Eco-Friendly yet Frugal Laundering

I thought a lot about being a frugal launderer, and in fact I even wrote a post on the 10 things you can do to save money on laundry.

But here is the post, re-vamped to be environmentally-friendly…

1. Wash on cold water only

They say it gets it just as clean, and kills bacteria etc in the same manner as with warm or hot water. 

It does get it as clean, but it does NOT kill dust mites for example.

So if you have bedding or towels I’d was them on hot water.

Everything else, is fine on cold water.

2. Don’t buy that cold water only detergent, it’s all marketing

That, is true. It’s just the same detergent as you’ve used before, but ‘specially formulated for cold water’? 

Don’t make me laugh.

That phenomenon never appeared for many many years until some schlump in marketing said “Hey! People need to save money on hot water right? Why don’t we just market it for COLD water and keep the same formula?“.

If it’s the same price and it makes you feel good – go ahead. But don’t be a sucker.

Green Update: You could also consider making your OWN detergent.

Here are all the recipes and solutions that I have found:

Why are phosphates bad?

Back in the 1970s, the U.S. government recognized the problem of phosphorus pollution — it can cause massive algal blooms in waterways that screw with ecosystems by robbing the water and aquatic life of all-important oxygen (Source:

3. It’s really the friction of the clothes in the washer that gets it clean

I’ve tested this and it’s true. I now wash all of my clothing on cold with a touch of detergent IF I found a grease or oil stain in a corner, or something I think needs some heavy duty power. 

Green Update: I actually don’t use detergent for that any longer. I am using lemon juice to cut the grease, baking soda, and my own homemade detergent.

Or I wash my clothing on cold or warm with NO detergent, and guess what? It comes out of the washing machine smelling clean, fresh, and is stain free.

Go figure.

They also say that putting soap crystals in there is to make the crystals be abrasive on your clothing – which they say, makes the life span of your clothes shorter, because it causes fraying, bare spots, etc on those delicate fabrics.

But if you work in automotive or some place with a lot of grease and stains, I’d highly recommend soap crystals to really knock against the grease and grab ’em to wash them out. You can’t get oil or grease out with just plain water. You need the surfactants in the soap to collect the oil and lift it away from the clothes.

But if you aren’t hard on your clothes, you just sweat or get a bit of dirt on them, plain water + friction is fine.

Green Update: Or you can always try Soap Nuts.

But I should note that if you have cloth diapers, or a lot of pooping situations, by all means, use detergent!!! But for 2 adults, it’s not necessary right now for us.

4. Pay attention to the laundry symbols


And you won’t be shrinking tops that you’ll be cursing about even 3 years later (I am so mad!!!!), and having to go out to buy a new one because you forgot that it had to lay flat to dry instead.

5. Let your clothes air dry

You don’t always need to dry your clothes in a dryer. You can put them on a clothes line and let the sun bleach your whites to be whiter, or just hang clothes around the house to air dry. 

It makes your clothes last longer because it’s letting the air naturally dry your clothes rather than artificially heating the fibres to dry them out.

They smell better, it helps the environment (less electricity used), saves money on electricity, and you get a bit of exercise outside while hanging them, or running around the house placing them on stair rails..

Besides, you won’t need to use dryer sheets in that case.

I do this a lot, and I try not to dry anything, although my towels get crusty.

6. Dryer Sheets are just for the fragrance

It’s partly true. I dried a set with dryer sheets, and a set without. I didn’t see any problems with my clothes being static-y or having problems in either set, the only difference was that the set with the dryer sheets smelled like vanilla. 

I HAVE done loads before where I got a BIT of static, but to be honest, it wasn’t that bad. I’ve never had a load before where it was ridiculously static-y, and if I had, I just take ONE dryer sheet, and wipe it down over the clothes, which calms them down.

But doing that ONE dryer sheet deal once in a while when you get static instead of using a dryer sheet every single time you dry laundry, saves in the long run.

And if you MUST use a dryer sheet just because you feel like you have to, just half a sheet will do each load. So chop those sheets in half and save on the cost.

