Saturday, October 22, 2011

Laundry Savings

This will be a small diversion since laundry would not seem to have a connection with the cost of food.  I'm including this posting though because most of us buy our laundry supplies at the grocery store.  Others buy theirs at bulk stores like Costco, Sam's Club, etc.  Since I buy my laundry detergent at the grocery store it does have a direct impact on my grocery bill.  Every once in a while I must buy laundry soap.

So here are a few hints on how to save money on your laundry soap and then use that money to buy food.
  • Buy store brands. Name brand detergents are usually more expensive than store brand equivalents, even though both do the same job.Watch for sales though and carefully compare prices.
  • Get powdered. Powered laundry soaps generally cost far less than the liquid variety. They are more compact, since there is no added water, and the containers are usually cardboard, which is cheaper than the plastic bottles liquid soaps come in. To avoid powdery residue on your clean wash, be sure to partially fill your washing machine with water and soap before adding your laundry. This method also helps liquefy the detergent powder more evenly into your wash.
  • Add baking soda. Re-use the baking soda from your fridge (or old, out of date stuff from your cupboard) and toss it into your wash. Baking soda is a natural deodorizer and improves the soap's washing ability. Just add a quarter cup to your washing machine’s rinse cycle to use as a fabric softener and odor remover. You can pre-treat spots before putting clothes into the wash by making a paste from baking soda and water.
  • Add white vinegar.  Full strength white vinegar is an excellent cleaning aid for neutralizing germs, bacteria, and molds. Along with baking soda, vinegar helps to deodorize your smelly items like well-worn socks and under garments.
There are lots of ways to save money on laundry besides the laundry soap but I'm not addressing that here.  Here are a few tricks I use in addition to the tips above:

Most people use more laundry soap than is really needed.  Do this test.  Take your bed linens and put them in the wash as you normally would except skip the laundry soap; just run them through in plain water.  Let the washing cycle begin but open the lid and stop the agitation cycle after it has been running for 2-3 minutes.  Take a look at the water.  Are there bubbles or white foam on top of the water?  Generally there will be some.  This is because of a combination of adding too much laundry soap and not running a good rinse cycle.  What I have found is that I can use 1/4 of the normal laundry soap when I wash lightly soiled clothes and sheets all the time or every other time because of the residual soap left behind in the fabric.  I don't do this with towels, wash cloths, socks, or underwear but for everything else it works fine.

I segregate my clothes into whites and colors like most everyone else does but I also separate heavily soiled clothes from clothes that have just been worn long enough to need laundering. Lightly soiled clothes such as outer shirts, pants, pajamas, and bed linen don't need a whole lot of cleaning to begin with and just a little soap goes a long way.  The more heavily soiled clothes get special treatment.  I load the washer and add 1/2 to 3/4 of the recommended amount of laundry detergent (depending how dirty the clothes are) and start the washing cycle.  I let it go to the agitation cycle but then stop it after 1-2 minutes and let it set and soak for 5-10 minutes.  Then I let it agitate again for 1-2 minutes and stop it again to soak for up to ten minutes.  Then I let it run as normal.  Running the washer in this way gets my clothes cleaner with less detergent.

Where I live the liquid detergent is the same price or less than powdered detergent so that is what I use.  Most liquid detergent bottles now have that no spill inner spout like in this picture.  Those are great for limiting spills and messes from detergent running down the side of the bottle.  But they also make it nearly impossible to get all the product out of the bottle and that creates waste and costs extra money.  I have two cures for that problem.  The first is to use as much of the detergent as you can get out in the normal way.  Once you can't pour any more out there is about 1/4 to 1/2 of a measure of the product trapped in the bottle.  I will hold the bottle under the running water (filling the washer) and swoosh it around and pour it out.  I have to do this 5-6 times until the liquid coming out of the container is mostly water.  I also rinse the cap under the running water.  This gets me one "free" load of laundry and cleans up my waste somewhat.  I recycle plastics here and now it is a rinsed and clean plastic bottle.

Method two is not always possible. After I get all the usable laundry detergent out of a bottle I try to remove the inner pour spout with a pair of pliers if it is possible.  Usually it is possible but not always; some are glued in place. 

Once the pour spout is removed you can add water during the washer's "Fill" cycle and rinse out a usable measure of detergent for a lightly soiled load of laundry. I completely rinse out the bottle, the inner pour spout, and the bottle cap.  Again, this gives me one "Free" load of laundry and cleans up my recycle material for better ecology.  

These are simple things to do to save money at the grocery store, which can then be used to purchase more or better food. It takes very little effort and pays off pretty well in the long term.

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