How to Cut Laundry and Dry Cleaning Expenses

Doing load after load of laundry can be a drag -- and cost quite a bit of money if you're not careful.
Doing load after load of laundry can be a drag -- and cost quite a bit of money if you're not careful.
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Love doing laundry, right? Like making lunches and washing dishes, laundry is one of those never-ending chores you never really get a break from. And that's not even the worst of it. Doing laundry, like all those other thankless tasks that continually clutter up life, can also cost quite a bit of money if you're not careful. That just adds an additional bummer aspect: You're paying to do something you probably don't take any real pleasure in, and it's simultaneously taking funds away from more exciting expenditures you and your family could be enjoying.

Luckily, there are several measures you can take to cut down on the cost of laundering a lifetime's worth of dirty clothes. We'll go over them on the next couple of pages.

How to Cut Laundry Costs

Not all laundry detergents and fabric softeners work as well as others. In fact, sometimes the cheaper brands perform just as well, if not better. So skip the big brands and shop around. You could be surprised. Another option is to make your own. Laundry detergent and fabric softener can be made in bulk from common and easily obtainable household products like washing soda, borax and bars of soap; it'll be vastly cheaper than what you'll usually find at the store. It's also a good idea to monitor closely how much of detergent and softener you're using. Often, using a full cup's worth is overkill.

When it comes to good washing practices, make an effort to wash as many full loads as possible, using cold water when you can. Both will help save when it comes time to pay the utility bills. Along the same lines, if you're able to use a clothesline configuration instead of tumbling clothes in the dryer, do that as well. Dryers suck up a good amount of power and reduce the lifetime of your clothing. If you do need to use the dryer, make sure to keep the lint collector clear and don't ditch dryer sheets after a single use; they can usually stay effective through a couple of cycles. You can also cut them into smaller pieces, spreading out their product lifetime that way.

How to Cut Dry Cleaning Expenses

If you must dry clean, do so smartly.
If you must dry clean, do so smartly.
Winston Davidian/Photodisc/Getty Images

If you want to decrease the amount of money you spend on dry cleaning, simply buy clothes that don't require special treatment in the first place. It's as easy as checking the label and deciding you can pass on an item knowing how much hassle and cash it'll cost you down the line.

But if you already have a closet full of dry-clean-only clothing, or absolutely must have a new item tagged with those dreaded words, then there are some workarounds. For example, you can buy an appliance or other DIY product to do your dry cleaning at home. If even that's too much, you can try gently hand washing items with a mixture of ingredients (say cold water and baby shampoo, or dish soap) to clean clothes that demand dry cleaning, while keeping in mind the fact that manufacturers often err on the side of caution. Just test the mix on a small spot that's not wildly noticeable before you go for the whole garment, and be warned: There are risks depending on factors like what type of fabric you're dealing with, whether there are stains and whether there is beading or lace sewn in. If an item is important to you, consult a dry cleaner; an aging work shirt is one thing, your baby's baptismal gown quite another.

If you do decide you must go to a professional, shop around for dry cleaners and look for low prices (although be warned: It's a sliding scale and you might be sacrificing quality and customer service). You can also try to negotiate your price; with any luck it's a slow time of year and they'll take you up on it.

Related Articles


  • Bradley, Luanne. "Dry Clean Only? An Eco Expert Tells Us When It's Safe to Ignore the Labels." EcoSalon. June 15, 2009. (Jan. 13, 2011)
  • Greenfield, Paige and Bryan, Meredith. "Score! 25 Ways to Save Money." O, The Oprah Magazine. July 7, 2010. (Jan. 13, 2011)
  • "How to Save Money on Laundry Expenses." Not made of Money. Jan. 5, 2010. (Jan. 13, 2011)
  • "Making Your Own Laundry Detergent: A Detailed Visual Guide." The Simple Dollar. April 9, 2008. (Jan. 13, 2011)
  • Mount, Ian. "Dry Cleaning." Real Simple. (Jan. 13, 2011)
  • "Tip of the Day: How to cut your dry-cleaning costs." Consumer Reports. Nov. 13, 2008. (Jan. 13, 2011)
  • "Try my best laundry tips to save money and still have dazzling clothes!" Frugal Living Now. (Jan. 13, 2011)
  • "Why is dry cleaning so expensive?" 1-800-DryClean. Oct. 28, 2009. (Jan. 13, 2011)