Guest Posting – Notes From The Laundry Room

This is fantastic! Just when Mr. Money Mustache is starting to get a bit overloaded with answering email questions and comments from readers, volunteer work at the local school, building a stone wall around one of the gardens, starting a new carpentry project in the neighborhood, and trying to write new articles here and there, a generous fan comes along and submits a guest article for me to display.

Today’s article is from an established author from the excellent WikiHow website, with pen name Dvortygirl. She has initiated over 200 articles on that site on subjects ranging from crafty Home Economics to High Tech. She stumbled across MMM from a feature on LifeHacker.

Do YOU like writing about Mustachian Subjects like Money, Efficiency, Investing, or your Own story of Frugality or Badassity? Do you want to share it with a large audience of interesting interested people? If so, feel free to email me with your idea. It is always fun to share with your friends. So here we go. Thanks again Dvortygirl!

Notes from the Laundry Room

Laundry isn’t very interesting, which means that the person doing it has plenty of time to think. For those of us who like to think about saving money, we can find plenty of opportunities to do so that involve clothes and laundry.
Here are some of my favorite ways to economize.
1. Leave your dryer lonely. Did you know there’s no such thing as an Energy Star Dryer? The Energy Star folks say, “ENERGY STAR does not label clothes dryers because most dryers use similar amounts of energy, which means there is little difference in the energy use between models.” Translation: all dryers use a lot of energy. As long as the air is warm and dry enough to make it practical, air dry your clothes on a line or rack. If it’s too cold or humid, if you want to smooth out some wrinkles (many clothes don’t need it), or if you can’t bear the thought of stiff, scratchy towels, give them 5-10 minutes in your dryer while they’re still a bit damp.

2. Find and use a bar of laundry soap. I don’t advocate a return to laborious hand washing, but for things you were going to hand wash anyway, and for treating stains, a $1 bar of laundry soap is priceless, and it can last a year or more. As an added bonus, take a piece of it with you the next time you travel (it’s solid, so no TSA hassle) and wash the same few changes of clothes repeatedly, rather than paying extra and braving the luggage monsters to check a bag.

3. Use used clothes. Yeah, this gets personal, but check your local thrift stores, garage sales and rummage sales, and if you have kids, encourage hand-me-downs. People get rid of all kinds of clothes for all kinds of reasons, including outgrowing them and just not liking the style anymore. And because they want to get rid of the stuff, it costs next to nothing. Wash them when you get them home. Environmental bonuses: you’re not requiring the creation or fabrication of new resources, and you’re diverting some of the enormous stream of used clothing from flooding local markets in third world countries.

4. Read clothing labels before you buy. No, not the labels that say the designer’s name. Read the care labels. Steer clear of things that need super-special treatment like hand washing or (especially) dry cleaning. Or, if you only paid a dollar at a garage sale anyway, try washing a dry clean item by hand or (cautiously) with your regular clothing. Some will run or shrink, but some will fare just fine in the normal wash.

5. Learn some basic mending, at least how to sew a button and how to mend a tear that’s on a seam. If you are your children are shorter than the general population, it’s worth knowing how to hem pants and shirts, too. Often, a minor repair can extend the usable life of a garment significantly.

6. Don’t follow fashion, at least not too closely. The classics can look like a million bucks even as you build your million bucks in the bank. Basics are often easier to care for, too. If you want to dress it up, try the DIY approach and try hacking your fashions yourself. Threadbanger is a great place to go for advice and inspiration.

7. Use fabric napkins, towels, and cleaning cloths instead of paper. It makes for a little bit of extra laundry, but you’re air drying it, and you’re using less disposable paper. Give each family member a fabric napkin they can identify as their own (use different patterns or embellish them). They can use the napkins for more than one meal. For the cleaning cloths, get a pile of cotton terry cloths from your favorite big-box store or janitorial supply place. You can use them in place of many rolls of paper towels and wash them all at once. They can be folded to expose many different clean sides, and they don’t shred or disintegrate on contact with water. I even stick a damp one on my Swiffer mop for spot mopping, rather than buy expensive refills.

The next time you’re doing laundry, use those extra mental cycles to cogitate on how you might economize on laundry, and please use the comments to let us know what you think up.


