Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How To Save Hundreds Of Dollars On Laundry Every Year


We have six people living in this house which means LOTS of laundry. With two adults, three rough and tumble boys and a daughter who changes clothes as many times as the mood strikes her, it takes me three to four loads a day to keep from getting buried in dirty clothes. Even using the one-towel-per-week rule, if I skip a day, I'm doomed. Which means my dryer could run almost all day long.

An electric dryer uses around 4000 watts of electricity per hour. My local electric company charges me 5.12 cents per kWh(which means 5.12 cents for every 1000 watts per hour).

Excuse me while I go math-geek on you. I do have a HUGE point to make.

4 x 5.12 cents = 21 cents per hour it costs me to run my dryer.

No big deal right? Only 21 cents? That's not much. It usually takes an hour to an hour and a half for me to dry a large load of towels. No biggie. But consider this. I run my dryer for an average of 5 hours....5 days a week.

21 cents per hour x 5 hours = $1.05 per day.

$1.05 per day x 5 days = $5.25 per week.

$5.25 per week x 52 weeks = $273.oo per year.

Now we're talking. See how those pennies can accumulate? Wouldn't you like to knock $273.oo off your budget each year? That's a frugal weekend at the beach, fresh paint throughout your whole house, a huge chunk towards paying off some debt, a nice chunk in your savings account.

So how can you do it? It's as simple as a clothesline.

If you hung all of your laundry on a clothesline you would save hundreds of dollars per year. But let's be conservative. Even if you only hung half of your laundry on a clothesline you'd still save over $100. My husband always says, "Well, if you found a $100 bill laying on the street, would you pick it up?" Uh...yeah! Duh!

Consider it picked up.

I happen to have a house that came with those metal posts already cemented into the ground so all I did was go to the dollar store and for $2 I got some new nylon laundry line and strung it up. I invested in some wooden spring-hinged clothespins that have lasted me at least 10 years, through sudden rainstorms, kids playing with them, and numerous loads of laundry. (Don't buy plastic. They end up breaking every year and you have to replace them too often.) And I'm set.

If you don't have posts in your yard you can buy a reasonably priced umbrella clothesline that folds up for around $50. (see my left sidebar under "I Recommend") And if you need to dry them inside you can buy a retractable clothesline for a little under $50 (see sidebar). The retractables are so cool because they just roll right up when you're not using them and can be used in small spaces.

Don't want to spend the money? Build your own. Get creative with some dollar store nylon line and a couple of trees in the backyard. Put some hooks between your deckposts and string some line up there. String up your garage. There are a gazillion ways to do it. And for a few hundred bucks in savings, it's worth it to get creative.

Here are a few tips for air drying your clothes...
  • If your clothes are going to be in direct sun, hang them inside out to avoid fading.

  • Hang clothes by their seams to avoid clothespin indentations on the front of your clothing.

  • Knit clothing stays soft when hung outside but towels and jeans can get stiff. My husband likes it but I don't. Before they are completely dry, throw them in the dryer for about 10 minutes to soften them up and finish drying.

  • The neater you hang your clothes the less wrinkles you'll have. Don't be messy = less ironing.

  • Make sure your clothesline isn't set up around pine trees or sap will get on your clothes.

  • Clothes that need to be hung up after drying can just be put on a hanger to dry. It saves a step and space on your clothesline.

  • Hang matching socks together with one clothespin to also save time. Make sure to hang them toe-down. They will dry faster and softer.
If you want to save even more, try homemade laundry detergent at a penny per load.

For more WFMW tips go HERE.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am a big fan of hanging your laundry don't get me wrong, but I think it really depends upon what kind of dryer you have. If you have an energy efficient dryer it will definitely not be saving you that much money to hang your laundry. I was experimenting with this myself and found that I saved very little if any money hanging my laundry to dry. I still try to hang as much as I can as it is better for the enviroment, but I found that I save a lot more electricity by taking shorter and less frequent showers! That's my personal experience.

JAEAEAJ said...

Nothing better than the clean fresh scent from laundry on the clothes line. I ahd no idea how much money could be saved. Thanks for the info. Great project for my hubbie this weekend.

mub said...

