Save up to $1500 a Year on Laundry!

Most people don’t have a clear appreciation for what their laundry is costing. Whether you have a home machine or use a laundromat, you may be surprised at the real costs of keeping clean. I remember living in an efficiency apartment in downtown Seattle. Each week, I’d load my wash into a plastic bag, and stick the plastic bag inside a rolling suitcase, fill the outside pocket with quarters and a novel, and walk down the street to the laundromat. In an effort to avoid a couple of creepers whose laundry schedules mysteriously always matched mine, I started re-bagging my wet wash, and bringing it back, where I spread it on drying racks in my bathroom. I discovered I was saving $8.00 a month, which in those days, was a fairly noticeable savings. Especially for someone who just did 1-2 loads a week.

Fast forward many years, and now I do 6-8 loads of wash per week (depending on what sports the kids are playing that season), and thankfully, I’m using my own machines. Laundry costs are still substantial. Here’s how most similar-sized households can save up to $1500 per year in laundry costs.

Laundry Detergent/Products

I’ve made my own detergents for years, using a similar recipe to Lyannae’s How to Make Your Own Homemade Laundry Detergent. I use castile soap instead of bath soap o Fels-Namptha because I want a detergent-free laundry. I pre-treat stains with Dawn, and also use white vinegar as a rise aid (when it is necessary). Laundry detergent savings $198 year.

Laundry Lines/Racks

To save energy on drying, I rack-dry when the weather is warm. Outside line-drying isn’t an option for me since I live in a townhouse. Savings about $28 over the dry months.

Need a quick free drying rack? If you’ve got one of those wooden drop-side cribs that has recently been recalled—grab a side and position it over your tub/shower (mine has a ledge, making it a perfect place to hold a rack like this).

Reduce Drying Time

Adding “laundry balls” to the dryer helps to prevent static, reduce wrinkles and speed drying time, which has eliminated the use of dryer sheets and bars. Laundry balls are just heavy felted soft-ball sized balls. They’re all natural, and their weight gets them bouncing around in the dryer a lot, without adding noise. All of this extra movement in the dryer dries garments much faster. I can’t tell exactly what this is saving, but I did notice that when we started using the laundry balls, it seemed to offset the use of our portable air conditioner, so I’m guessing it is a savings of $84 per year.

Need to Replace a Machine?

If you’re using an inefficient machine, or have a machine that may be near failure, it may be time to replace—but don’t buy new! If you don’t have to have the top-of-the-line machine, you can definitely benefit from those who do. Recycled and second-hand building supply stores get lots of washers and dryers. Often, they are the brand-new base models from a new home or condo that was immediately replaced with a designer model by the new owner. Many areas have a used building materials store, we are fortunate to have three of them near us. One can easily find a working high-efficiency, front loading washing machine for $250 or less, compared to a new machine at $600-700. Total savings: At least $350.

Ditch the Dry Cleaning

Dry cleaning not only exposes you to potentially hazardous chemicals, but is expensive! Furthermore, it’s not always necessary. Dry clean typically just means that your garment shouldn’t go through a machine with an agitating system, or would be harmed by traditional detergent or extreme water temperatures.

You can scale back or eliminate your dry cleaning bills by hand-washing your garments with mild soaps (detergent free, such as a pure castile soap). Rodale provides some excellent instructions here.


By , on Mar 15, 2012
Jessica Ward Jessica Ward is a full-time writer and adoptive mom to two wonderful children. She writes to support her parenting/adopting habit. For frugal family tips see The PennyWise Family or @jessc098 and my google+ profile.


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  1. Jamie:

    Just found your blog and LOVE IT! Can’t wait to read back posts. I’ve been hanging my laundry for a couple of years now. I didn’t want to spend the money to by any drying racks since we live in a townhouse and can’t hang our laundry outside (although still searching at thrift shops) so I use hangers and hang my laundry off my ironing board. You would be surprised how much you can hang.

  2. I tried to ask my wife if she wanted to make our own laundry detergent, then I figured it wouldn’t be worth the effort and might jack up my HE machines.

    • elizabeth thomas:

      It is pretty easy to make and costs pennies per load. I have been using it in my HE machine for almost a year with no problems

  3. Does anyone know if the homemade laundry detergent is safe for a n HE machine?

    • elizabeth thomas:

      I have been using the homemade detergent in my HE machine for almost a year now and have had no problems you just use much less one batch does 640 loads. I have shared with family , friends and neighbors .

  4. The dryer balls are a great idea! I usually throw a dry bath towel in with the load of clothes in the dryer. It absorbs moisture and cuts drying time down significantly.

  5. If you are lucky enough to have an outdoor clothesline there is nothing better than the smell of line dried clothes!

  6. No way this adds to $1,500 annually. Unless someone has a whopping dry-clean bill or uses a laundry service, I don’t see how anyone spends that much total on laundry to begin with.

    I agree that dry-cleaning is almost completely a waste of money. It also destroys clothes.

  7. I know a few people who now make their own detergent and perhaps I should give it a go. I’ve also heard that soap nuts work quite well.

  8. Maureen:

    I have tried the homemade laundry detergent recipes and find that the clothes gradually become dingy. Quite disappointing. I went back to using Tide. You can buy it quite economically if you wait for a sale and use coupons.

  9. Does anyone know if the homemade laundry detergents are safe for HE machines? I would hate to save $5 only to ruin my new HE machine!! I have been air drying my jeans and sweatshirts for years. I just place them on hangers and hang them from my shower curtain. Just by removing them from the drying, I can dry my clothes in half the time.

  10. Lindsay:

    Thank you! I’m excited about these money-saving tips! I will definitely be purchasing some dryer balls~~I really had no idea how they worked~~but I believe I can save a LOT on my currently way-too-high electric bill by using dryer balls if they can shorten dry time! I cloth diaper my baby, and his organic cotton diapers take 100 minutes to dry right now!!! :( I appreciate the other tips too, such as homeade detergent and plan to bookmark this page for future reference! :)

  11. Does that homemade laundry detergent work really well on dirty clothes? I have boys who play in the mud, and really need something strong to get out the stains..

  12. akbj:

    I live in an apartment building with washers & dryers that cost $1.25 each. I’ve lived here over 3 years now, & have used wooden drying racks for my clothes, (I live alone) from the start. I figure at about $10.00 a month saved on the dryer, that’s $120.00 a year, or about $360.00 in the time I’ve lived here. Plus it’s better for my clothing. It even works for sheets, they dry in a day.

  13. marci357:

    I don’t see where that adds up to the $1500 you are claiming… ?

    Good to know about the tennis balls :)

  14. Libby:

    I just use tennis balls. Got an unused can at a thrift store. They work great!

  15. Kate:

    On the felted dryer balls: Crunchy Betty has a tutorial on her site for making dryer balls at home out of old wool items (sweaters, hats, etc.) and pantyhose, and you don’t have to be an experienced felter to follow along. She estimated her total cost to be about $5 for three good-sized dryer balls.


    • Lisa:

      I was wondering where could I get dryer balls but then thanks for posting this tut. :)

  16. Thanks for the ideas! I’ve been making my own soap and detergent for years. This gives me more ideas to add to my laundry! Thanks.

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