Experts reveal lesser-known ways to cut the cost of washing clothes

If you don't always check your pockets, this one's for you

washing machine in kitchen area
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Laundry is one of the most energy-consuming household tasks (physically and electricity-wise). And it's made worse when the weather rules out any possibility of hanging clothes to dry outside. 

We asked laundry experts for their best money-saving tips for doing a wash load, and some were new even to us. First and foremost, it's worth learning how to clean a washing machine and then actually giving your machine some attention every few months.

Save money on washing clothes

This will extend its lifespan so you can wash your clothes without headaches like a smelly or leaking machine. Depending on your budget, you might want to invest in energy-saving alternatives to the tumble dryer and buy one of the best dehumidifiers or best heated airers to speed up drying times. Here's how to save energy at home when washing clothes.

washing machine in kitchen area

(Image credit: Future PLC)

1. Make your own detergent

'Branded washing detergents are notoriously expensive,' says laundry expert Deyan Dimitrov, CEO of Laundryheap. 'Fortunately, there’s a simple and cost-effective solution: making your own DIY detergent.' Sounds like a faff, but as Deyan explains, it's actually very easy, and good for those with sensitive skin.

Shopping list

'To create soap flakes, grate 140g of a soap bar into a bowl. Mix the soap flakes with 200g each of bicarbonate of soda, soda crystals and salt. Combine well (you could use a blender if you want a superfine powder) being careful not to inhale the mixture and place in an air-tight container, ready for use,' says Deyan Dimitrov. 'The detergent will last up to six months.

'When adding this detergent to your washing machine, take 1-2 level tablespoons and place them into the washing drum along with your clothes,' Deyan explains. 'Adjust this quantity as needed, depending on the size of your load. High-efficiency washing machines will require less detergent. Run a hot wash once a month to break down any residual soap that remains in the washing drum. 

Deyan says homemade detergent is good for sensitive skin, providing a less harsh, non-toxic alternative to scented detergents. 'It should be noted that while this product will effectively clean your clothes, due to the lack of enzyme agents, it won’t be as effective on stains. These may require additional attention and care.' Stain removers for clothes, at Amazon will help.

blue kitchen with oven, washing machine and kettle

(Image credit: Future PLC)

2. Fill the drum three-quarters full

'Often, people don’t think about the amount of laundry they’re putting in a load,' comments Deyan. 'Some people favour small washing loads. They want to avoid clothes lingering in their laundry bin or want a specific item turned around quickly. Others will wait until a huge pile of laundry appears and will cram it into their washing machine.

'Neither method is cost-effective: putting too many items in a single load will mean your clothes aren’t cleaned as effectively, and cramming too many things into one wash can damage fabrics’ fibres. Doing lots of small washes also isn’t cost-effective: you will use more detergent and more energy, which over the course of a year can add up. 

'Overwashing your clothes also isn’t good for their longevity,' he points out. Deyan recommends filling your drum so that it’s three-quarters full and always using a cool thirty to forty-degree wash. He explains that this means you can wash plenty of clothes per cycle, with enough room for the water to circulate and clean them properly. 'A good rule of thumb is to make sure that your hand can fit inside the drum and rotate 90 degrees,' Deyan adds.

washing machine in kitchen area

(Image credit: Future PLC)

3. Exchange shrunk bank notes

Former Nasa scientist, Dr Kyle Grant, founder of sustainable wet cleaning service Oxwash, says that since they launched in 2017, Oxwash has reunited customers with several sets of headphones, wallets and cash that’s accidentally been left in pockets. As a nation, we lose £800million annually in washing machines and tumble dryers, according to Oxwash.

'Leaving money in pockets is so easily done, but don’t despair if you find a shrunk or torn note in the drum at home, says Dr Kyle Grant. 'If you have at least half the banknote, there is a way you may be able to exchange it.'

He explains that the Bank of England has a dedicated Damaged and Contaminated service for accidentally mutilated genuine notes. Download and fill out the application form on their website and send it to them with all of the remains of the banknote.' 

washing machine in kitchen area

(Image credit: Future PLC)

4. Use washer balls

Ideal Home Deputy Editor (digital) Rebecca Knight recommends using these Dolly washing balls, at Lakeland. 'Place all eight of the washing balls in the drum with your clothes, spreading them out evenly. The spikes scrub your clothes so you can use less detergent.

'I usually put the whole bag in and my clothes come out smelling and feeling cleaner,' says Rebecca. Level up with a Laundry Egg by Eco Egg, at Lakeland, which means you can ditch detergent altogether. 

Millie Hurst
Senior Content Editor

Millie Hurst was Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home from 2020-2022, and is now Section Editor at Homes & Gardens. Before stepping into the world of interiors, she worked as a Senior SEO Editor for News UK in both London and New York. You can usually find her looking up trending terms and finding real-life budget makeovers our readers love. Millie came up with the website's daily dupes article which gives readers ways to curate a stylish home for less.