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Saving Money in the Laundry Room

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Laundry is a never ending task isn’t it? You can spend all day tackling the mountains of dirty clothes, and by that evening the hamper has been filled again. This not only adds up to a ton of time spent keeping our clothing clean, but it costs a significant amount of money as well. Here are some savings tips to help trim down your laundry expenses:

1) Use Cold Water: After comparing several sites that have done exhaustive cost analysis calculations, the general consensus seems to be that it's around 50 cents more per load if you use hot water instead of cold. When you multiply that by however many loads you run per week, month or year the savings can really add up. Hot water is important if someone has been ill or has severe allergies, and you’re concerned about killing germs or dust mites. I use hot for my sheets and towels, and it does keep whites brighter. Most ordinary loads will come clean just fine on the cold setting though. Cold water is less likely to shrink or fade clothing also, so in most instances it is better for your wardrobe, as well as your wallet.

2) Wash Less Often: One of my top parenting pet peeves is when my kids put virtually unworn clothes into the hamper. They will wear something for only an hour sometimes, and then either drop it in the basket or leave it on the floor where it gets dirty from being stepped on. They do this far less often now that I make them all do their own laundry, but truthfully I’d wager that most of us wash our clothes more often than we need to. Of course items like underwear, socks and workout clothes should be washed after every use, because they have direct contact with sensitive skin and tend to get sweaty and soiled. But according to the Whirlpool website things like shirts, pants and bras can be worn 2 or 3 times between washes, and jeans and sweaters 4 or 5 times. As one of the leading manufacturers of laundry equipment, I trust their expertise. Fabrics wear out faster when laundered too frequently, so it’s a win for our our closets and the environment to wash less, while also helping our pocketbooks.

3) Choose the Right Machines: New appliances are expensive, so it could take a couple of years to pay yourself back in savings if you went out to purchase some now. But if you are already in the market for a washer and dryer, keep a few things in mind while shopping. Energy Star certified washers use about 25% less energy and about 40% less water than traditional models, and Energy Star dryers use about 20% less energy. Front loader washers are more energy efficient than top loading machines. They cost a bit more up front, but are worth it over the lifetime of the appliance. Older dryers tend to run longer and less efficiently as their parts age, so newer ones will pay for themselves over time, and be more environmentally friendly.

4) Cut the dryer sheets: Many years ago I discovered that using only half a sheet of fabric softener dryer sheets works just as well as using a whole sheet. Since then I always tear them in half, so they last twice as long. This may seem like negligible savings to worry over, but it takes so little effort that I figure, why not? You can cut the sheets out altogether now, though, by using woolen dryer balls. When you throw a few of these in the dryer they keep the wet clothing from clumping up so the machine heats more evenly and efficiently. The cycle finishes faster, and they soften effectively too. They are a reusable, hypo allergenic solution for people who have skin sensitivities to traditional fabric softeners, and can be scented with a few drops essential oils if you prefer a fragrance.

5) Air Dry: The cheapest way to dry your clothes is of course to let mother nature lend a hand, and air dry. In many places outdoor clotheslines are allowed, and the sun and breeze can work almost as fast as machine drying on a nice warm day. But there are many good clotheslines on the market that can be installed indoors as well, that are retractable when not in use. In tight quarters, or for smaller loads, I use folding racks sometimes too. Clothes seem to smell fresher to me when dried naturally.

6) Use Cheaper Soap: This one speaks for itself. We are creatures of habit and tend to use whatever products our parents did, even when they cost more. We often assume that because a brand is more familiar that it must be superior, but that impression is usually the result of clever marketing. There are some products that are definitely better in regards to containing fewer allergens and harmful chemicals, if those factors are important to you. From my experience, though, I haven’t found it to make a bit of difference which detergent I use for ordinary laundry loads, simply in terms of cleaning the clothes. So I always just buy what is on sale or has a coupon offering.

7) Take Advantage of Off-Peak Utility Savings: There are certain times of day when energy is in high demand, and many utility companies will offer lower rates during off-peak hours to encourage their customers to change their usage habits. Call your energy companies, or check their websites, to find out when peak hours are in your community, and how much you can save by washing in the evening instead of during the day perhaps. It’s a simple change that could make a big difference.

8) Wash Full Loads: This seems obvious, but waiting to do a load until you can fill the machine means fewer loads, and more savings. Try to avoid washing only a small load when you can, by either waiting until more items have accumulated, or by combining your laundry with other family members. If you must wash a smaller load, be sure to adjust your water settings accordingly.

9) Minimize Drying Time: Shorten drying time by keeping loads full, but not over full. If the dryer is too packed, air will not be able to adequately circulate, and drying will take longer. If a load is very small, consider waiting to start the dryer until your second load of wash is ready and dry them together. Putting similar materials in each load also helps. For instance, dry heavy items like towels separately from lightweight items that can dry quickly. I like to set my timer to run based on moisture detection rather than a set time, so it stops when clothes are dry. It also helps to be close by, and check it a few minutes early. Sometimes things are adequately dry several minutes before the buzzer goes off.

10) Limit Lint Build Up: It’s important to clean out the lint trap every time you use the dryer, and go the extra mile to inspect and clean your dryer exhaust vents at least once a year. This helps prevent house fires, and keeps your machine working at optimal efficiency. There are services that will come do a thorough cleaning for a fee, but it can be a DIY project as well with the proper tools.

12) Skip Ironing: Years ago I used to spend hours each week ironing dress clothes for my large brood. But with all of the advancements in wrinkle free fabrics, this is no longer in my life at all. We pull out the ironing board only on extremely rare occasions. Unless you are a huge fan of linen, taking things out of the dryer right away after the cycle is completed should keep wrinkles at bay, and saves on electricity too, while freeing up your time for more enjoyable things. (I know, I know, there are some people who actually like ironing. I don’t get it, but if this is you, go for it!!)

These are all small, easy ideas that when combined can have a big impact on the cost of doing laundry.

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