I’m a green queen, but I’ve always been surprisingly complacent about the cost and environmental impact of my laundry. After learning how harmful the chemicals in detergents and softeners are, I examined my laundry habits and was pleased as punch to find that I could be much greener and save a bunch of money in the process. Yay me!
The average household does approximately 400 loads of washing a year. Using a warm wash followed by a dryer cycle, each load will cost $1.52 for a conservative total of $608 a year. Of course this will vary depending on your machine, the cost of your electricity and how many loads you do.
If you are going to the laundromat, you are paying around $3.12 a load and that would hike your costs up to $1248 a year. I was one of those laundromat chumps, sitting for hours in the stench of sweaty socks waiting for my laundry be done. To add insult to injury, I would usually have to fork out additional money for detergent and fabric softener because I always forgot mine at home.
Having just moved into my first home, I decided to investigate the most energy-efficient way to do my laundry that had a positive impact on the environment. Here’s what I discovered:
- 90% of the energy you use in a normal wash goes to heating your water, so switching to a cold wash drops the price to $2.78 from the $3.12 I was spending at the laundromat.
- I also opted for an energy-efficient Energy Star washing machine which I only operated during off-peak hours to drop my costs to $2.64 per load.
- I gave up my regular detergent for a cheaper, eco-friendly one that I made myself. You can get the recipe here.
- For a fabric softener, I combine 6 cups vinegar with 1 cup baking soda. If you want something which smells great, add 15 drops essential oil. Mix ingredients in a sealable container and wait for the fizzing to stop before you put the lid on, then use as necessary. If you are still a fan of the dryer sheets, make your own environmentally-friendly ones using the tutorial here.
- Making my own laundry products dropped my detergent cost from 50 cents per load to just 10 cents. It also protects my family and the environment from harmful chemicals.
- I ditched my dryer and invested in a Frost Drying Rack from IKEA which took another $0.43 off each load. I chose the clothes rack instead of a clothes line because I can use it all year, rather than just in the summer.
So my 400 loads of laundry at $3.12 a load cost me $1248 while my new laundry regimen costs $1.31 a load and comes out to just $524; a saving of $724 a year!
There are other tips and tricks which I can’t quantify, but also save money on each laundry load.
- ‘Vampire loads’ account for 10-15% of your energy use. Appliances draw energy while they are on ‘standby’ mode. I have gotten into the habit of turning off my appliances when not in use. I use an IKEA Koppla outlet so I can just flip one switch to turn off all my appliances. This took some getting used to, but it works!
- If you need to use the dryer, clean the lint filter and add a towel to every load to reduce drying time.
- If you are using a dryer, opt for dryer balls rather than dryer sheets. These are kinder on the environment and healthier for your family. Make your own dryer balls with old socks using the tutorial here.
Find these and other amazing green-living tips and tricks in our Greenmoxie book.
I have a question about the fabric softener recipe. Vinegar and soda make a great drain cleaner because the combination fizzes. I don’t suppose you use the whole recipe for each laundry load. So what’s left after the fizzing stops? How do you store what you don’t use right away? And what do you keep it in?
Great questions David. And thank you for pointing this out as I would hate to know that laundries across the globe are having explosive episodes with fabric softener! I should have said that you need to use the fabric softener in one go or store it carefully after the fizzing stops. I have added this in to the post. Thanks again David, you are a lifesaver!
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