1. Using the dryer
We all know that energy costs are up, and I know I feel the sting when I get my utility bill every month. The California Energy Commission estimates that the average household would save $85 a year in electricity costs by not using a dryer. GreenAmerica.org estimates the savings would be around $100 a year in electricity alone. Forgoing this convenience my be worthwhile when you add up how much it really costs you over time!
Another big way you save by skipping the dryer is that your clothes last longer. That big clump of lint that you pull out of the dryer is bits of material from your clothes. The dryer thins your clothes and makes them look and feel worn out sooner. For our kids who outgrow their clothes every few months, we probably won't even notice the difference, but for those of us who keep clothes (especially sweaters) for several years, alternative drying methods can extend the life of your clothes and provide huge savings. If you can't stop using the dryer completely, consider using fewer dryer cycles by only drying items that take a long time to dry or wrinkle easily.
2. Using a longer wash cycle
For normal and lightly-soiled clothes, wash on the shortest cycle your machine has. Save the normal and heavy wash cycles for your really dirty loads. This saves time and energy since the machine completes the cycle in less time.
3. Washing and drying during peak hours
If you use your washer and dryer during non-peak electricity hours, you could save 30–50 percent on energy costs. Ask your energy provider (or visit their website) to find what hours are considered off peak in your area. Most off-peak hours are on evenings and weekends.
4. Using too much detergent
The Wall Street Journal reported that most people use a full cap of detergent for every load of laundry they do. Even most detergent manufacturers recommend only half a cap for a normal load of clothes. Now that my kids are getting older and we have fewer stains, I usually use a third of a cap for a regular load of laundry—and our clothes still come out perfectly clean!
5. Using store-bought stain removers
Stain removers can be quite expensive, but getting stains out doesn't have to be. You can use lemon juice or vinegar to remove stains. I've used vinegar to remove tough armpit stains, and it worked! Also, did you know that sunlight is a natural whitening agent? You can skip the bleach altogether, and hang your whites outside to dry and get them whitened for free! An easy stain removing recipe: take equal parts white vinegar and water (for example 1 cup of each) and add baking soda until it forms a paste. Spread the paste on the stain. Use an old toothbrush to scrub if the stain is tough or set in. If you have time, let the mixture sit on the stain for 5–10 minutes before starting the washer.
6. Using dryer sheets
Dryer sheets are expensive and not great for the environment, and it's easy to do laundry without them. If you use dryer sheets for the fabric-softening qualities, you can easily switch to vinegar in the rinse cycle of the washer (no, it won’t make your clothes smell). If you use dryer sheets to eliminate static cling, you can buy anti-static balls from most retailers that sell laundry products. I bought my anti-static balls at the Christmas Tree Shop for $2 over seven years ago. In the past seven years I have easily done at least 1,800 loads of laundry (averaging five loads every week for seven years). Even if I consistently found dryer sheets for $1/100 sheets, I saved at least $180!
7. Dry cleaning
A little secret: I haven't taken an article of clothing to the dry cleaner in over 15 years. Dry cleaning is expensive and I worry about the chemicals they use (although thankfully there are now more green and organic dry cleaners available). I know some people who avoid buying clothes that have a "Dry Clean Only" tag, but I don't want to limit my choices when clothes shopping. So I wash any article of clothing that says "dry clean only" by hand. I use cold water with a delicate soap in my sink. It takes longer, but it saves enough money to make it definitely worth my while! And in 15 years, I haven't ruined one article of clothing by hand washing.
8. Wearing unsoiled clothing more than once
I don't wash every article of clothing I wear each week. I'll especially wear items that don't tend to get very dirty, like jeans, a couple of times before washing them. Not only does it give me fewer loads of laundry to wash, but it makes my clothes last longer. My mother spritzes her clothes with vodka if she wears it a second time without washing it, and diluted vinegar may work, as well. Also, airing out your clothing between wearings allows odors to dissipate without causing undue damage in the washing machine.