  • Des September 20, 2011, 9:47 am

    Those are all good, but the most useful laundry tip for our household has been to wash clothes less. If you work in an office and don’t sweat very much, you can get multiple wearings out of outer clothing items – which saves both in washing and makes clothes last longer. Towels can be hung up after a shower and reused, too. We haven’t been successful with the kids’ clothes yet, since they are so messy (mostly when they eat and brush their teeth), but occasionally they can wear their jeans another time.

    • MMM September 20, 2011, 10:13 am

      I Definitely agree! I said in an earlier article that you only need to wash your clothes when they LOOK or SMELL funny. Some people disagreed in a related discussion forum on Reddit, but they were obviously fools – if you phrase it the opposite way, should you wash clothes when they LOOK and SMELL perfectly clean? No.

      My own jeans go about 5-10 wearings between washings, T-shirts 1-2 days depending on physical activities, button-up-shirts 4-10 days since I don’t usually wear those for hardcore bike rides and such, towels in our dry climate are good for a week or two, and kid clothes for the 5-year-old usually last a few days between washings as well. Unless we happen to be playing a rousing family game of “Mud Volcano” in the back garden with the hose, as we did last weekend. When you add all this up, our family of 3 runs the washing machine only once or twice a week, then hangs it all up to dry.

      • anonymous June 22, 2012, 8:50 am

        Good advice, but keep in mind that humans suck at detecting their *own* smell. By the time you can smell odors on your own clothing, other people have already smelled them for a while. Having a family, you have a fairly easy way to double-check your funk level. However, a single person should exercise caution when deciding to reuse clothing for multiple days in a row, even if they themselves do not detect any smells. :)

    • ice September 20, 2011, 2:59 pm

      In Armenia it’s common to wear the same outfit several days in a row. It’s amazing and I really wish America was the same.

      I too only wash clothes when they get funky. Doing the wash by hand means there is extra incentive to prolong how long you wear something.

      “Towels can be hung up after a shower and reused, too.”…for months.

    • Oskar September 21, 2011, 6:52 pm

      Are there actually anyone who uses a towel only once? I mean do you have one shower and then wash the towel?????

      Some modern jeans brands recommend you never (or once every 2 years or so) wash their jeans as they say washing destroys the style…i would never myself go that far but….

      • Katie C. June 22, 2013, 10:02 pm

        I’ve actually known at least three people who wash towels after EACH use. And these were women who used one towel for body drying and one for hair. That’s 14 towels washed per week! 104 towel washings per year! Insanity. YOU ARE CLEAN WHEN YOU DRY OFF FROM THE SHOWER! I wash my towel when it begins to smell.

        • Craig in Cary July 16, 2015, 1:52 pm

          You must know my ex-wife. :-)

          As you said, she’d use one towel for drying, and a separate full-sized bath towel for her hair. Both went directly into the laundry basket after use. I asked “why?” and got “well, I just used it, so it’s dirty!” My reply: “What had you done just before using those towels? You took a SHOWER, using SOAP and SHAMPOO, therefore your body..and the water on it, is CLEAN. So there is CLEAN water on the towel, that’s all!! Let it dry on the rack and it’s no different from a just-laundered towel hung on a clothes line!!”

          She still continued using 2 per day. Logic was not her strong point, unfortunately.

          The worst part was that her 7-year-old daughter, as kids will do….was following Mom’s example. Both took showers pretty much every day (as did I at the time), so they generated 28 “dirty” towels per week.

          As the person primarily doing our laundry, I eventually rebelled and refused to wash any more towels (I washed three bath towels per week…one for each of us) and told her “if you want to use 2 towels per day, wash them yourself.”

          The morning that I got out of the shower and my wife had used MY towel (because there were no more clean ones) and *I* had to fish a towel out of the laundry basket was not a good one. The resulting argument was epic, but at least I got my point across and she agreed to my “fresh towel once a week” rule.

          The lesson: Don’t enable someone else’s wasteful behavior if you want them to change it!!

      • Oh Yonghao May 21, 2014, 12:58 pm

        I have a good friend who washes his towels every single time. He uses it to wipe up the extra water on the ground after getting out of the shower and shaving, etc. I just dry off in the shower before getting out and hang up my towel. Thankfully my sweetheart does the same as me and we often go a couple weeks between towel laundry.

