Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Nifty & Thrifty in 2012: Laundry Time!

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As you can see from the picture above my laundry "system" was non-existent.  In fact, the corner of our basement devoted to laundry was a total disaster (to match the rest of our basement).  It's a small thing, but I knew that if I could get organized that I could probably save us a little bit of money in our pusuit of clean clothes!:)  Thank you so much to those of you who sent me messages, emails, and comments on Facebook to let me know of all your money saving laundry tips.  I couldn't help but smile every time I got one of them!  So now I want to share the wealth.  I'm not using every one of these tips yet, but here are some of the great ways that I have found (or you have found for me) to save a little bit of money on laundry:

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Get Organized:  The very first thing I did was to get organized.  That meant doing A LOT of laundry and finally catching up on the many piles I had going on (I had things that had been waiting a very long time to be washed).  Then I cleaned the whole area, cleaned the machines, and got everything ready.  Now it might be very far from my dream "laundry room" but for now this little nook in my basement (with old machines and random laundry baskets) will have to do.
Less Laundry To Do:  Let's face it, no matter what I do there is always a lot of laundry to be done.  Some days it feels like Eli goes through at least 3 outfits!  The laundry pile just builds and builds.  But I've started to cut back on that pile just a little bit.  Now instead of just automatically throwing the days clothes in the laundry (or picking them up off the floor 2 days later and throwing it in the laundry) I am inspecting them all at the end of day to see if any of them can be worn again.  And I'm not ashamed to say that we are trying to get as much wear out of our clothes as possible.  So if you see one of us in the same clothes you saw us in the day before don't be alarmed, we're just trying to save money!:)  And it's working- it really is cutting back on the laundry mass.  In the past the kids used to wear a new pair of pajamas pretty much every night, but now most of the time I can get at least two wearings out of a pair for Eli and more for Lily.  And the other day I was able to save Eli's whole outfit to be worn another day...crazy!  Now that's not normal, but for that day it was great!  And Joe and I are making the same effort with our clothing...and it's working!
Sorting:  Okay, I confess that I really wasn't a laundry sorter before.  Colors, whites...everything just got thrown in together as I grabbed it and away I went. Now I am sorting them into four baskets: whites, fleece and other lightweight fabric, items that can be washed in cold water, and items that I think need to be washed in warm water.  This is helping me because...
Cold Water Works:  I read that much of the cost of doing laundry comes from heating the water.  Back before we had kids I did most of our laundry in cold water, but since having the little ones I sort of got in the habit of washing everything in warm water (because that seemed to help get their very messy clothes clean).  But now that I am actually sorting our clothes I can determine which clothes really need to be washed in warm water and everything else (about 3 out of 4 loads) is being washed in cold water!
Homemade Detergent:  And really this is where it all started for me.  I was intrigued by the idea of making my own laundry detergent which got me wondering if there were other ways to save money doing laundry.  So with the help of my mom I have started making my own detergent.  Here's what I'm using:
2cups Borax
2cups Washing Soda
16oz shredded laundry soap (my mom is a soap maker and I am using hers)
Mix and store in a container and use between 1-3TBSP per wash (I've been using 2 level tablespoons)
So far I am really enjoying the homemade laundry detergent.  It seems to be getting our clothes clean just fine.  The only problem I've been having is that when I wash in cold water it tends to leave a few little white balls on our clothes (I think it's from the laundry soap).  It all seems to shake off in the dryer just fine so I don't think it's too much of a problem, but I'm trying to figure out how to solve it (so I get the most out of my homemade detergent rather than leaving little bits of it on our clohtes).  If any of you have any advice on this I would love to hear it.
Also, this is another, very similar, recipe I have heard that many use for homemade laundry detergent (in case your mom doesn't happen to be a soap maker):
1 bar Fels Naptha Soap- grated
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda
Mix and store in a container.
