I once had five children, five and under, and that status lasted for five days before my eldest turned six. I didn't own my own washing machine until about the time that my fifth baby was born. A couple of my laundry ideas came from that experience.
- I buy virtually all of my clothing from thrift stores or garage sales, and I sometimes find cute, stylish outfits labeled "Hand Wash" or "Dry Clean Only." I wash these things in cold water, in the washing machine, on gentle cycle. I hang light items to dry, and lay heavier items flat to dry. Occasionally, rayon or silk will shrink a very little bit, using this process, but once they are completely dry a warm iron has always restored these fabrics to like new condition, so long as they were washed in cold water.I did lose a cute $1 sweater once, and I had one $1 blouse that needed to have a seam resewn, but I have tried this method hundreds of times, for about 20 years, and I have no regrets. One of the most common reasons for these instructions seems to be, in my opinion, the fragility of the fabrics or decorations, so I wash similarly delicate fabrics together, and similar colors together, and turn anything with fragile trim inside out before washing.The only things that this method doesn't work well for are wool items that would need ironing. These come out very wrinkled and are hard work to restore. I prefer to either lightly sponge them clean using plain water, or I would send them to the dry cleaner.I know that I'm taking a risk telling you this, so don't try this on something that's precious to you, and don't hate me if this method doesn't work for you.
I couldn't afford some of the clothes that I enjoy most if they really needed dry cleaning, so I've been very happy with this method.
- Reading Laura Ingalls Wilder years ago, I was inspired by the idea of a nail on the bedroom wall for each child. During the day, nightclothes were hung on the nail. During the night, daytime clothes were hung on the same nail. And children had just one set of play clothing.We've lived in the country, with lots of privacy, since my eldest children were young, so it has never mattered much to me if a child up in a tree looked a little like a 19th century orphan child up in a tree.My kids always had nice clothes for company and visiting, but every summer they were given play clothes which, by the end of week two, if not much sooner, were significantly less than presentable. For the whole summer, each child had exactly one outfit for making mud pies, climbing trees, chasing chickens, and working in the garden. All the clothes went in one load together for washing a couple of times a week. The stains that those clothes accumulated were appreciated by the children, as a record of fine adventures completed, and I clearly remember some "my clothes are dirtier than yours" boasting from those days. I also remember that at the end of each summer, the children had to be forced to discard these beloved adventure clothes. One year a little girl insisted on keeping a strip of very badly stained cloth from one of her favorites and putting it into a box along with the keepsakes from her baby days.
If the thought of dressing your children like bedraggled street urchins is very unappealing, you might prefer the rule that we had when we lived in the city. Children's clothes didn't go into the hamper without permission. I always used bibs on my little ones, and I didn't wash clothing that still looked and smelled clean. Playing mostly inside as they did, in the city, my children would often wear the same outfit two or three days in a row.
- During the summer, I have my younger children wear sandals without socks, almost all the time. Time is money, and I don't miss sorting socks during those months.
- We hang bath towels to dry and use them repeatedly. At our last house, there was a long, level railing along the second floor stairwell. It made a great place to hang numerous towels to dry.
- Any time an appliance is involved, and I need a new one, I shop on Craigslist. I run a search for whatever I'm seeking and then save the search results page as a quick link in the top bar of my browser. Throughout the day, I can instantly reload the same search results as many times as I like and instantly see the very latest listings. When I see the amazing price, I call the seller immediately, leaving a message if necessary, and I follow up with an email if I didn't reach the seller by phone. (I have used the same trick while shopping at eBay, viewing only the "Buy it Now" listings and sorting the results page so the newest listings show at the top. Saving that results page as a quick link, I can instantly view the latest listings any time--and catch the good deal when it appears.)
- Front loaders use about 40% less water and about 60% less energy, and their enormous capacities are a great blessing to a large family. Last Fall, I bought my oversized front load machines in nearly new condition for $400--and then sold my old machines (which had cost me $100 at a garage sale) on Craiglist for $400.
- When the weather is nice, I hang my clothes out to dry.
- When a dryer is not working efficiently, the expense of doing laundry goes way up. Excess lint blocking machine is the biggest reason for decreased drying efficiency. When installing a new dryer, make the vent as short and straight as possible, with as few turns as possible. This increases efficiency and decreases the chances of lint clogging the line over time.If you notice that it's taking longer and longer to dry clothes, this is usually easy to fix and it often doesn't require buying a part. First. check the vent going out of the house, and make sure that it is clean. Second, check the duct that goes from the back of the dryer to the wall of the house and make sure that it is clean. Third, pull out the lint trap and use a flashlight to look down inside the area where it's housed. If you see lint in there, pull it out using a microfiber or static duster on a wand.If none of those steps fixes the problem, then open the machine and clean out any lint inside the base of the machine. This is the scary part, but it's saved me a service call more than once, so it's been worth it.
Before I ever open any appliance, I like to have a little box with compartments for the screws, and put each group of screws in its own compartment as I work. My little box was 49 cents at Goodwill, and it's one of my favorite things in our toolbox. (I used to let my children hold the screws for me, while they watched me work, because I was right there beside them every minute. But that tradition had to be ended one night about 15 years ago. My small children are always a little less wise and more willing to experiment than I expect that they will be, and that one involved a trip to the emergency room and a skull x-ray. No damage done, but still not the most frugal option in the long run.)
- Use the least amount of soap necessary. If children are doing some of the laundry, be sure that whatever you use to measure the soap is very clearly marked, so that everyone knows how much to use.
- I don't do this, but you can make your own laundry soap.
- AND buy the cheapest soap that works, wash a full load, use cold water when possible, and use the shortest cycle necessary.
How do you save money on laundry?