        We’re still working on line drying, we have great weather for it and would do it myself if she wasn’t getting the laundry done with the dryer before I get home.

    • E May 30, 2013, 9:10 pm

      This is a late comment I know (I just discovered MMM and am still working through the plethora of posts), but one trick my mom taught me was to change out of your work clothes as soon as you get home (and hang or fold them neatly), and change into a set of “round home” clothes that can be worn for several days until they smell or look funky (or even after that, depending on your spouse’s tolerance for that sort of thing – LOL!). That way work trousers and jackets can be washed maybe once per month (or even less frequently), and tops/shirts can usually be worn 2 or 3 times before washing, depending on the temperature and how active you are at work. Same thing on the weekend… get up and put on your scruffy “round home clothes” and then get changed just before you go out to wherever you’re going (if you go anywhere at all).
      This approach has been even more useful since having kids – I have my “spit-up sweater” which I wear whenever I’m at home (even over work clothes in the morning, taking it off literally as I walk out the door), and just wash it once it gets gross – saves getting spit up stains on all my good clothes, or worse – getting spit up on my good clothes and not realizing until I’m at work!!!

    • Jordan March 6, 2015, 4:32 pm

      This is especially easy if you work somewhere with a uniform. For example, I work at a (mostly) desk job where the uniform is a Polo and jeans or slacks. Since all of my jeans look identical, I can get away with wearing one pair for up to two weeks at a time! (Or until they get visibly dirty).
      The same goes for my work-issued polo. I always wear an undershirt when my overshirt has buttons, so to avoid waste, I started wearing my work shirts two days before washing them. Barring any days involving messy work or heavy sweating, Nobody is any the wiser.

  • Dancedancekj September 20, 2011, 1:11 pm

    I would say that investing in quality clothes is important too. Not necessarily expensive clothes, but clothes that are made well and will last without pilling, fading, stretching, come apart at the seams, and so on.

    I read the Everyday Minimalist, and she has the theory that high quality clothing should, in the long run, save you more money than buying larger quantities of lower quality clothing.

    For instance, I can spend $15 on a low quality sweater. This sweater stretches and pills in about a year of regular wear, forcing me to buy a new one the next year and drop another $15. I could instead buy a $30 sweater that will last me for eight years (one such item that I have).

    So instead of $15 x 8 = $120 spent on cheap sweaters, I can spend $30 x 1 = $30 on one quality sweater that will last me a long time.

    Granted, this requires finding high quality, durable clothing which is getting harder and harder to find at non-astronomical prices. It also requires as mentioned in the article buying classic clothing items that won’t go out of style in six months.

    MMM has already mentioned that not using the hot water cycle or the dryer will go a long way towards making clothes last as well! Fading and pilling may not be a factor after that.

    • Dvortygirl September 24, 2011, 10:35 pm

      I agree that it’s helpful to have clothing that lasts. Personally, I find that one of the benefits of buying used clothes is that anything it was going to do (wrinkle, stretch, shrink, fade, pill), it usually has already done so for the previous owner. If it’s obvious that that was the reason somebody got rid of it, I don’t buy that item. There’s plenty more around that might have been culled because it was one thing too many, or because someone gained or lost weight.

      And I’ve found plenty of $30 sweaters for a buck or two at thrift stores and garage sales.

  • poorplayer September 20, 2011, 6:17 pm

    “Beware all enterprises that require new clothes.” -Henry David Thoreau

  • Ellen R. September 21, 2011, 9:59 am

    I’m surprised that homemade laundry soap wasn’t mentioned in this article. I can make 5 gallons of homemade laundry soap for about $4 or less and that batch will last me about one year (for 2 adults). I use it for my colored clothes and linens and all rags. I do use store-bought soap for white clothing and white linens though.

    • Brave New Life September 26, 2011, 3:29 pm

      We make our own, and calculated it to be 5% the cost of store-bought detergent. It’s basically free, and only requires a small amount of work.

