Saturday, March 13, 2010

Frugal Cleaning in the Laundry

Is it weird that The Frugal Hostess digs doing laundry?  As household chores go, it’s one of her favorites.  She’s given this some thought and thinks there are two things that separate laundry from other household chores.

First of all, you’re cleaning and moving the household forward, but you’re doing it with your stuffyour tee-shirts, your Pink Panther socks (What?  You don’t have Pink Panther socks?).  So rather than cleaning up the detritus of a whole bunch of people’s dead skin cells a la dusting, you are actually doing something that benefits you directly and measurably.

Second, there is an end to laundry.  Listen, Jon and Kate Plus Eight or whatever you are now, TFH totally gets that laundry is a recurring project like all other cleaning, and that, especially in your palace of dysfunction, it feels like laundry never ends.  But there is an end to a load of laundry – you wash it, dry it, fold it, and put it away.  Whereas a coffee table is never really clean, and dust or fingerprints appear mere moments after you think you finished cleaning.  Laundry has a satisfying cycle of beginning and end and, while it may happen time and again, each time that satisfaction is there.

Seriously, who knew The Frugal Hostess could write a dissertation about laundry?

Here are FruHo's tips for making laundry cheaper, easier, and less annoying.

Pick one day a week as laundry day.  That doesn’t have to be the day you finish the laundry, but it’s the day that you call last call, sort it all out, call last call for real, and start washing.  If you do laundry every day, then you're doing laundry every day, and that sucks.

Start with the pile of whites first, then work your way up to darks.  If you wash loads from lightest to darkest, you avoid any dye bleeding from one load to the next.  Also, beware the false frugality of stuffing a few black socks in with your load of tighty whities.  The money you save with fewer loads is quickly spent replacing your tighty gray-ies.

At The Frugal Homestead, clothes go into one of four piles: whites, mediums, darks, and delicates.  Don’t stress yourself out about keeping all the green clothes separate from the blue ones.  And, don’t wash less than a full load.  If you only have three dark items this week, save them until next time.

Borax is a natural brightener, and it’s not as dangerous to living things as bleach.  It brightens whites and can be used in a multitude of ways around the house (like, as an abrasive in the shower).  It's also cheap.

For delicates and dry clean items, FruHo pretty much always risks it in her washing machine.  Now, it is a very new front-loader with both delicate and handwash settings, so maybe the risk is lessened.  And, as you've heard before here, the Champion King of All Laundry Soap, Charlie's Soap, is as mild and gentle as a lover's caress (eww). 

Items that have been washed with Charlie's Soap in the washer: cashmere and merino sweaters, antique linen napkins, a pants suit (low risk as it was bought on a HUGE sale for, like, 40 cents), nylon travel bags, slacks (TFH doesn't really say that word), blouses (ditto for that), most tights, and a raw silk comforter. 

Items that FruHo won't risk anywhere but the sink: bras and other, ahem, foundational items; fish nets and other patterned tights.  That's it.

And, yes, this is totally a commercial for Charlie's Soap.  They just don't know about it.  But if you decide to buy some, use that link, and TFH will get some cash money.

A final tip: if you want to, you can just go through the laundry basket and smell everything.  If it doesn't smell dirty, it may have experienced the not infrequent phenomenon known as Laundry Resurrection, wherein dirty clothes become clean again by spending a few days in the hamper.

Photo by Prakhar

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  1. The one day a week method wouldn't work in our house - Our washing line will take one load at a time, so at best I can do two loads on a nice sunny day. But I slot the washing in between my work at the computer - when I need a break and a stretch I go and hang out the washing. Then the kids get to sort and put it away in teh evening. So it actually becomes less of a chore. Works for me anyway!
    Great tip about the borax. How much do you put in for a large load?

  2. Oops, I didn't think about drying on a line. I dry all the handwash/dry clean/delicate stuff like that, but everything else goes into the dryer. For Borax, I put a handful. My hands are small, so I'd say half a cup? It really works well, especially together with the miracle soap, Charlie's. It can also be sprinkled on carpets to kill fleas (Borax, that is.)

  3. Does the Frugal Hostess think she might have inherited some of her laundry love from her paternal grandfather, who owned and operated a laundry/dry cleaning establishment for most of his adult life?



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