There are many ways to save on washing clothes and dishes and other cleaning -- and they can really add up. Here are some of our best tips.
An old saying declares that nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. However, we could probably add laundry, dirty dishes and grimy floors to that list.
On the face of it, you might not think too much about the price of your cleaning habits. But the cost may be enough to nickel-and-dime your budget.
Check out this chart put together by a New Jersey mom who wanted to see how much she was paying to run her household lights and appliances. According to her calculations, vacuuming the house may cost a mere 28 cents a month in electricity, but an electric dryer could rack up $16.98 in monthly costs.
Here are three ways to substantially trim the financial burden of household chores.
1. Do the dishes for less
Washing dishes costs you in multiple ways. Unless you’re served by a private well, you likely have to pay for the water you use. You might have natural gas costs associated with heating that water. Finally, you need to buy electricity to run the dishwasher.
It’s pretty hard to quantify exactly how much you spend to do the dishes each night, especially since utility rates and dishwasher efficiency can vary greatly.
But regardless, you can cut your costs dramatically by using these tactics:
- Be selective about pre-rinsing. Rinsing off food that might quickly dry and get caked on makes sense. Pre-washing all dishes when you have a newer-model dishwasher is simply a waste of water, about 10 gallons of water per washing, according to a study by the Florida Solar Energy Center at the University of Central Florida.
- Avoid the special settings. The Florida study also found that using the “sanitize,” “pots and pans” or “heavy-duty” settings can increase your energy costs by up to 40 percent. This is where smart pre-rinsing comes into play. By pre-rinsing cooking pots and baking pans, you may be able to avoid using these energy-sucking settings.
- Let dishes air dry. Turn off the heated dry option for additional savings.
The Florida Solar Energy Center says today’s dishwashers beat even the best hand washer when it comes to efficient water usage. However, you might be able to cut costs by pre-rinsing pans and using only the minimum amount of soap needed.
2. Hang laundry in the sun
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The dryer eats up the majority of the money needed to clean clothes. So, skip it.
Set up a line in the backyard and hang clothes out to dry in the sun. If you’re worried about the neighbors seeing your unmentionables, invest in an umbrella dryer, which allows you to hang delicates on the inside and surround them with less scandalous articles of clothing, like jeans and T-shirts.
Hardcore savers can buy an indoor drying rack to hang clothes to dry year-round, regardless of the wind, snow and sleet.
Using cold water also helps you save. Some people swear it doesn’t get clothes as clean, but I’ve never noticed a difference. If anything, cold water is gentler on clothes and will help them last longer.
Wait until you have a full load to run the washing machine. Be careful about how much detergent you use. Flip the cap over and look for those faint lines near the bottom. That’s about all you need.
For powdered detergents, measure according to the instructions rather than filling the scoop.
3. Cut the cost of cleaning supplies
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If paper towels are your go-to picker-upper, it may be time to invest in some hand towels and washcloths.
Rather than using disposable cleaning products, go with reusable ones. Try rags for dusting and an old-fashioned mop rather than a refillable Swiffer model. When it is time to buy a new vacuum, go for a bagless one to keep your long-term costs down.
Above all, consider trading your store-bought cleaning formulas for homemade ones featuring baking soda, borax or vinegar. If you don’t think the homemade versions work as well, check out our previous article with the results from our Earth Day smack down pitting store-bought cleaners against homemade concoctions.
Once you’ve decided to try your hand at DIY cleaning products, you can find recipes all over the internet.
Looking for more? Try these other inexpensive ways to clean. For best results, use white vinegar. If you like cleaners to smell pretty, add a couple of drops of your favorite essential oil.
- Toilet bowl cleaner: Mix ¼ cup borax with 1 cup vinegar directly into the toilet bowl. Let mixture sit for 10 to 15 minutes before scrubbing and flushing.
- Glass cleaner: Mix ¼ cup vinegar, ¼ cup rubbing alcohol and 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 2 cups water. Shake well, fill spray bottle, spray on windows or glass and then wipe away.
- Soap scum cleaner: Mix one part vinegar with one part dishwashing soap in a spray bottle. (Heat the vinegar first to make it easier to mix.) Spray on the affected area and let it sit for 15 minutes. Remove with a dry towel.
- Stain and odor eliminator for carpets: Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Generously sprinkle baking soda over the affected area. Spray with the water/vinegar mixture. (The baking soda will fizz.) Let sit for five minutes, and then blot with dry cloth.
- All-purpose cleaner: Warm 2 cups of water and add 1 teaspoon borax, ½ teaspoon washing soda (not to be confused with baking soda) and 1 teaspoon liquid castile soap. Shake well prior to use.
So what did we miss? How do you control your cleaning costs? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.