    • Heath May 11, 2012, 12:07 pm

      Could you include a link to an article explaining how this is done? I would be interested, as laundry soap can be decently expensive…

      • Allie H July 25, 2012, 4:27 pm

        Here are the ingredients you’ll need to pick up:
        1. Borax ($3.38 at Walmart –in the laundry aisle)
        2. Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (NOT Baking Soda–$3.24 at Walmart)
        3. Fels-Naptha Soap Bar ($.97 at Walmart )
        4. 5-gallon bucket with lid
        5. OPTIONAL: Essential Oil Drops for fragrance (we did not add this, so I am not sure how much it costs)
        Grand Total: $7.59 for 640 loads (180 loads in a top-loading machine). That’s a little more than 1 cent a load! And the savings are even greater the next time you make this because the only thing you’ll have to buy is the Fels-Naptha soap bar!
        1. Grate the entire bar of the Fels-Naptha soap.
        2. Put in a pot with 4 cups of hot water. Stir continuously over medium-low heat until all of the soap flakes have dissolved and melted (about 10 minutes). It should be slightly foamy with no “chunks” or flakes to be found.
        3. Fill a 5-gallon bucket half-full of hot water.
        4. Pour in the soap mixture. Add 1 cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda and 1 cup Borax. Stir. My husband happened to have a paint stirrer that goes on his drill, so that helped. But if you don’t have one of these, just use the end of your mop (or something that can reach to the bottom of the 5-gallon bucket).
        5. Fill the rest of the 5-gallon bucket with water until it is full. Stir again.
        6. Cover and let it sit overnight.
        7. When you open the top up the next day, it should have gelled and thickened. Stir again.
        8. Use a funnel to pour the mixture in a used/clean laundry detergent container only HALF full. Fill the rest of the way with water and shake.
        Once you’re ready to use the laundry soap, shake it in the container first. Then add:
        -5/8 cups for a regular top-loading machine
        -1/4 cup for a front-loading (HE) machine

        I HIGHLY recommend getting a paint stirrer to put on your drill…trust me. I don’t even use an old detergent bottle, I just leave mine in the five gallon bucket and I have a quart sized rubbermaid bottle w/ my detergent at the wash. I have very sensitive skin, and therefore have to use a free and clear style laundry soap if I buy it, but this stuff doesn’t bother me a bit. Bonus points, it really gets clothes clean. It even gets my husband’s car clothes clean, and that’s saying a lot.

    • Mackenzie April 22, 2015, 9:55 am

      I do the dry stuff:
      1 cup borax
      1 cup baking soda
      1 bar Fels Naptha, grated
      Pour into a small container (we have a 6x9x4-ish one) with lid and shake the dickens out of it. A full load uses 1 tbsp. A smaller load uses just a bit. We mix this up a few times a year.

  • Mary September 24, 2011, 7:59 am

    Nice suggestions in your article. I would like to add washing clothes in cold water is also a great way to save money. And to add a little bit to your part about hand washing clothes. I recently purchased this kit to help me wash clothes by hand. It is great. my partner gets filthy dirty every day on his job and I do not want to put his work clothes in my good washer so I hand wash his work clothes.

    Another suggestion that I would have to your readers is to look for laundry products like drying racks and clotheslines that are made in America they will do more to boost the us economy than just saving a dollar or two by purchasing a cheap made in China product.

  • Valerie September 24, 2011, 3:44 pm

    Hanging up clothes to dry, especially if they are not sweaty, is a great way to keep clothing smelling fresh. I have even let my gym clothes air dry as soon as I get back and I can wear them at least twice more before throwing them in the hamper.

    It is the bacteria that feeds on sweat that causes the odors–unless you have naturally strong smelling sweat. If you don’t ball them up where the bacteria can breed, clothing stays fresh smelling much longer.

    • Oh Yonghao May 21, 2014, 1:13 pm

      I alternate my t-shirt I wear to work each day and rotate through them each week. Basically on Monday I wear t-shirt A, when I get home I change into my house clothes and hang up t-shirt A in the bathroom (it’s a rather large master bathroom). On Tuesday I wear clean t-shirt B and do the same thing as on Monday. Wednesday I then put on t-shirt A and Thursday is t-shirt B. Friday is t-shirt A again and then whichever one I feel like on the weekend days without caring too much about which one was A or B. Sunday night these all go in the laundry and Monday I start with a new t-shirt A.