I have a folding drying rack since I live in an apartment and don't have a yard for a clothesline, and I love it! I don't hang my towels or socks and underwear (my rack isn't THAT big *L*) but I think only doing one load in the dryer per 5 or 6 washer loads is pretty good!

Michelle said...

I still love towels in the dryer, but most other things we dry on the line, at least part way.

I'm also in love with my front loader washer. With the water softener and the washer we go through maybe one small box of powder and two big things of all free and clear a year, costing me a total of about $27. Not too shabby.

Trish said...

Only one thing keeps me from hanging laundry outside.
Birds.
How do you protect the clothes from bird droppings?
We have so many trees and birds around here.

Terri and Bob said...

My favorite is the smell! All worth it just for that!

Terri said...

Hi, Gayle - I have a question about hanging clothes outside. Do you have a problem with bird poop on your clothes? I would love to have a clothesline outside but my husband says that we have so many birds around our house that it would be impossible to keep them clean.

Mama Squirrel said...

Clothespins: we have lots of older wooden spring ones, and some pretty good plastic ones we bought years ago--still snapping. Then last year I thought we needed to replace some of the wooden ones, so I bought a new package. Guess what? Complete junk. All made you-know-where, and they have barely enough spring to hold up a shirt, takes three or four for a pair of pants.

Sigh.

Cheryl said...

I would love to hang mine outside to dry. But I am out of the house 5 days a week from 7am to 6pm. So I wouldn't be home to grab the clothes if it rained or to keep an eye on them in general.

However, I do hang them to dry on lines down our basement. Takes longer to dry and they don't get that fresh air smell, but it is still better than using our dryer too much.

Mama Squirrel said...

Oh--also, I don't hang stuff outside during the winter--too much of a wuss to stand out in the snow. But we have a big furnace room with three clotheslines strung across it, and I hang a lot of laundry in there. We have cuphooks screwed into the beams, near the ceiling, so that unused lines can be lifted out of the way.

EJW said...

I hang our clothes in the basement, right next to the washer/dryer. We don't do a lot of laundry (2 loads/wk for 2 adults + 1 kid) so I don't mind if it takes a couple days to dry. We live in WI and in the dry, dry winter air, they seem to dry instantly.

But we cloth diaper and I hang those religiously, largely because they last longer and work better if line dried.

We have a newer dryer that can dry a load in 35-40 minutes, and has a sensor shut-off, so I doubt we're saving much money. But it's good for our clothes and the environment, and it seems silly to pay to run the dryer at the same time I'm often paying to run a humidifier.

Liz said...

I'm in Australia, and here hanging out all you washing is the norm. Not everyone has a tumble dryer - we used to have one, it was one that my mum bought when she was pregnant with me, so the price was right (free). When it exploded we didn't replace it.

Even most people who do have a dryer don't use it routinely - only if it's raining, or if you need to wear something in a few hours.

It can be a pain not having a dryer, but only rarely. Now that we don't have one, I can't do the but-I-relly-want-to-wear-my-skinny-jeans-to-dinner-in-an-hour thing, and it's a pain when we have weeks like this where it just rains, and rains, and rains (very rare). I had to wash one load of laundry three times because it got smelly because it didn't dry. I hang the clothes under cover, but it was just too humid for them to dry properly and they we a bit smelly - I like super dry, sun bleached, smell super clean and dry clothes.

That said, rainy weeks might happen maybe four times a year at the most around here - and I can't justify spending $500 on a dryer (plus running costs) when it happens so infrequently.

I always have a giggle when I read hints on (usually US blogs) saying that you should wash, dry and fold your load of laundry all in the same day - not going to happen when you line dry!

Some people wash one load in the morning, hang it out, then fold the previous day's laundry while it's drying, and bring that load in at the end of the day (to be folded the next day). I usually hang clothes up in the afternoon, take them off lunch time the next day so they are super dry (I love stiff jeans) Don't tell anyone I leave my clothes hung up over night (akin to leaving dirty dishes in the sink overnight). Some people put a load on over night, and hang it up first thing in the morning, and bring it in when they get home from work.

