her husband, two daughters, and flock of backyard chickens. You can read more of her at The Little Hen House.