Plus, I’m starting to get sensitive to smells now. I find all that laundry stuff too strong for my nose, it makes me sneeze.

And whatever residue is left in the dryer by other tenants is good enough to reduce the static in my clothes. My parents went years without dryer sheets and everything was fine. You could probably also use ONE fabric softener sheet a month, and just leave it in there for all of your loads.

Green Update: Why should we just stop with the dryer sheets altogether? Most commercial dryer sheets are impregnated with all sorts of toxic chemicals including Benzyl Acetate, Benzyl Alcohol, Chloroform and Linalool; none of which are good for the environment – or you.

Some of these compounds are known carcinogens. Aside from the chemicals in the sheets winding up in your clothing and therefore next to your skin, when heated, the fumes are also toxic.  

You could instead:

– Fill a small cloth drawstring bag with dried aromatic herbs or flowers and throw in the dryer with your clothes. Make sure to tighten it.

– A few drops of fragrant essential oil on a small cloth added to the dryer load will also do the trick.

Essential oils are highly concentrated, so don’t go overboard, the heat will release more fragrance than what you can detect when initially applying a few drops to the cloth. (Source: Green Living Tips)

7. Make your own Fabric Softener

I don’t personally use fabric softener, but if I did, I wouldn’t buy that commercial stuff because you can make your own with Baking Soda + Vinegar. 

And this could cut down on your usage of dryer sheets altogether.

1. Run the water in the washer
2. Add about half a cup or a cup of baking soda to dissolve
3. Add detergent if you want
4. Add your clothes
5. Add a quarter cup of white vinegar into those Downy ball things that open when it hits the rinse cycle, and leave it

Et voila.

You won’t smell vinegar on the clothes after (I’ve tried), and even if you do, the smell disappears after the clothes have dried.

8. Wash Less

Pretty simple. 

You can wear a shirt or a pair of pants at least twice, if you haven’t been sweating a lot in it. You don’t get THAT dirty after one wear, unless you’re rolling around in mud or on the ground playing with a child.

I wash my jeans once a week or once every two weeks, because I rarely wear them, and they don’t get THAT dirty.

You only generate about 50 grams of dirt a day, and that’s not a lot. Not enough to do a load every week, or wear things only once or twice.

9. Don’t buy dry clean only clothing

Again, simple. 

Less dry cleaning = less of a bill

Unless you wear suits every day, you can pretty much (in most business casual environments) get away with trousers, a nice top that covers your bits, and a light sweater with some jewellery and heels.

Green Update: Why is dry cleaning bad for your wallet and the environment?

The solvent used in dry cleaning is is typically tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene), abbreviated “perc” in the industry and “dry-cleaning fluid” by the public. (Source: Wikipedia)

Some studies have indicated that perc can cause menstrual irregularities, fertility problems, and spontaneous abortions among women who work in the dry dry cleaning industry.

Perc residue from dry cleaning processes can seep into drinking water, causing problems.

For example, many scientists believe perchloroethylene exposure can cause liver or kidney damage. In addition, perc has been named a “probable carcinogen” by the International Association for Research on Cancer. (Source: Wise Geek)

10. Always pre-treat fresh stains

Soak your stains in cold water to loosen the stuff before you throw it in the wash. 

Tide to Go pens are a life saver because they help pre-treat a FRESH stain and even remove stains before they go into the laundry basket!

Try these tips for specific stains:
– Gum: Put garment in the freezer to harden the gum and then scrape off with dull knife.

– Pen: Spray hairspray onto stain and work into it, then rinse in cold water.

– Grease: Rub talcum powder or cornstarch into the stain to lift the grease, then rub in a little shampoo before washing in the hottest water suitable for the item.

– Blood: Rinse in club soda and then in cold water.

– Coffee/Tea or grass: Rinse with white vinegar.

– Sweat: Rub with lemon juice and water, then to remove smell add a little baking soda.

Here is a post JUST ON BLEACH because this post would be too long.


About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.