I've never used fabric softner (and my mum never did either) I guess we're all just used to what other would call 'scratchy' towels. I don't like towels with fabric softener on them - they don't seem as absorbent to me.

You do have to iron more than if you use a tumble dryer, but I really only iron work clothes and uniforms and dressy clothes - I keep it to an absolute minimum. I love buying blouses that are supposed to be crinkly!

Sorry to go on and on... I was just so excited to see a blog post about line drying. Perhaps I need to get out more... I'll think of you when I take the clothes off the line in the morning!

Leslie said...

My husband just hung clothes lines between our trees and it works great!! We use laundry softner that helps a bit with the stiffness. Only problem has been bad weather so we are going to put something up in the garage to hang the clothes on instead of laundry piling up during storms!!

Stephanie said...

LOVE hanging my clothes on the line. A bonus too is that the sun is a great stain remover if the stain doesn't come out in the wash & if you've missed the stain it doesn't get set in the dryer!

Monkey Momma said...

Gayle, I seriously JUST talked to my husband about doing this! Not so much for the money savings, but just to "go green(er)". Thanks for all the tips...I've never done this before.

The O'Brien Family said...

An hour and a half to dry a load of towels - you need a new dryer! Our 4 yr old energy efficient dryer takes 30 minutes for most loads of laundry and about 45 for towels.

JeannaMO said...

I started hanging out my laundry this winter - I work 30 minutes from home and I hang mine out the night before (because its still cold here and it takes all day for them to dry). I thought it wouldn't make that much difference, although I hoped it would. I saved $60 on my electric bill the first month. I hang our private clothes over hangers on a bar above my washer. I match the socks before I put them in the basket to take them outside, that way I'm not out there with the wind whipping, freezing, trying to get it done in the dark. But it is SO WORTH IT! Commercial fabric softener does wonders. You can dilute it down with water. Also, at Cents to Get Debt free, she uses a mixture of hair conditioner and vinegar, which I have tried, and that works good too! Plus think of all the bending and stretching! All good for us and the environment!

Amy said...

One of our sons has allergies and we cannot hang our laundry outside to dry. We do have a little room in our laundry room to hang up some items, just not as many as I would like.
One tip that my mother gave me is to run your items in the dryer for about 15-20 minutes and then hang them up to dry. This helps to get many of the wrinkles out and the clothes do not have that stiff feeling.

Phoebe @ Cents to Get Debt Free said...

I love hanging my clothes out on the line to dry! And, nothing beats using homemade laundry detergent with it.

I need an indoor clothes drying rack in a bad way. Thanks for the reminder!

Susan said...

Maybe I'm missing something but I don't see a "I recommend" section on the side bar... maybe my lack of sleep is getting to me...

Gayle said...

I didn't think about the bird poop. My lines are under some giant trees and we have a gazillion birds in our woodsy yard. But no bird poop on my clothes yet. I have no idea how we escaped it.

Rita - Creatively Domestic said...

We have rules in our neighborhood association about clothing lines, so I use 3 drying racks on our back lanai. I like the portability of being able to bring them in if it rains, and also that they are put away at the end of the day. Great post! Reminds me I have to go do laundry :) ......

Myra B. said...

ur lucky ur electric is so low! here in the midwest we pay .09 for kWh! and yes I hang! have one inside and out :)

Courtney said...

great tips! i just bought a new outdoor hanger that can be disguised easily from the homes association. cant wait for it to get here!

shannon said...

I love hanging clothes but have stopped doing it. We do have a new HE washer/dryer and they totally rock. Fast, efficient, clean! We also have 6 in our family, 3 boys and a girl, ages 12, 8, 3 and 3 but we don't do anywhere near the laundry you do. We wash a load a day at most. I'm really wondering how we could be doing it so differently to have such a difference in quantity of laundry??

Carrie said...

