7 Green Ways to Save Money in the Laundry

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  • Save money in the laundry

    The cost of caring for your clothing may not jump out at you the same way your food, housing and auto bills do, but that doesn't mean you can't save money on laundry expenses.

    According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American family does nearly 400 loads of laundry each year. Along the way, they spend hundreds of dollars on electricity, water, detergent, fabric softener and other costs associated with cleaning their garments.

    Fortunately, a few small changes can dramatically reduce your annual outlay on laundry costs while helping to reduce its financial impact on your household.

  • Use less detergent

    Reduce the amount of detergent you use in each load and save money. Most Americans use too much detergent, wasting money and getting their clothes less clean in the process, says Mary Marlowe Leverette, laundry guide writer for About.com and a former Clemson University extension agent. She taught classes on laundry and stain removal.

    "We all tend to think if a little bit works, a little bit more will be better," says Leverette. "But in fact, adding excessive amounts of laundry detergent can be detrimental."

    Using too much detergent prevents the water in your washing machine from doing its part to release dirt and stains from your garments, Leverette says.

    So why do people use so much detergent when it doesn't get their clothes any cleaner? Hard-to-see lines on detergent measuring caps are partly to blame, Leverette says.

    If you're having trouble seeing them, she recommends using a permanent marker to outline the different gradations, especially the lowest one. Unless your clothes are heavily soiled, you should use the lowest gradation for most loads, she says.

    If you end up cutting your detergent usage in half, you'll save around $80 annually.

  • Wash most loads in cold water

    Reserve hot water for towels, washcloths, bed linens and clothing close to the body, such as undergarments. Such items may harbor bacteria that hot water can help kill, Leverette says.

    Beyond that, only the greasiest, most soiled clothing needs hot water to get clean. Because up to 90 percent of the cost of washing clothes comes from heating the water, you can save money by using hot water only for very dirty clothes and always using cold water in the rinse cycle.

    "I think you can use cold water for almost everything," Leverette says.

  • Hang your laundry out to dry

    "That's going to be your biggest money saver," she says. "Use the free sun and the free air to dry your clothes."

    For about $6, you can buy enough clothesline at your local hardware store to hang up a full load of laundry. If you do that with just 50 percent of your laundry loads instead of using a conventional clothes dryer, you could save almost $60 per year.

    What are some ways that you save on laundry costs?

    If you live in a neighborhood where laundry lines aren't allowed, you can string a clothesline in a well-ventilated garage, carport or laundry room.

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