Hold The Dryer:  I knew that one of the biggest ways I could save a few bucks doing laundry would be to cut way back on how much I use our dryer.  During the warm summer months I do hang some of our laundry to dry out on our laundry line, but the rest of the year (and even somewhat during the summer) our dyer is going full speed.  I knew that had to change.  And it has!!!  I never really thought that I could dry laundry indoors on a line during the winter, much less in our basement, but I am!
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Joe hung up a few rows of hooks in our basement ceiling so that I could hang clothes to dry.
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And he hung a line in the basement so that I can hang small things like socks and rags.  Isn't my husband great?  But anyway...
Since our basement isn't heated I assumed that it would take forever for clothes to dry down there and I really expected that I would line dry maybe one out of every 4 loads.  But actually it's been working much better than that...most loads take about a day to dry.  I also separate out my fleece and other quick dry fabrics into one load and those usually take much less than a day to dry.  In a week and a half I have only put one load of laundry in the dryer for the full time- incredible!  Everything else I hang dry for a day or so and then toss in the dryer for about 15 minutes to soften and remove a few wrinkles.
Lint:  Even though I am using the dryer a lot less I am making it a point to empty the lint tray every other load...I've heard that this helps the machine run better (and maybe saves a penny or two in the process).  Not a big saver, but hey- everything adds up!
Fabric Softner:  I haven't tried any of these ideas yet (because I'm still trying to use up a box of fabric softner sheets we have), but when I do I plan on replacing those sheets with a homemade fabric softner:
Put 1/8th to 1/4th cup white vinegar in a Downy Ball (or add to your rince cycle) and add a few drops of essential oil.  Add to your wash. 
I'm going to try this one first, but another one I found is:
Mix 6c Hot Water with 2c Suave Refreshing Waterfall Conditioner
Add 3c Vinegar.
Put about 2TBSP in a downy ball or add to your rince cycle.
You could also use a mixture like this and make your own fabric softner sheets.  Just cut up some old fabric into squares and layer them in a used diaper wipe container.  Cover with the homemade fabric softner and let soak.  Throw one in with each load in the dryer.  And you can reuse them over and over again by re-soaking! 
Ban the Static:  We live in Maine and in the winter the static is INSANE.  Part of this is because we have a wood stove in our living room than runs almost all of the time during the fall/winter/spring.  It makes for some pretty dry air and tons of static in our clothes.  Drying my clothes on the line and not in the dryer the whole time is helping with this, but it's not enough.  I'm hoping that the homemade fabric softner will also help with this.  But I'm not stopping there.  As soon as the dryer sheets run out I'm planning to pin safety pins to a couple of old (missing their match) socks and throw about 3 of them in with each load of laundry in the dryer (even if it's just 15 minutes).  I've heard that this cuts the static charge and works really amazing.  I've also heard that balling up some tin foil and throwing it in the dryer does the same thing.  And finally, I've learned that wool dryer balls also really help with fabric softning and removing static (you can buy them online or make your own by felting wool into a ball).  I'm going to start with the socks and move from there!

So, I know that this might seems like a lot, but I have been slowly incorporating some of these tips over the last couple of weeks and really in the end it isn't a whole lot more work.  I also know that in the end it isn't going to add up to big money, but I'm really looking for lots of small changes that we can incorporate and really make part of our daily life.  It makes me feel so good to know that I'm doing my part to be wise with the way we spend what God has given us.  I want to be a good steward of all of our resources...even if it just starts with laundry!:)  So there you go....I hope that this might give you an idea or two (and if you have any more please feel free to continue to share).  Time to do some laundry!:)


Fitzgerald said...

I'm glad your mission was so successful! To avoid the little white balls after a wash I turn the water on first and dump it right under the stream of water. If I notice it didn't all dissolve I just wiggle my hand in it for a second and it all dissolves. Also, the wool balls you mentioned help aerate the laundry so it dries faster! Thanks for the heads up about cold water! We can do it all cold now, but I'm sure in a few months I won't lol

Angie Cousins said...

Thanks Emily! I'll give that a try with the detergent...I did try adding it to the water before the clothes, but I didn't try swishing it until it dissolves...I'll give that a whirl!