Changing your laundry habits can save energy, money

Washing on cold, drying on low are key

SAN ANTONIO – The AC may be running up a doozy of a power bill this summer, but simple changes to your laundry routine can help shrink that bill.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize about 10% of your energy bill goes to doing laundry,” said Cyndi Bray, an entrepreneur who’s made laundry her business.

High-efficiency washers are money-savers, but it’s not the washer that sucks up electricity.

“Most of the energy in the washing machine goes to heating the water,” she said.

The solution? Wash almost everything on cold. Hot water is preferable for killing bacteria if someone is sick.

Energy Star estimates switching from hot to cold water can save about $66 a year on average, more for those who do a lot of laundry.

Detergents are now formulated to clean in cold water, according to Consumer Reports’ laundry expert and tester Rich Handel.

“We find many people overuse laundry detergent,” he said. “They fill it to the max and dump it in there or throw two or three pods in. We suggest one and a half ounces, the equivalent to a shot glass.”

If that’s not working for you, increase the amount, he said. However, too much detergent leaves a residue, which will attract dirt.

To avoid washing money down the drain, wash full loads only, but be careful not to overfill, Handel said.

He also suggests skipping the fabric softener, because it leaves residue and builds up in the machine.

And use those settings on the machine. The short cycle will use less water and power and be sufficient for many loads.

Handel said to put the spin cycle on the highest setting to wring out the most water, except for delicates.

“That will save you in the drying time,” Handel said. “Drying is another big expense, whether electric or gas.”

Dryers can be energy hogs. Drying one load, depending on the dryer and the price of the power, costs an average of 45 cents.

Bray’s money-saving tip is to run the dryer on low heat.

“Even if you have to run the dryer for a longer period of time, you’re going to save a lot of energy,” she said.

When it comes to drying sheets, Bray invented a device called Wad-free for Bed Sheets.

She said she came up with it because she was annoyed when she would open her dryer and find a big ball of sheets still wet in the middle.

“It prevents your sheets from wadding up in the washer and dryer, so they can get cleaner, and they dry up to 75% faster,” she said.

Cleaning your lint trap with every load and cleaning the dryer vent once or twice a year will help with airflow and save drying time and costs.

The most frugal way to save on drying laundry is a good, old-fashioned clothesline and fresh air.

Find more Consumer Reports stories here

About the Authors:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.

Alex Trevino is a video editor at KSAT who works on the 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts.