How Much Americans Spend on Laundry Each Year, and 6 Ways To Spend Less

Colorful laundry eco gel in capsule.
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Keeping your family’s and your own clothes clean can be a remarkably costly enterprise — especially if you have kids — and one you probably don’t get enough appreciation for. Household chores can add up, especially when you wash your clothes if you don’t pay close attention. If you want to save money on laundry, you can make smart changes like watching the time you do laundry and picking the right washing machine and the best laundry detergent for your budget.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Annual Consumer Expenditure Survey for 2020, the average American household spends around $170 on laundry supplies annually. The annual expenditure on laundry supplies varies across income levels as well. Take a look:

  • Less than $15,000: $102
  • $15,000-$29,999: $121
  • $30,000-$39,999: $189
  • $40,000-$49,999: $136
  • $50,000-$69,999: $158
  • $70,000-$99,999: $170
  • $100,000-$149,999: $210
  • $150,000-$199,999: $244
  • $200,000 and up: $231
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These numbers don’t even factor in the costs of water and energy to run washers and dryers. In these days of high inflation and economic uncertainty due to the pandemic and other world events, even saving a hundred or more dollars a year is welcome to most families. Here are some ways you can save money on laundry costs:

Buy Generic

If you’re attached to name brand laundry products out of loyalty or familiarity, now’s the time to consider switching to generic products for a better deal, according to The Spruce. Many generic products even smell the same or use similar ingredients. Consumer Reports rated Costco’s generic Kirkland brand laundry detergent as the best value, for example, as compared to popular brands like Tide and Era.

Wash in Cold Water

If you’re under the impression that only hot water will properly clean your clothes, you’ve been misled. Unless your clothes are super greasy or unusually dirty, cold water will not only do a perfectly fine job, it will save you money.

According to CleaningInstitute.org, 90% of the energy your washing machine uses is to heat the water. Also, using cold water is more environmentally friendly — they estimate that households that switch to cold water washing eliminate approximately 1,600 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.

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Use Vinegar as Fabric Softener

If you’re using pre-formulated liquid fabric softener, you’re spending money unnecessarily and putting more chemicals into your washer. Natural white vinegar has the same effect without the chemicals for less money, according to Healthline.

Additionally, vinegar helps loosen residue in your washer, pull out stains, and clean your clothes more effectively. As for savings, a gallon of Target’s “spring bloom” fabric softener is $10.49, but 64 oz. of white vinegar is just $1.99.

Use Less Detergent or the Correct Amount

Most people don’t stop to actually measure out how much detergent they’re using, so you may be actually wasting detergent by this method. Or, you might be surprised to find that if you cut your detergent amount in half, your clothes’ cleanliness really doesn’t suffer, according to The Spruce.

Additionally, newer washing machines are calibrated to run on a certain amount of detergent. According to Reviewed.com, too much detergent can actually leave your clothes dirty, because too much makes an abundance of suds. Extra suds become “slippery” and essentially will not be able to “pick up” the dirt that comes off. Newer machines, designed with sensitive sensors, may not register that there is more dirt to wash and will end the cycle before it is truly clean.

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Make Your Own Dryer Balls

Several drying problems can cause you to run your dryer longer or for multiple cycles. One issue is when you have a lot of static cling. Rolling up a piece of aluminum foil into a ball and placing it in the dryer will reduce static, according to The Spruce. You can replace the ball after several loads. Also, dryer balls made of wool will help to speed up dryer time.

Do Laundry During Off-Peak Hours

Every utility has “peak hours” when electricity costs more money because of the greater demand for power. Doing your laundry during off-peak hours can often save you significantly on energy costs.

Depending upon your time zone and the season, these hours vary. CNET offers a helpful guide as to when these are. For example, during summer in the Eastern time zone, off-peak hours are 6 PM to 2 AM. In winter, in the Pacific time zone, off-peak hours are 9 PM to 5 AM. Your local utility should have this information available online.

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About the Author

Jordan Rosenfeld is a freelance writer and author of nine books. She holds a B.A. from Sonoma State University and an MFA from Bennington College. Her articles and essays about finances and other topics has appeared in a wide range of publications and clients, including The Atlantic, The Billfold, Good Magazine, GoBanking Rates, Daily Worth, Quartz, Medical Economics, The New York Times, Ozy, Paypal, The Washington Post and for numerous business clients. As someone who had to learn many of her lessons about money the hard way, she enjoys writing about personal finance to empower and educate people on how to make the most of what they have and live a better quality of life.

 
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