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Frugal ways to keep your laundry costs down

Washing clothes can be expensive – especially if you do it on a weekly basis. A bottle of brand name detergent can cost as much as $10, dryer sheets can cost up to $6 a box, and when you add to that the cost of hydro, keeping the clothes on your back clean can quickly add up.

But saving money on laundry – whether it’s done at home, or at a laundromat – doesn’t have to be expensive. And it also doesn’t mean you have to buy more socks/undies just to make the time before laundry loads last longer (admit it, we’ve all done it before), or wear anything inside out to get a second day out of them. :)

Here are a few ways you can keep your laundry costs down:

Make your own soap

You can save up to 90% on the cost of laundry detergent by making it yourself. Not only is it cost effective, but you will also avoid the toxic chemicals found in conventional detergents. Plus, making your own batch will only take about 20 minutes. Try this easy recipe I found on the David Suzuki Foundation website.

Use less detergent

Try using half of the detergent amount suggested on the packaging, or dilute your liquid detergent with water. Your clothes will come out just as clean, and you will get twice as many loads with one detergent bottle.

Want to save even more money? If your clothes don’t have hard-to-get-out stains or a lot of dirt on them, consider skipping the detergent altogether! I remember reading an article online a few years ago that said most modern washing machines will get your clothes clean just by agitating the laundry in water.

And a few months ago, I did two loads of laundry in order to test out this theory – one with detergent, and one without. Both loads came out clean, and the only difference was that one load smelled like detergent.

Skip the dryer sheets

Dryer sheets are used to eliminate static cling, soften clothes, and add a fragrance to laundry. However, over the past few years  I’ve become sensitive to fragrances. I used to buy unscented dryer sheets, but since moving to Germany, I just stopped using them. As long as you make sure not to over-dry your clothes, they will come out cling-free.

If you really like using dryer sheets, try cutting the sheets in half for an easy 50% savings. :)

Hang-dry your clothes

In order to save on the cost of using the dryer, I hand wash all of my delicates, and hang them to dry instead. I also hang dry almost all of my brightly coloured clothing, jeans, and most blouses. In fact, the only things that usually end up going in the dryer are sheets, towels, and socks.

I don’t have access to a clothesline in my apartment here in Stuttgart, or in my townhouse in Vancouver, so I use a small drying rack (and sometimes chairs), and make sure to keep the window open.

Air out sweaters and dry-clean only clothing

If you haven’t soiled your clothing, try airing them out instead. if you don’t have a backyard or a deck to air out your clothes, hang them by an open window for a few hours. Air-drying my sweaters, dresses, and pantsuits after I wear them means that I rarely visit the dry cleaner.

Just don’t wash as often

If your clothes aren’t dirty, and if you can air dry them to get rid of any smells, you don’t really need to put the through the wash every time you wear them. Having to do less loads of laundry can add up to significant savings, especially if you have to use a laundromat. The one close to where I live costs approximately $4 per wash and $0.65 for 10 minutes in the dryer.

Real Simple put together a “When-to-Wash-It” Handbook that can act as a good guideline on how frequently you need to launder your garments. For example, they suggest washing a pair of jeans after 4 or 5 wears. However, sometimes I wear my jeans for only a few hours at a time, and as a result, I would only wash them once every 3 or 4 weeks.

Do laundry during off-peak hydro hours

You will be able to cut your energy costs substantially by running the dryer during off-peak hours. Contact the hydro company or check online to find out the exact times. THe same goes for people who use laundromats – during off-peak hours, you might be able to save a few dollars off each load of laundry. And over the course of a year, that savings can add up significantly!

What tips do you have for saving money on laundry?

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. Most of this is a headache. One think we do is to not wash our towels daily. We use the towels to wipe our clean bodies after a shower and air dry them.

  2. Moneymaus says:

    Seriously, do you not have any new content anymore??? Reprinting your blogs from moneyville is very boring! You’ve had really nothing useful in ages! The lack of new content is losing me as a reader.

  3. Aranka says:

    We are adding some vinegar to the rinsing cycle and hang-dry everything. The vinegar helps eliminating the static.

  4. MichelleP says:

    Wow, $4 a wash and nearly that again for a trip through the dryer? I though I was getting ripped off with a $2.50 wash and $2 dry. Glad I don’t live where you are!

  5. Another tip is to wash in cold for most loads. For most machines, there’s little difference in temperature between cold and warm, so there’s no need to pay to extra money for heating the water – your clothes will get just as clean with cold!

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