Today is Earth Day so what better way to celebrate but with an entry for how to save energy on laundry. Saving on laundry tends to be one of the top topics on frugal discussions and for good reason. Let's face it, doing laundry is a fact of life. It can be time consuming, overwhelming and costly. Saving even a little in this area encourages us to save in other ways as well.
We raised a larger family so over the years (almost 30) we have done a lot of laundry. Over the years the energy costs have increased and they will continue to rise. But it is not just the price of energy that continues to rise. I've divided this entry into three sections: appliances, washing and drying. These are simply my tips and what works for me.
Appliances: I posted an entry awhile ago about my new front loading washer and matching dryer. I'm serious, if there is any way you can replace your top loading washer to a front loader do it. You will not regret it! Front loaders save on energy, water, detergent and fabric softener. Loading capacity is about three times that of a top loader so you end up saving even more including time. It is a win-win situation all around.
Washers are either manual or electric. If you are interested in a manual washer, Lehman's is one source. Other sources are yard and estate sales. I've seen plans for adapting wringer washers to solar power but have no experience with this. Driers are powered by: air, solar, electricity or natural gas. Choose the cheapest power source that best suits your needs.
Washing: My first rule of thumb is the washer is never run unless fully loaded. My second rule of thumb is I use cold wash/cold rinse most of the time with the exception being whites where I use hot wash/cold rinse. My list of laundry supplies for washing are:
- unscented laundry detergent (HE now but normal before)
- bluing (whitener)
- vinegar (softener)
- laundry bar soap (normal stains)
- meat tenderizer (enzymatic stains)
- Simple Green® (greasy stains)
Drying: By far the most cost effective way of drying clothes is on a clothes line to the point that some in frugal discussions snub those that do not dry their clothes this way. However, many cannot dry their clothes outdoors due to seasonal allergies, physical restrictions, residential restrictions, geographical location, and time constraints. In my case, for quite some time I was out of the home including a long commute that often resulted in me leaving the house at 5 am and getting home just after 6 pm, sometimes later. With the amount of laundry, hanging it outdoors was not practical. Then we started serious allergy control so no hanging clothes outdoors.
I have a folding laundry rack and at the old house had a built-in laundry line in the utility room. Between the two they might have held a load and a half, simply not practical with the amount of laundry for our size family. Another problem with hanging clothes inside is the increased humidity which actually makes your furnace/AC work harder costing you more money and can cause mould problems. I have seen instructions for building a clothes drying cupboard that involves a series of racks, hangers and an incandescent lighbulb. I cannot say how well this set-up works as I have no experience with it.
For a number of years, the main source for drying our clothes was an electric dryer even though I used an outdoor line when possible and an indoor rack when possible. For the past four years my dryer has been natural gas powered, almost 1/3 the cost of electricity here. If you can, always choose the cheaper source of energy. If you can't, use the double spin tip to dry your clothes more so they dry faster.
I'm not a big fan of fabric softeners. I've heard that dryer sheets can gunk the machine and they are definitely not environmentally friendly. Both liquid and dry fabric softeners leave a residue on the clothes. If you can wash a load and still smell the fabric softener, there's a residue! Vinegar is the more economical choice for fabric softening. It works well and helps to remove detergent residue that will cause that dingy look in clothes.