Frugal Experiments in the Laundry Room

Based on some rough calculations I did 2 years ago, I estimated that our family was spending around $1000 a year on laundry.  I experimented with different options to help cut laundry costs.  I figure that I have reduced our expenses in the laundry department by about 40%.

frugal laundry experiments

Some of my frugal laundry experiments:

Homemade laundry detergent

Homemade detergent is very inexpensive and easy to make. The recipe I used was:

  • 2 parts, finely grated laundry soap
  • 1 part Washing Soda
  • 1 part Borax
  • ½ package of blueing agent (very hard to find!)
  • A few drops of essential oil – Lemon


I used approx ½ a tablespoon in my dispenser per load.

My results were just OK.  My whites became very dingy and no amount of bleach could bring them back.  My original recipe did not include blueing agent, so I did see some improvement when I added it, but not enough to compete with the commercial brands. I also found I had to pre-treat stains for the best results and the detergent made my front loader a bit “funky.”  I continue to use my homemade detergent, but only when washing darks or colors and I rotate loads between homemade and commercial.  It has saved me some money, but it wasn’t the silver bullet I was hoping for.

Homemade Stain Pre-treat

The recipe I have been using I make in a spray bottle.  I don’t really measure and sometimes I vary the soap I use. My latest recipe is:

  • I add a few generous squirts of dishwashing liquid to spray bottle
  • Fill ¼ of the spray bottle with ammonia
  • Fill next quarter with white vinegar
  • Fill remainder with water.
  • Shake bottle each time before using.

I have had more success with the stain recipe.  I am afraid to use it on anything delicate, but for the kid’s clothes or hubby’s grubby work clothes it works fine.

Vinegar fabric softener

I have found vinegar to be great softener and odor neutralizer.  Contrary to what I thought it did not make us smell like pickles and I can’t smell the vinegar at all once the clothes dry. I did miss the smell of fabric softener though.  So, I have started to mix 1 part vinegar with 1 part fabric softener and now I have the best of both worlds.

Cutting Fabric Softener Sheets

When I use fabric softener sheets, which is rare, I only use half a sheet in the winter and a quarter of a sheet in the summer.  At the rate I am going I think the box I have will last for another three years.

Air drying clothes

Shameful confession – I had no idea how much it cost to run our electric dryer.  And since I am the laundry queen, I was running our dryer almost constantly.  I was one of those people who would forget about the clothes in the dryer and then need to run it again to take the wrinkles out.  Oh the shame!

As an experiment, I started air drying all of our laundry.  We have racks in the laundry room that allow us to hang our clothes and special hangers for socks and awkward items.  I would hang bed sheets outside in the summer or inside over the shower rod in bad weather.

The savings were amazing.  And rough calculations tell me that a load of laundry costs about $1 to dry.  I do so much laundry that the savings have been significant and have offset some of the cost of heating the stupid hot tub. (See: Backyard Oasis Money Pit)

Everything went well except my family complained loudly about the stiffness of the towels.  I tried air drying them and fluffing for a few minutes in the dryer, but they were still not soft enough.

I am still air drying all of our laundry except the towels and bed sheets when they can’t dry outside. I save dirty towels and sheets and try to wash them all in one or two loads a week.


  1. Wow! Good incentive for the air drying. Unfortunately we don’t have a clothesline but maybe we should get one.

    I’m going to try cutting the fabric softener sheets. My husband made the laundry soap too but we weren’t too impressed with the results and kinda gave up.
    DEBt DEBs recently posted…Throwing up a Blog Time CapsuleMy Profile


    1. We have a rack in the laundry room to hang things. Nothing fancy. I want a closeline but it is illegal in our neighbourhood (!) and they are expensive. We found a portable outdoor umbrella dryer late last year for $25ish. It is a bit flimsy but hoping for the best. I will post some pictures once I have tried it out.


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