      I agree one of the keys is hanging them up every night. When I used to go to the gym we did a similar thing, and one thing I did to help my gym bag from smelling like a gym bag was to keep my clothes in a plastic shopping bag, especially my towel in a separate one. I would rotate through towels the same way as with shirts, alternating them each day and going a couple weeks between laundry with towels still.

  • Anne-Marie September 25, 2011, 6:27 pm

    When I’m travelling, I use shampoo to wash my clothes in the hand basin. After my shower, I lay out the damp towel, place my hand-washed clothes flat on the towel, then roll it up (jam-roll-sponge cake style) so that I get a sausage of towel and wet clothes. Then I twist the ends of the sausage in opposite directions to wring it tight. Then unroll it and hang out the clothes. The wrung-towel technique blots more of the water out of the clothes and helps them dry faster.

    Obviously if I’m staying in a hotel, I use THEIR towels (use dry towels if there are some spare – they’ll suck more water out of your wet clothes) , and if I’m using my own travel towel, which is synthetic to dry faster – it doesn’t work quite as well but it’s definitely better than not wringing them at all.

    On the wash-clothes-less-frequently theme: I agree for labour, environment and wear-and-tear reasons. That’s why why we have socks (you wash the sock, not the shoes) underwear (you wash your undies, not the trousers) and singlets (you wash the singlet, not the shirt). Washing your “smalls” involves less soap, water, drying time etc. Also any stains from sweat, blood etc are hidden from view under your outer shell of clothing, instead of appearing on your clothes.

  • hands2work September 21, 2012, 3:04 pm

    I put all my little soap ends that are too small to actually use in the shower anymore into a mesh bag that came around a gift of sample size bath products a few years ago, I keep this bag hanging in my shower and use it to scrub hosiery. Then I hang newly clean hosiery in the laundry room clipped to a pants hanger. This way I noly need two pairs of hose because I always have a clean pair on my body and another clean pair drying at home. Takes less than a minute in the shower.

    I also love thrift store clothes because if they are gonna stretch, shrink or fade, they’ve already done so…I know anything I buy there has been pre-shrunk, which makes it VERY important to try things on because the size numbers often have NOTHING to do with the actual size.

    • R May 26, 2019, 10:24 pm

      I just put the little bar, once it gets too small, on the top of a new bar, after a few showers, they tend to stick there and kind of melt into the new bar, and if you use the same soap brand, it’ll blend right in, eventually!

  • brenda from ar October 24, 2012, 11:13 pm

    I love the homemade laundry soap recipe and I’ll be out in a few months, so that will be fun to try.

    When buying clothes, consider going heavy on the quick-dry type common for hiking. You can fit a lot more of them in a washer load, they’ll dry overnight just hung over the shower rod with almost no wrinkles. Or if handwashing, they are much easier to handle.

  • Patrick March 6, 2014, 12:14 pm

    For those of us that don’t have room in an apartment for a washer, let alone a dryer, we trade babysitting services for laundry machine use with neighbors and friends. They get a free night out, and we avoid using laundromats and build relationships with our friends and their children.

    • kathryn August 19, 2014, 9:14 am

      That is a great idea. I’ll pass that along to my children.

    • Becky December 9, 2014, 10:24 am

      I LOVE this idea! I would totally trade the use of my washer and dryer for a night of someone watching my kids :)

  • rachel June 20, 2014, 7:25 pm

    I would just like to add an additional tip I just heard about:
    To keep denim fresh and to greatly extend its life, do not wash it as you normally would. Instead, fold it up and place it in a large zip-lock freezer bag (or something similar) and put it in your freezer for 24 hrs or so. The cold blasts away all odor-causing bacteria leaving your jeans perfectly clean and soft (and perfectly worn) just like the first time you put ’em on :) I just learned this trick so I haven’t tried it yet since my jeans still aren’t dirty or smelly. I can’t wait to try it though.

  • Chicago Mom July 12, 2014, 5:59 pm

    I am working my way through MMM and love the tone of the posts! We already do a lot of the suggested items but have found a few new tricks.

    I stay home & mostly “hand wash” all our clothing (exceptions are towels and jeans). I use less water than even a front load washer and we don’t spend money on buying or maintaining a washer appliance. We also live in a small space and use the square footage that a washer & dryer would take up for other things. I use the bucket and wonder wash method in the tub, a spin dryer (used of craigslist for $50) and hang up everything to dry (inside in the winter, out on the line the rest of the year).

