The average American family spends about $600 on laundry every year. Depending on where you live it costs roughly $1.50 to run a wash cycle and another $.50 or so a dry cycle, and this doesn’t even include the cost of supplies!
Here are some simple changes that can save you big bucks in the long run, and will speed up the whole routine altogether.
First things first, always wash full loads — your washer uses the same amount of energy no matter how many articles of clothing you pop in, so fill it up.
Use cold water
Cold water cycles can cut energy use by more than half compared to hot water washes. In fact, studies have found that up to 75 percent of energy for a laundry cycle comes from just heating the water!
Cold water can also help your clothes last longer, since you’ll prevent fading. “The heat breaks down the dyes in your clothes, which causes the color to fade,” explains Bailey Carson, Head of Cleaning at Handy. Using cold water will also help your clothes keep their shape and size.
Add baking soda
Save some cash by purchasing generic laundry products and boosting their performance by adding half a cup of baking soda to the wash load. It regulates the acidity, or pH, of the water to make detergents work more effectively to clean and remove odors.
“Baking soda is alkaline, so adding it to your wash causes cotton fibers to swell, potentially aiding in the cleaning process,” explains Katie Brown, Owner of Rytina Fine Cleaners in Sacramento, California. It magically loosens any trapped soil and dirt embedded deep in fabrics. This trick is also a great option if you have hard water.
No matter what you use, read the instructions and only fill the measuring cup to the appropriate line. “Most measuring cups are designed to encourage you to use more detergent than you actually need,” explains Laura Smith, founder and owner of All Star Cleaning Services. This is a money pit and in the case of powders, can cause a residue to be left behind, which is part of how powders got a bad reputation to begin with, she adds.
Soften with vinegar
Out of fabric softener? Head to your pantry. White vinegar allows you to scrap fabric softeners for good—you heard us right! Simply add a half cup of vinegar to your final rinse.
Vinegar helps naturally soften clothes because it neutralizes and balances pH levels in the water. Most detergents have a slight alkalinity and vinegar helps to offset this, resulting in silkier garments and sheets.
“The acetic acid in distilled white vinegar is so mild that it won’t harm washable fabrics, yet it’s still strong enough to dissolve residues left by soaps and detergents,” adds Rosa Nogales-Hernandez, Head Home Cleaning Valet for Valet Living.
Added bonus: vinegar can also help prevent static and keep clothes from picking up as much hair and lint — and don’t worry, it really won’t make your laundry smell like a salad!
Experts agree that ditching the dryer is the best way to reduce wrinkles and preserve the integrity of fabrics and stitching. Over-drying your clothes can cause shrinkage and warp elastics.
Invest in a compact drying rack (the one above is 41 percent off) for your laundry room. Or, if you live in an apartment, prop it in your shower or tub. To expedite drying, you can also turn on a portable fan or ceiling fan.
If you’re drying clothes outside, make sure to check your weather forecast ahead of time — and if any family members suffer from allergies, consult the pollen report, too.
Give clothes a good shake before placing them on the rack to help eliminate wrinkles. Allow enough room between each piece for air circulation. Try to keep darker clothing from full sun since that may bleach garments over time. But do take advantage of sunlight for whites and any garments, like underwear and socks, that could benefit from the UV ray’s bacteria-killing properties.
Check the lint trap
For most of us, it’s just not practical to cut out the dryer completely. But you can still get the most bang for your buck by cleaning the lint trap before every load. “Lint that’s sitting in your dryer can clog [the machine] and also push air back into it, leaving your clothes hot and damp which would then require you to run your dryer two or three times in order to fully dry your clothes,” says Carson.
Use wool dryer balls
Wool dryer balls have a multitude of functions. Not only do they bounce out pesky wrinkles, they also tumble around the dryer, keeping items from tangling together so they dry more efficiently.
Sprinkle wool dryer balls with a few drops of aromatherapy oil to increase the scent factor. It’s a greener option that will save you cash on pricey scented dryer sheets. “With no phthalates or perfumes, they're a great alternative to toxic dryer sheets,” Keelia Killip, Director of Marketing for Zum, explains.
Dry clean at home
Dry cleaning has always felt like hocus pocus to most of us. Is it dry? Is it wet? What’s not a mystery is that it can be very pricey, but there’s an option for those of us keen on avoiding this time-consuming and expensive chore.
At-home dry cleaning kits typically include a spot cleaner and scented spray and either cloths or bags to use in the dryer. Woolite’s At Home Dry Cleaning Kit, $9, has over 1,100 reviews averaging 4.4 stars on Amazon. Dryel, $38 for a 2-pack, boasts over 600 reviews and 4.4 stars, making it a popular alternative.
Not only will these tips help save you cash on each load of laundry, but your clothes will last longer, too.
Video by Kat Vasquez
Read More from Yahoo Lifestyle:
Want daily pop culture news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Entertainment & Lifestyle's newsletter.