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How to Save Money on Laundry ($20 – $50 Per Month)

We're sharing all the ways we've learned to save money on laundry costs over the years. Learn how to reduce costs in the laundry room.

woman at laundromat, reaching whole body into washer with text overlay "how to save money on doing laundry"

The two of us generate enough dirty clothes to run two loads of laundry per week (three loads, now that we've got a 3-year old!). This is approximately 156 loads per year.

Over the past year, I've been focusing some of my frugal attention on decreasing the costs of laundry in our household to save money on laundry — and we've basically built a new laundry system that's more efficient, and will save us more money.

It all starts with WHEN we do our laundry, which we used to not think about at all.

When Should I Do Laundry to Save Money?

Ever wonder if there's a certain time of day that you can move your laundry routine to in order to save money?

Well, there likely is.

But it depends on your electricity plan.

Does your plan charge more money during peak usage times? Or, does it offer free nights and weekends?

You want to build a new laundry routine that includes doing the laundry during the time when it's least expensive (according to your electricity plan).

How to Save Money on Laundry: Cut Dryer Sheet Costs

I stopped using dryer sheets years ago because of Houston’s humidity (it seems unnecessary, whereas in PA — where I grew up — you will get a mild form of electric shock therapy for forgetting to use a magic dryer sheet).

Then I found out, you don’t actually need dryer sheets at all (even in “high voltage” static situations).

Instead, just roll some aluminum foil into a ball and throw it in the dryer.

Some people using this method have not had to use a fresh ball of aluminum foil in over six months!

Still want to use dryer sheets but would like to save money? Do what I used to do, and cut them in half, then return them into their box. This will make them last twice as long while they still add a pleasant smell to your clean clothes.

One more tip: You could also try my mother’s trick where she saves the used dryer sheets, and then puts 2-3 of them together in the next load.

Create Your Own, Homemade Laundry Detergent

My sister began making her own laundry detergent a few years ago, and after telling me about how easy and cheap it was, I had to try it out.

We’ve been using this recipe since late August and it has worked just as well as detergent bought from a store.

The clothes smell clean (verified by people that I share this recipe with when they inevitably want to smell my clothes to see if they should try it out for themselves) and the cost to make it was $8.00 for a batch and a half.

I estimate that our batch will last us 6.5 months, or approximately 81 loads of wash.

Where do I store our homemade laundry detergent? Well, my friend Cynthia gave me her old plastic kitty litter tub. I cleaned it out, and it makes the perfect container.

Make Your Own Homemade Stain Remover

We don't skimp on stain remover (especially with a 3-year-old and a husband who likes to spill mustard on his shirts!). We just make our own with ingredients we've already got.

Currently, we're using this homemade stain remover recipe. There are also recipes for Oxiclean.

Drying Clothes Indoors Solutions

I have very fond memories of running through aisles of flapping sheets on the clothesline in my grandmother’s backyard.

It's always been a dream of mine to have my own clothesline; unfortunately our deed does not allow them in our yards.

Maybe you're in the same boat, except that it's because you don't have a yard.

Whatever your reason for needing to dry clothes indoors, I've got the solution for you!

We found this retractable clothesline, and installed it in our garage several years ago — I LOVE it! You can easily install it inside of your home or apartment as well. I just love that it's retractable, so after you're finished, you can put it away. 

I have calculated (roughly) that it costs us approximately $5.00 each laundry day to run our clothes dryer for the two-three loads we wash. This is $20 per month, which is a substantial chunk of our electricity bills.

I spent an entire month (in October — when the humidity was lower here in Houston) using only our clothesline. Here's what I learned:

  • Clothes Will Dry in Humidity, but it Takes a Long Time: Even though it is October, there were many days with moderate (and some with heavy) humidity here in Houston. It turns out that clothes will still dry when the air is heavy with moisture…but it will take a long time. Like more than a day, and at that point you have to battle with an un-fresh smell.
  • Laundry is Much More of a Process Without a Dryer: When I used our dryer, laundry was predictable. I would run two to three loads each week on the same day of the week, starting around the same time and ending around the same time. The clothes went into the washer, I moved them to the dryer, and then I folded and put them away. When you line dry clothes, the task of doing laundry becomes much more of a process. After the washer is finished, you need to immediately hang each piece of clothing on the line (flicking them in the air to prevent as many wrinkles as possible). Then you wait. Sometimes you need to flip clothes over or move them to a different area on the line if one side of the line is drying much more quickly than the other. In order to facilitate drying the clothes next in line, removing the clothes in front as they dry is helpful. Then you wait some more. Granted, the drying process would take a lot less time if I did not have to dry clothes in our garage on a retractable line (our deed forbids clotheslines in our yard).
  • There is Something Exciting about Living “Off the Grid”, Even If Only for One Task: Line drying our clothes makes me feel more self-sufficient. The fact that I can get exactly what I need—dry clothes—with nothing more than some good ole’ sunshine (I still get a few rays in the garage when the sun is just right) and breeze is completely cool in my book. Not only that, but I generally find the process of hanging clothes to be quite enjoyable and soothing.
  • You Lose that Out-of-the-Dryer-Tightness: You know how your clothes feel a bit snugger (usually in a good way) when you first wear them after the dryer? Well, you lose that when you clothes line-dry. So if your elasticity in certain clothes is a bit loose but the item still works because of the dryer, then it might not work for you after you line dry.
  • Weather Dictates When You Can Complete Your Laundry: I found myself suddenly very interested in the weather over the last month. Each designated laundry day I would ask myself: Is it humid? Overcast? Overcast so that it looks like it is going to rain? I don’t have exact data on the number of days that it rained here in Houston in October, but I bet it was at least once a day for half the month. Several times laundry day was rescheduled for this very reason.
  • Towels Feel Like Pumice Wear…But There’s a Way Around that: If you do not like the feel of your towels scraping up against your skin (they harden when allowed to dry naturally), then you can still dry them naturally and then nuke them for a few minutes in your dryer. Presto!

One final thought, and a pretty funny one at that (though after the situation has occurred, of course): if there are ants where you are hanging laundry to dry, and some of your laundry (such as sheets) just barely clear the floor, then it follows that you will get ants in your house (say, in your bed).

Purchase Energy Efficient Machines

When we purchased our home we were thrilled that it included the washer and dryer from the previous owners (thank you!).

They survived for a little over two years. As each appliance breaks in our household, or costs too much to repair versus to replace, we replace it with an energy efficient model.

Our washer and dryer called it quits about a year ago. After a month and a half at the Laundromat and hundreds of quarters later, we took a trip to the Sears Scratch and Dent store in Houston and picked out new, more energy efficient models.

Doing Laundry While Traveling Abroad

One final note here, because it happened to us — doing laundry while traveling abroad can be really expensive!

My husband and I went on a 12-day honeymoon to Austria back in 2010. We couldn't pack enough clothes to last all 12 days, and after just six days in, it became painfully obvious that we would need to do some laundry.

Fortune had it that our hotel offered a laundry service which was perfectly convenient as we were getting ready to go onto the second leg of our trip for a five-night stay in Salzburg and we wanted to have everything sorted out beforehand. I figured we’d pay $20-$30 for the service, and had mentally made peace with that amount.

When Paul came back with the cost sheet broken down by piece of clothing, I was shocked.

I was so shocked, in fact, that I decided to go through our mound of laundry to tag and categorize each piece and figure out how much our tab would be if we had been stupid enough to take advantage of this service. And let me tell you, it was staggering enough to bring even the most exquisite Vienna Christmas Market to a screeching halt.

To give you some perspective on how terribly off my estimate was—and how crazy our hotel was—my bras alone would have cost us €18 ($23.73).

The total for everything? €229.80, or approximately $303.03 U.S. Dollars. Even on our honeymoon, we simply could not justify this cost (we could purchase our own washer and a rope for drying for that amount).

Instead, Paul shoved our dirty clothes into his suitcase and walked about three blocks away where he paid (and this is still shocking) €19 or $25.05 for two loads of laundry.

Needless to say, we have a new appreciation for our washer and dryer at home and for US Laundromats in general.

What are ways that you have found to save costs on doing laundry in your household?

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Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 13 years, her money work has helped people with how to save money and how to manage money. She's been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Real Simple Magazine, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here.


Tuesday 20th of November 2012

Ooo good tips, I've never calculated how much it cost to run the dryer..I think it would scare me but need to do this soon. I always line dry when I can (even a warm winter day!) but have been using the dryer more than I'd like lately....

Mike Annis

Wednesday 14th of November 2012

I want to try that home made laundry detergent. I featured your article on the Frugal News Review podcast episode 21. Thanks.


Thursday 8th of November 2012

I find the best way to save on laundry is to do less of it. If clothes are only worn for a short time, or for a low energy job, they likely are not dirty enough to need to be washed after each wearing. If you wear each pair of jeans and shirt twice before you wash it, that's a lot less laundry. Also bath towels can be hung up and re-used several times before needing washing.


Wednesday 7th of November 2012

I saved the most money by using a cold water wash. I cut my gas bill by at least a third.

Money Beagle

Wednesday 7th of November 2012

I never knew about the aluminum foil trick. I'll have to mention that to my wife and see if she'll try it.

Our city has one of the highest costs per unit in terms of water in the Metro Detroit area, so our HE washing machine, which uses a lot less water than a non-HE machine, has definitely paid a good portion of itself back in the 5.5 years we've owned it.