I love hanging laundry. I love the way it smells when it's line dried. I like looking out and see it flapping in the breeze. I have a super sunny yard and clothes dry quickly on my little umbrella clothes line. I never bother to put things in the dryer to get rid of the scratchiness. I find that if it is a breezy day my laundry is less stiff and not wrinkly.

Hoosier Homemade said...

Great tips! I hang clothes out as often as possible. I usually dry the heavy jeans on a rack in the basement even during winter. Every little bit helps.
Thanks for sharing!
~Liz

Beyond All Measure said...

I LOVE hanging laundry. The smell, the nestalgia, look of it blowing in the breeze-- and of corse the savings.

Only one problem. I live in OREGON -- you know the place where it RAINS 9 months out of the year-- and some times the other three too! There is a town north of mine that boasts "the wettest place on earth"!

I like the idea of hanging it indoors. ANd would. But my house is only 700 sq ft. I had to trade out the kitchen table for my computer desk! I homeschool my boys on the floor beside my computer desk. I can't even image what DH would do if he had to walk through haning laundry to get to the bedroom!

DH and I have a joke that some day we will live like normal people. You know, eat and school at a table! LOL!

Hey, I don't mean to complain, the house may be small, but it is OUR SMALL HOUSE!

As wonderful as this idea is, I think it may be only practial for DRIER climates.

Unless I am missing something.... am I? Any suggestions of ideas I am missing? I'd love to make this work for us!

Gayle said...

Yeah, I'm in the Pacific Northwest too. Rain..rain..rain. I probably only get my clothes outside for 2-3 months per year. The retractable clothes line in my house is perfect because I can roll it back up before hubs comes home. He never sees it.

Nikowa@KHA said...

EXACTLY what we plan on doing! Thanks for posting this

kitchenmage said...

I'm with you on only 2-3 months a year outside - and when we are wearing lighter clothes, still have to dry the heavy winter wear with electricity. That 120 inches of rain average at my place really messes with my life sometimes. I wonder how much it would save me if I had to build the basement first?

momof10 said...

Great hint! I am an American living in Poland where the winters are long, dark, and wet/or snowy. Most people live in very small apartments, not unlike Beyond Measures, I'm sure. Very often the first thing you see when you walk in the door into one of those flats are bicycles because there is NOWHERE to store them. Storage units? Ha! What are those? But in spite of it all, Polish women have hung laundry for generations! There are electric dryers here, but they are very hot, very hard on the clothes, very expensive to buy and also to run. Women here just use portable racks in those little apartments or hang them from racks out the window or balcony (maybe from the 6th or 8th floor!) It's normal life here.

On another note, here's a drying tip. Use a safety pin and pin socks together when you take them off at night. They go through the washer and dryer together (if you use one) and it saves hours sorting and matching! My husband came up with this idea when my 10 (yes 10!) children all lived at home. Yes, that's 7 pair X 12 people = tons of socks to match and sort!!Pinning them together is not hard on the socks as you might think. And now that I hang all of our laundry, I use one clothespin to hang the pair. That way they dry fast as they are not up against each other. It works great and my sanity is still pretty much intact!!

angie said...

I've hung my clothes on the line for years now. I love it. We have a family of 5. I wash a load at 7am and hang them on the line. Its always a little windy here and my clothes dry pretty quick. I bring them in and throw them in the dryer for just a few minutes to soften and kill bugs. I've never had problems with bird poop, my lline is close to a line of trees too. On a hot sunny day with a good breeze clothes dry really quick.

Helena said...

Hi I live in Australia and yes it is unusual for people to actually dry clothing in the dryer everyone hangs - but then it is a very dry cliamte. In the winter when it is cold and wet I hang on a rack in the laundry room or in the family room near our open fire. I used to always use the dryer in the winter but last year only used it a couple of times since I got the rack. We just bought a new washer and now instead of my usual 2-3 loads a day I am only needing to do 1 a day, I made sure I got a large washer!!! By the way I love reading your blog!!

Halfmoon Girl said...

Something about hanging laundry outside calms me, and the smell of the sheets...aahhhh.

Minda said...

