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Wash Clothes, Save Money, Save The Environment AKA Not Just Dirty Clothes

Linda Moon

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Short summary: (For those that are in a hurry and will read the full instructions later) Sort clothes. Fill machine to desired level. Add soap. Place load in machine. Remove when done. Either put in dryer or hang on line. Remove and fold immediately when they are dry.

Doing the laundry doesn't have to be an unsurmountable task. Starting with a huge pile and stuffing it into the washer might seem like the only way to go, but following some simple guidelines will save time, money, the environment and your clothes from being lost or ruined. From now on, when buying clothes always look at the fabric content and washing instructions. Try to buy the easy to care for garments that are no iron, stain resistant, etc.

There are important decisions to be made depending on your living quarters and time constraints.
Decision Number One: Type of detergents to use. Store bought detergents cost in the neighbourhood of $.19 to $.26 per load (based on Tide detergent, regular large box). The environment doesn't love detergent because it suds up and is hard for the drains to clear. High efficiency washers require a more expensive, low suds soap. The cost of homemade laundry detergent (instruction for soap at bottom) comes to $.018 per load or not quite 2 cents. (based on calculations per box of ingredients for detergent) to be listed later. Homemade laundry detergent does not suds up and uses natural ingredients therefore is environmentally safe. You can use this in your high efficiency washing machines.

If you plan on using a fabric softener, you can use a cup of white vinegar which will soften nicely and if you would like a pleasant aroma you can add a few drops of essential oil to your vinegar bottle. Using vinegar may add a few more cents to your load so we will round the cost up to $.05, which we feel is more than the actual cost.

Decision Number Two: Drying your clothes. Using your dryer will use up quite a chunk of your electricity budget and is not environmentally friendly. Also, it tends to wear out the materials of your clothes much faster and uses up your clothing budget. 4% of all power used in Canada is due to the use of clothes dryers. Hanging your clothes to air dry saves the environment on energy; saves your clothes and saves you money in both areas. Houses can have an outside line for good weather and an inside one for the rest of the time. It will take about three hours to dry outside on a nice day and during winter it can take a day to dry inside so plan your wardrobe accordingly. You can purchase some clothes pins at a dollar store. Buy quite a few so you don't have to double pin. Hang clothes inside out.

Now that we have these decisions ironed out, we can get on with the job of laundry. If you make it a regular habit, just like brushing your teeth, you will find it runs smoothly in very little time and you will always have nice fresh clothes. It is suggested that you do your load of laundry when you have one saved up and not leave it until everything you own is dirty. Keep a needle and threads right there in your laundry area to quickly sew up tears or tighten that button. Only takes a moment to increase the wear left in your clothes. Sort your laundry according to colours. Some people are washing everything together in cold water, but we have not gone that far as yet here at our house. Put whites in one pile; can include light coloured towels and light coloured cottons. Put mixed coloured articles in another pile, but if you have anything red, it will need to be washed specially. Any nice blouses, shirts, dress pants or other good clothes are kept separate at this point. Wash your bedding separately. Treat any heavy stains by wetting and rubbing in some detergent.

Start your washing machine by choosing the correct program. For example: if you are hanging your clothes to dry you will choose that program usually called (hang to dry). You may choose either cold or warm water, avoid hot water. Choose the correct water level for your load. Do not use a full tub of water for a small load of clothes. This wasteful for water and soap. Choose the amount of soap to add (large loads will require more than small loads) and add it as the machine is filling. Never put soap on top of clothes as it may not dissolve completely and can leave white stains. For whites, you may choose to add 1/2 cup of bleach (your choice depending on how soiled the articles are). Clothes should circulate well in the tub but a sparce tub of clothes does not wash as well as a “just right" amount of clothes. Use this regular wash for regular types of materials. Your delicates should be washed in a very short machine cycle and don't add any bleaches to this load. Choose a delicate cycle for this load. Turn delicate articles inside out before putting in the washer. Do not put these delicate things in the dryer.

Drying your clothes in the dryer: Turn clothes (tee shirts, pants, etc. ) to the inside before putting into the dryer. Don't overload the dryer; make sure that the clothes are tumbling freely. Too few is almost worse that too many. Keep watch on the dryer and remove when they are “just dry" or slightly damp. Over drying clothes is like over perming hair. Too much will ruin your clothes. Fold and put away as soon as they are removed from the dryer. They will not require ironing, or, only very little.

Hanging clothes up to dry: Give them a shake before pinning up and smooth out with your hands. This will help them dry without wrinkling. Towels might seem a bit stiff at times; you can put them in the dryer for a short time just before they are completely dry to soften them up. Your clothes will last much longer and if dried outside, will come in with a wonderful fresh air smell. There is nothing like sleeping in these fresh air dried sheets.

Home Made Laundry Detergent, 1/3 bar soap (Sunlight, Fels Naptha, Zote) I have used soap from Dollarama at 2 for $1, I use the whole bar and triple the powders. 1/2 cup Washing Soda (if using the whole bar, use 1-1/2 cups)1/2 cup Borax Laundry Additive (1-1/2 cups if using the whole bar) Grate soap (I use an old fashioned grater), add washing soda and borax and mix. Use one tablespoon for small loads and two tablespoons for regular/large loads. This does not make suds so do not use too much.

Linda is a retired piano teacher in Toronto married to the retired Chief Works Supervisor of the Water Supply for Toronto. She is interested in all environmental issues, budgeting, homemaking, frugal living and shopping, recycling, reducing, reusing and all things green. Currently she is working on a project with her friend/partner on how to make your life more simple.

Linda has a golden retriever dog named Rusty and a cat named Dusty. She is also involved in The Therapeutic Paws of Canada and her Rusty will be a regular visitor at a nearby nursing home. When she has spare time, she likes to play the piano with her duet partner and also her husband.

Free Newsletter: Newsletter Home.

Her “The Power Of Simple" Blog: The Power Of A Simple Life.


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