Save Money On Your Clothes Washing

2 July 2012

How many loads of laundry do you do a week? A day? There's two adults and a child living in my house, and we would put on a load of washing every day, and about half the week there will be two loads.

Every penny counts around here, especially at this time of the year when I'm trying to save everything I can for the summer holidays. Here's some great tips I came across when I set out to find out if I was making the most of my washing machine.

Cutting down on water and energy

The less water that's needed for a wash, the less energy is used, and the cheaper it is for you. That said, there's not a lot you can do to reduce the water your current machine takes in. But when it comes time to get a replacement, make this one of your top considerations. It will save you money in the long term.

In the meantime, make the most efficient use of the water that is in there. Have a look in the manual and find out what the optimum load is for your model. If it doesn't have sensor to reduce water automatically when there's a lighter load, you'll be filling up the drum with unneeded water. So make sure you run it at optimum as much as possible.

It is a myth that washing won't clean as well if the drum is completely full. It will do the job just fine, and you'll save on water and energy.

An optimum load is also a good idea if your washing machine is noisy. This will cut down on the noise the washing makes in there. You should also make sure the washing machine is set on the same level front and back. And if it is still noisy, and you don't want to wake the baby, then cut down on the spin cycle. Clothes will need more drying time, but the noise will be reduced.

Another way to cut down on how much energy is used by your machine to wash clothes is to run the loads at a lower temperature. All biological detergents can irritate sensitive skin on a small minority of people, overall they have the advantage of being able to clean clothes at a low temperature or in a cold wash just as well as at higher temperatures.

If your machine and/or clothes have a slightly musty smell, this is caused by bacteria and possibly fungal growth in the clothes. These will be resistant to the detergents. Dry the clothes, perferably outside, and 'clean' out the drum by running it through a hot cycle of 60 degrees or more. Then wash the clothes again and the smell will go.

 What is the best temperature to use?

There's an array of temperatures available on my machine, and talking to my friends I find that most just stick with using one temperature for all their washes. It's just easier that way, and frankly I didn't find a single person who knew what each temperature setting should be used for. Myself included.

So, here we go.

Nearly all biological (ie enzyme using) detergents will wash at 30 degrees, and this uses about 60% of the energy used at a 40 degree setting. If you're not sure about the cleaning power of detergent at this temperature, then get a detergent that specifically says it is suitable for 30 degrees.

Most people are still using 40 degrees. This is OK for most everyday items -  cotton, linen or viscose, acrylics, acetate, wool mixtures and wool/polyester blends.

You can put polyester/cotton mixtures, nylon, cotton and viscose in a 50 degree wash if you've a stain you really need to get out. But they all wash fine at lower temperatures too.

I used to think I had to use the absolute hottest setting for bed linen. Not so, 60 degrees is just fine. Also use this for towels and heavily soiled garments such as baby clothes.

So what is the 90 degree setting for? White cottons and linens that really show dirt apparently. I don't actually have a lot of those myself - not really practical in a house with small children.

What about the different program settings?

Many machines have an eco wash setting, but researchers have found that this doesn't really reduce the energy used by that much. Another common setting is a quick wash. This won't reduce energy, in fact it will probably use just as much as more energy is used to heat the water up faster.

Researching this also bust another myth for me. The reduced ironing programs don't actually make any difference. Well I kinda knew that anyway from experience but I always live in hope.

Is there any difference between handwash and delicates/woollens? It turns out there is, although I've been using both randomly for the last 20 years!

Delicates and woollens are for clothes that might bobble easily, like silk and wool or wool mix. But, the woollens setting should only be used if the wool item is marked ‘pure new wool’ and ‘washable’, ‘pre-shrunk’ or ‘non-matting’ . Put everything else in the delicates cycle.

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