The Dirt on Doing Laundry

January 11, 2012

Who Likes Doing Laundry? Um...not me!

For those of us who would prefer not to do laundry, unfortunately it is one of those necessary evils we must face every day, every week, or every whenever-we-get-around-to-it. I will expose the "dirt" on laundry and I will share some ways to find joy in this never-ending chore.

Let's start with a list of typical purchases along with price ranges:
  • Washing Detergent - $6.00 to $15.00 per 28-load container ($0.21 to $0.53 per load)
  • Liquid Fabric Softener - $4.00 to $8.00 per 28-load bottle ($0.15 to $0.29 per load)
  • Bleach - $2.00 to $5.00 per gallon bottle ($0.03 to $0.08 per load)
  • Dryer Sheets - $3.00 to $8.00 per 40-count box ($0.08 to $0.20 per load)
  • Spray Starch - $2.00 to $7.00 per bottle
When you add the prices together, we pay anywhere from $14.00 to $42.00 for just one round of everything. That equates to a cost of $0.47 to $1.10 per load. That may not sound like much, but, according to the California Energy Commission, the average American household does 400 loads of laundry each year. That means we spend up to $440 per year.

This, of course, is not taking into consideration couponing and the occasional BOGO deal at grocery or drug stores. However, with low value laundry coupons typically presented by manufacturers, extreme couponers have to give up credit toward food and toiletries to comp out the cost of detergents. I will be able to provide evidence that you can avoid purchasing most of these items altogether, thus saving more than can be saved using coupons, without having to give up other necessary purchases.

Now, let's take a look at how to replace these purchases with money saving alternatives. There is a little bit of work initially to get these items ready for consumption, however it is well worth it.
  1. Washing Detergent
  2. A great recipe for inexpensive and LONG-LASTING laundry detergent can be found on the Duggar Family's website. Click here for the recipe.The recipe yields 640 loads for front-load washing machines. The cost per 10 gallon batch is approximately $2.52 (a fourth of a penny per load). The recipe calls for Fels-Naptha soap, which may not work well with your septic system, so consider purchasing Zote soap instead. It is more environmentally friendly and a little cheaper too. Also, if you would prefer a scent to a soap smell, you can add a cap full of your favorite scented oil.
  3. Liquid Fabric Softener
  4. When I wash clothes, I use white distilled vinegar instead of liquid fabric softener. It keeps away odors from your clothes and your washing machine. It is a simple, inexpensive alternative to commercial liquid fabric softener. A gallon of vinegar may cost around $2.00 and yields approximately 64 loads ($0.03 per load).
  5. Bleach
  6. When researching an substitute for chlorine bleach, I found out that an alternative, lemon juice, is definitely NOT a cheaper option. As well as being a great alternative to fabric softener, white distilled vinegar will serve as a replacement for bleach. It is not as effective as bleach, however if someone in your family has an allergy to chlorine, or you want something more environmentally friendly, it is a great option. The cost is comparable to that of bleach for the same quantity ($0.03 per load).
  7. Dryer Sheets
  8. A great replacement for dryer sheets is a large sponge and scented oil. First, you will need to wet the sponge thoroughly, but it should not be dripping. Next, simply add a few drops of your favorite scented oil to the sponge and toss it in the dryer with your wet clothes. The result will be static-free, pleasant smelling laundry. It is not necessary to add oil to the sponge every load because the sponge will hold the scent for several loads before you need to add more. Your only cost for this alternative is the scented oil. I purchased a 5.1 ounce bottle at Walmart in the craft department for around $3.50 ($0.04 per load).
  9. Starch
  10. Let me be honest, I never personally use starch. Any time I need to iron, I stay away from starch since the heat can burn the starch, leaving fabric vulnerable to breakage and holes. Of course, that's worst case scenario. For those who do use starch, try this recipe:
    • 2 Cups COLD Water
    • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Corn Starch
    Mix in a bowl until the corn starch is completely dissolved. Pour the mixture into a small spray bottle and it is ready to use. Remember to shake the bottle prior to each use. Spray lightly on the fabric, being cautious not to use too much at a time. You may already have corn starch in your kitchen, but if not, a 12 ounce can will cost you between $1.00 and $1.50. The entire can will yield 16 spray bottles.
Here is the breakdown for how using alternatives to commercial laundry products will save you money. The information provided will be a summary of cost per load.
  • Washing Detergent - $0.004 per load (fourth of a penny)
  • Liquid Fabric Softener - $0.03 per load
  • Bleach - $0.03 per load
  • Dryer Sheets - $0.04 per load
  • Spray Starch - not applicable to cost per load
The total is only $0.10 per load! The total cost per year is $40, not $440! This proves that finding alternatives to what we have to do will definitely save us money. Yes, the recipes will take some work initially, but it will be worth the effort and will lead to a long-term savings of time, effort, and money!

Please feel free to leave a comment below. I hope that you will share this article with your family and friends.

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