Save Money and Energy by Doing Laundry the Right Way

American families are facing a lot at the moment: expensive groceries, a potential rise in gas prices, imminent summer child care costs, and a coming uptick in utility bills due to increased air conditioning use. These things might leave you wondering how you can save some money around the house

Lowering your energy and water bills is one option, and your laundry room is a good place to start. Washing machines and dryers can use a lot of water and electricity (or gas, if you have a gas dryer), particularly if you have an older model in your home. If you typically wash weekly loads of towels, bedding and clothes, you might notice your monthly bills are consistently expensive. But there are several things you can do to help save money in the laundry room — no handwashing or line-drying of clothes required. 

Here are some simple changes you can make to lower your washer and dryer’s energy consumption. For more ways to save around the house, start by unplugging your appliances, and consider what temperature you should set your thermostat to this summer to save big. 

Wash your clothes on cold

Unless a clothing label specifies a certain temperature, consider choosing the cold setting when starting a wash load. A full 90% of the energy used to wash a load goes into heating the water, according to Consumer Reports. So, you can save substantially on power usage when you use cold water.

Don’t worry about your clothes not getting clean in cold water, either. Most detergents are actually designed to work better in cold water. By choosing the cold setting you are actually getting cleaner clothes. An added benefit is cold water helps prevent color fading, as well.

For some loads, like towels and sheets, hot water is a better choice to kill bacteria. But everything else will be fine in cold water.

Set your dryer to cooler heat

A higher heat setting on your dryer uses more energy. Go with a lower heat setting (and a longer drying time) to use less energy.

Make sure to use your dryer’s cool-down option, too. It will finish up the load with the heat that is already in the dryer, instead of producing more.

Improve your dryer’s efficiency

CNET Home Tips logo

We still hold that lowering the heat setting and slowing the drying time will save money, but the faster your clothes get dry, the less money you spend on electricity. Improving your dryer’s efficiency can help make sure you don’t have to run your still-damp clothes through the dryer a second time. 

First, make sure your dryer is cleaned out. The airways that carry humid hot air away from your clothes should be free of lint and debris. Clogged airways will keep the moist air trapped in the dryer drum with your clothes, making them take longer to dry. Every time you put in a load, make sure to clean out the lint trap thoroughly. Once a year, vacuum out the vents and the air hose coming out of the back of your dryer, too. Here are some tips on deep-cleaning your dryer.

Second, you can make the transportation of the humid air more efficient by shortening the accordion-like hose on the back of your dryer. A shorter hose can make your dryer work 20% faster because it doesn’t need to push the moist air as far. If the hose doesn’t have any excess length, move your dryer closer to the exit vent in the wall or floor, then trim the hose to a shorter length.

Third, give your clothes an extra spin in the washer. Getting rid of excess water can speed up the drying process by as much as half.

Finally, don’t pack your dryer. Clothes need room to tumble around to get dry. A good rule of thumb is to only fill your dryer two-thirds of the way full.

Always run a full load of laundry

Washers and dryers use about the same amount of electricity to wash a small load as they do a full load. So, it’s more efficient to wait to do laundry until you have a full load, but remember — don’t over-stuff your dryer. Need to wash right away and don’t have enough clothes and towels to fill up the basin? See this gallery for some household items you can clean in a washing machine that you may not have considered.

Here Are 23 Ways to Save On Your Electric Bills Right Now

See all photos

Consider peak and off-peak hours

If your utility company charges extra for peak usage times, a simple change to your routine can help. Peak hours refer to certain times of the day where usage increases in your area. When that happens, a utility company with a time-of-use service will charge you extra to run your dishwasher or wash your clothes during peak hours. Using your non-essential appliances during off-peak hours instead can make a significant impact.

Contact your utility company to determine whether you’re part of a time-of-use plan and when it charges extra for peak hours. You can also check our time-of-use energy explainer for more details. For more laundry tips, check out how to clean your workout clothes the right way, and how to clean mold out of your washer.

More money saving tips