    We do all the things mentioned above – home made detergent, wash clothes less often, etc. In the Spring, Summer, and most of Fall we use our towels (as mentioned you are clean when you get out of the tub) and on days when it is nice, I hang our slightly damp towels out on the line to dry. The sunlight and fresh air keeps the towels “fresh” for a looong time. Also a great tip for jeans and “work” shirts and pants. When you get home if it is nice out, change out of your “work” clothes and hang them on the line to “air”. They smell so fresh and can be rehung inside for many more wearings. Hang jeans in the fresh air after every wearing and they last a real long time without getting “funky”.

  • Z Money August 28, 2014, 3:16 am

    I have drastically reduced the time and expense involved with laundry by
    – Wearing non-iron shirts
    – Re-wearing them once (3 shirts a week or 5 shirts every two weeks)
    – Leaving my trousers and work shoes at the office and walking to work in track suit bottoms, changing when I get in and right before I leave (I live in London so I walk to and from work)
    – Hang drying everything

    I thus reduce the number of loads per week/month/year, I basically do no ironing, and I only have to dry clean my trousers when a disaster happens. Meanwhile the stash grows and the day of reckoning gets ever nearer.

  • Mackenzie April 22, 2015, 9:52 am

    Rather than terry towels, I suggest flour sack towels. They are much better on the absorbency front than any terry cloth kitchen towel (which seem to just push water around).

    I like the “mark each person’s napkin” idea. I’ve heard of doing it by getting some wooden napkin rings and putting initials/name on the ring, then after dinner everybody slips their napkin back into their ring.

    Good old fashioned lye soap is WONDERFUL for laundry. I bought a bar from a friend who makes it, and it does a fantastic job cleaning up my white linens (as in, actual linen that other people seem to think is so hard to take care of).

  • Ron Parker March 22, 2016, 7:21 am

    I recently took a long term trip in South America and I discovered bar laundry soap. What a great deal for economizing!!! Minimal packaging, low bulk (I was backpacking) and I believe it lasts much much longer and is much less expensive than the stuff you buy in a box or a bottle. Similar to bar soap (cheap and long lasting) compared with liquid soap (expensive, over packaged and easy to use up quickly).

  • Erica November 20, 2016, 9:31 pm

    I am seriously in love with generic bar/kitchen towels. I managed to pick up a package of new ones from the thrift store out of sheer curiosity and those weird little towels are the true workhorse of the rag world. They seem to withstand the most brutal of messes and need nothing more than a quick wash to go back to being awesome. They seem almost thin and scratchy but however they are made truly stands the test of time and abuse.

  • Cristina December 26, 2016, 2:51 pm

    What about soap nuts? I havent tried them yet but they are suppose to replace the detergent. I cantpaste the link but just search soap nuts on iherb.com

  • Richard Steel June 1, 2018, 1:35 am

    As someone who exercises a number of times a week and thus stinks up my gym/ cycling clothes just as often, I usually take them in my shower with me after the workout. The soap or shampoo i use on myself flows into the stinky clothing and stepping on them agitates them like a washing machine would. I then just roll them in my towel and hang them to dry and reuse. This works to extend time between washing them in the machine (2-3 wears) and takes much less effort overall seeing how seldom I have to use the washing machine. Also much better for more delicate bike shorts.

  • Sky March 25, 2019, 10:36 am

    I can’t believe nothing is mentioned about brands. Absolutely stay away from the brainwashing power of Tide (see what I did there). The prices of many name brands are ridiculous but Tide is just plain idiotic. Yes some of the more expensive brands do clean a little better, but Mustachians should be able to put a little bit of elbow grease in those few stains that occur very infrequently. In fact, you should treat stains the night it happens (to better fight them), not 4 days later on laundry day so now you have no excuse to need Tide.

    And of course the cheapest soaps aren’t usually worth it either. I’ve tried most things out there to figure it all out. I personally use Arm & Hammer and I’m actually VERY impressed with the cost and cleaning ability (and the clean burst scent smells so good!).

    Also, minimize hot water use to only when necessary. I find my clothes are pretty much always cleaned on cold, and hot water wastes a ton of energy down the drain.


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