I dried everything until I got married. My husband is a huge believer in air drying his work clothes and I have followed his lead. We only use the dryer for towels, sheets and undies/socks/pj type clothes. We primarily dry indoor on racks but in warm weather I dry what I can on the deck.
In the summer, a dryer can really heat up your house causing the a/c to work harder and burn more pennies!

Coco said...

I have been wanting to hang my clothes to dry for a while, except we live in a community where it isnt allowed (not to mention my house back up to the major road... who wants to see my underwear?) do you know if its possible to hang dry clothes in the garage? We live in AZ and it sure as heck is hot enough. Any help would be appreciated!

Thanks
Coco

Chelle said...

I would have never thought in a million years that you could hang your clothes out to dry in the winter time.

I have a horrible dryer and I have been wanting to try this for a while. I'm going to go see what type of rope I have in the garage right now.

Thank you for the tips.

Chelle said...

OK- I'm back and I have some questions. I just went to the Dollar Tree and bought a laundry rope and 2 packages of wooden clothes pins.

1. How long approximately does it take clothes to dry hanging up inside the house and outside the house?

2. Can you really hang your clothes up to dry outside in the winter?

3. How about leaving your clothes to dry overnight? (I saw one commenter does that.)

4. Do you worry about bugs?

5. When you dry inside, do you get puddles on the floor?

Gayle said...

Hi Chelle,

Here's my answers....

1. That depends on what the temperature is. Yesterday it was about 75 and sunny here and it took about 45 minutes for a load to dry.

2. I've never hung my clothes outside during the winter because it rains here all the time.

3. I've done the overnight thing a few times but I don't sleep good because I'm afraid my unders are going to blow into the neighbors yard or something.

4. Never had a problem with bugs.

5. If you have a good spin cycle then your clothes are probably just damp not saturated. I've never had puddles as they were drying.

TL. said...

I live in NYC and we have a shared backyard, with people jumping up the fence... :( So I can't leave anything back there without being worried.
But I got a drying rack. :)
I also do laundry detergent. It works great!
But I still spend a lot of money on laundry because we don't have a machine, and buying one would not be efficient as we move soon and use only a load every week...
SO right now laundromat works for us :)

JeannaMO said...

Hi Gayle! I tried something last night and had to share with you. I also make the homemade laundry soap. I also line dry my clothes, but by the time the clothes are rinsed the good smells are all gone. (Except of course for that great outdoor smell from line drying clothes!). Anyway, instead of using softener in my clothes I have been adding vinegar, which at times leaves my clothes smelling like an easter egg! So, last night I added about 4 drops of essential oil (I only had chamomile on hand) and when those clothes came out of the washer - they smelled so AWESOME! I highly recommend doing this. Today I just had to go get some Lavender EO from Hobby Lobby (only $5.99) and should last forever cause you only use a few drops at a time!

Ticia said...

Living in Western Washington state, where you will grow moss if you stand still to long is a hard place to hang clothes to dry. I only hang clothes to dry at the height of summer and a load still takes all day to dry. I have tried drying them indoors but that takes days. Is that the norm? Don't get me wrong I like to line dry clothes, it just doesn't seem very practical here. Has anyone else had better luck?

Bonita said...

I have been in places where I didn't have a washer or a dryer,like living up on the All American Canal outside Yuma,Az.in my 5th wheel trailer,.I washed all our clothes by hand in a big ice cooler.And in the bathtub.Rung them out by hand,yes towels,and jeans.I used a new big toilet plunger bought just for laundry only for the agitating,works great.Still use one for every laundry load now,only to push the clothes in the water.Anyway,When done washing by hand,I had 4 - 5 gallon buckets,Id rinse them in.And hung them between my awning poles on a rope.I would hang the blouses on a hanger and closepin the hanger to the rope so it wouldn't blow into the canal.Also gave me more room on the clothesline.I had clean clothes all the time.So,it can be done.I did bedding too.

Anonymous said...

If your laundry takes a long time in the dryer, you should clean out the vent from the back of the dryer all the way to the outside. It is probably clogged. That puts you at risk for a fire. And make sure to clean the filter after every load, the dryer will run more efficiently.