Save Time and Money on Laundry Days

by - Monday, June 08, 2009

Of all the cleaning we undertake as mothers, laundry is by far the most expensive task. Not to mention time consuming!

Bombarded with advertisements for the latest dirt-busting detergents and a never-ending pile of laundry, we often lose track of how to keep track of our pennies and buy into expensive ideas which claim to save us time (but don't necessarily save us money). Uniforms need to be ready for school; shirts must be ironed in time forwork; baby clothes are constantly being changed, and (what with all themess created by the rest of the family) mums just need something towear!

So in this post I'll share some ideas for how we can save money and time on laundry days, whether you set aside a particular day for all your washing or (like me) choose to run a load through the washing machine each day.

Organize clothes and wash less often

Whenever possible, sort clothes and other washable items by colour as soon as they need washing and encourage your family to do so too! Those laundry hampers with sections for colours and whites are wonderful (though expensive); having two or three cheap laundry baskets to hand is just as useful. This saves time sorting through clothes whenever you need to put on a load, and also prevents colour leeking from your non-colourfast red socks onto those expensive Egyptian cotton towels...

By organizing loads in advance, you can ensure you only wash clothes when there is a full load of washing. This saves money too, since you'd use more energy for 2-3 small loads than for a single full load on the same cycle (and probably more detergent/softener too!).

Use less detergent for each load...

Unless your clothes are very heavily soiled, you can get away with using half (or even less) of the recommended dose of detergent.

I prefer to use washing powder tablets, and use only one per full cycle of washing (whereas two or more are recommended on the pack). For very dirty clothes, I add half a cup of washing soda - which works out cheaper than that second tablet - which is sufficient to get rid of most everyday stains too!

Boxes of powder may seem cheaper on the shelves, but unless you're really frugal and careful with measuring for each load, you could actually use more than when paying a little extra for tablets. Supermarket own-brands (and also budget/unknown brands from local shops) usually work just as well as their branded counterparts. Go for these cheaper options which enables you to spend a little extra on luxury softener to make your laundered clothes smell and feel wonderful instead.

... Or make your own detergent!

I found this wonderful article over at The Family Homestead which explains how to make your own laundry detergent. According to the author, this works out at around 71 cents (about 45p) per batch, which can clean 64 loads of washing!

That's less than 1p per wash, far far cheaper per load than even the cheapest budget brand washing powder!

Use white vinegar instead of fabric softener

An oldie, but a goodie, white vinegar works out a far cheaper solution than buying fabric softener. Simply add a slug in place of your fabric conditioner in the detergent drawer and your clothes will come out soft and fluffy. Even better, the vinegar helps stop the build-up of limescale in your machine (and is also a cheaper solution to the de-scaling products on sale for our washing machines and dishwashers).

Don't worry about the smell - surprisingly clothes will not smell of vinegar when they come out of the wash cycle! The only down-side is that they won't smell of lovely expensive fabric conditioner either...

Pre-treat stains with a home-made solution

Don't pay through the nose for expensive pre-wash treatments - they really aren't worth the money!

You can make your own by filling a spray bottle 4/5ths full of water, then top up with cheap washing up liquid. Shake to mix well, then spray this solution onto the problem areas and leave to soak in before washing as normal.

For really tough stains, check out this huge page of stain-removal solutions which covers everything from mud to blood, grass stains, red wine and even tea.

Wash on the shortest, coldest cycle

During a wash cycle, the heating of water uses the highest percentage of electricity.

There really is no need to wash at the maximum recommended temperature for your fabrics unless the items are really badly soiled. Turn the thermostat to 30 degrees (or even less if you can bear it). You could save up to 40% in energy per wash cycle (depending how high your usual temperature).

Similarly, use the shortest cycle you can for everyday cleaning. Your clothes will still come out clean as the invigoration does most of the hard work, not the amount of time your clothes are immersed in water!

Wash your delicates in the shower

Our delicate underwear should really be hand-washed, but I'm sure many of you bunk your smalls in with the main washing load simply to save time...

The trouble with this is that delicates can lose their shape and colour; they don't last as long when washed so rigorously.

Instead, take your smalls in with you when you shower, and wash gently with your favourite shower gel or a little soap. This saves a lot of time and makes your underwear smell as gorgeous as you do!

Dry clothes on a washing line

Tumble dryers are a godsend when time is short, but these use up so much electricity to heat and dry our clothes (even the energy efficient versions).

If it's not raining and you have some outdoor space, save yourself the cost of electricity and dry your clothes outside. I'm not sure exactly how much money this will save, but trust me, it's a lot! Clothes can dry very quickly on a line, even when it's not sunny, and smell fresher too.

Use "Dryer Balls"

A while back, there was quite a craze for Dryer Balls which increase air circulation in the tumble dryer, helping clothes to dry more quickly and feel softer without the use of fabric conditioner or tumble dryer sheets.

I personally held off buying them for a while, but when I saw these on offer in Poundland (the actual branded variety, not a cheap knock-off!) I couldn't resist trying them out.

Ladies, these do work! I'd guess it knocked about a quarter off drying times and made our towels very fluffy indeed. If you spot them on offer, try them for yourself! The RRP of £9.99 seems a tad expensive to me, but I'm told they're often found in budget stores and Wilkinsons for far less.

Iron clothes while slightly damp

Remove clothes from the washing line/tumble dryer to iron while still slightly damp: they take far less time to iron!

If you give clothes a good shake before hanging out on the line (especially on windy days) there will be less creases to iron out. Also, take clothes out of the dryer as soon as the cycle is done and shake while still warm to minimize creases and ironing.

Invest in an enery efficient washing machine

I know washing machines are expensive and a purchase we prefer not to make unless absolutely nescessary. But if you're using an age-old washing machine you could be wasting pounds of electricity each year! Energy efficiency is measured on a scale of A through to E, where A offers the best possible efficiency (and uses far less electricity per cycle). Such machines may cost more for the initial purchase but do make up in saved electricity bills in the long run.

Final thoughts

I hope these tips can help you save a little time and money on laundry days! If you have any tips of your own to share, please feel free to leave your comments below and I'll update this article complete with accreditation to your own blog or site.

Image credits: "Better than TV" by BrianU; Spin Cycle by B Rosen; Washing Line by Steve9091. All via Flickr Creative Commons.

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