Laundry Tips for Frugal Living and Cleaner Clothes

These laundry tips can save you money and help you to get your clothes cleaner, too!

Laundry and dry cleaning can eat up quite a chunk of your budget if you let it. Dry cleaning is especially expensive - try these ideas and reduce the expense of maintaining your clothes; you may save enough for a new outfit!

Dry laundry on a clothesline

One of my favorite money saving laundry tips is to use a clothesline, outside if possible, and hang your clothes up to dry instead of drying them in the dryer. In addition to helping you to save electricity , you will have fresh, clean smelling clothes! The sun also acts as a disinfectant and stain remover. (Since the sun does tend to bleach things out a bit, it is a good idea to turn dark things inside out when hanging in the sun.)

The high heat and tumbling action of clothes dryers can be damaging to your clothing, so hanging them up to dry can also save you money by helping to keep your clothes in good repair for a longer time.

If you don't have room for a traditional clothesline, you can buy a rotary one that takes up only a small area. 

Avoid Dry Cleaning

Try to buy clothes that are machine washable. If you do have items that say ‘Dry clean only’ it does not necessarily mean you have to take them to the cleaners. The alternatives are:

  • Buying do-it-yourself at home in-the-dryer dry cleaning products. I have had good luck with Dry Cleaner’s Secret, which you put into the dryer with the clothes to be cleaned like a dryer sheet and run for 20 minutes. They are inexpensive compared to professional dry cleaning; at about 80 cents per sheet (you can clean 1 – 4 items with one sheet). 
  • Washing the garment in the sink with cold water and a little bit of shampoo. I use this method for sheer silk blouses and lightweight sweaters. After soaking them and swishing them around a little bit, I rinse them out and wrap them in a towel to get the bulk of the water out before I hang them up to dry. Never twist or wring this type of garment – be very gentle with it when it is wet. 
  • If the item seems less delicate to me (some cotton pants, wool sweaters, etc.) I will simply wash it in the washing machine (in cold water!) on the delicate cycle and hang it up to dry. This is a risk, I know, but I have learned to have a pretty good feel for what can be washed and what can’t. If you don’t trust yourself to make these decisions, then it may be a better choice for you to take your delicate items to a professional cleaner and not take unnecessary chances on ruining your expensive clothing.

More Money-Saving Laundry Tips

  • Compare brands The most expensive brands of laundry products are not necessarily the best. You can spend half the amount for some of the less advertised brands and still get the same cleaning power. Store brands may be a good option.
  • Choose the less expensive brands of fabric softeners if you buy  them. They work just as well to take out the static cling and add a nice fresh scent. I recommend opening the cap and smelling a new product before you buy it the first time – it is not pleasant to be stuck with a scent that you hate every time you get dressed or step out of the shower and grab your towel! (Or make your own homemade fabric softener)
  • Use less I have never found it necessary to use the recommended amount of laundry detergent or fabric softener when washing clothes. Unless your water is very hard, you will probably not need to, either. Try using ½ capful of detergent and if that doesn’t seem to be enough add a little until you find the amount that is right for you. Detergent is expensive, and if you can get a 1/3 more loads out of a bottle of detergent, that can add up significantly over time. 
  • Hand wash with shampoo or body wash Shampoos and body washes make great cleaners for delicate washables because they are formulated to remove oils very gently. Regular detergents can be too harsh and break down delicate fibers and elastic. Don’t buy Woolite – it is quite expensive and was shown in a test done by Consumer Reports to be harsher on delicate items than Tide! 
  • Get brighter colors & whites with baking soda or borax Add ½ cup of baking soda or borax per wash load to brighten your colors and your whites alike without doing any damage to your fabrics (at just pennies a load). 
  • Make your own homemade fabric softener Making your own fabric softener is easy and helps you to save money on laundry products. It is also non-allergenic and better for the environment than the commercial brands. 
  • Remove blood stains You can remove blood stains by soaking clothes overnight in cool water with a cup of vinegar and a cup of baking soda. Never use warm water on blood, as this will set the stain.
  • Wash full loads whenever possible or adjust your water level to accommodate the size of your load. 
  • Wash your clothes in cold water Detergent technology has gotten so good that washing in hot water is no longer necessary; you can save lots of energy by washing with cold water rather than hot water.

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