5 Ways to Cut Your Laundry Costs

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On the fun meter, doing laundry is right up there with, say, washing your car or vacuuming.

To add insult to injury, the ho-hum chore also costs money. But you don't have to spend a fortune on energy and cleaning agents.

Here are five easy ways to get your clothes clean for less:

Wash in Cold Water

Washing your laundry in cold water will save you on the energy it costs to heat the water, which averages $60 a year nationwide, Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, deputy home editor of Consumer Reports, tells DailyFinance.

The key here is to use cold-water detergents, such as 2X Ultra Tide Coldwater, she says. Many of those detergents "did a good job of getting laundry clean" in Consumer Reports tests, she says.

Even if a clothing label calls for a warm-water wash, "it's fine to wash the item in cold water with a cold-water detergent," she says.

Line Dry

"What may surprise many people is that drying your clothes is the more expensive part of doing the laundry, from an energy standpoint," Kuperszmid Lehman says.

So line dry everything, from your clothes to your bed sheets, whenever possible.

If you want to avoid that crunchy feel that towels, for one, can get when line dried, just pop them in the dryer for a short time to soften them up, Kuperszmid Lehman says.

Use Store-Brand Detergents

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They've come a long way, baby. Store brands, that is.

Several of the private-label laundry detergents are "every bit as effective as national brands" and cost $5 less for a typical 100-ounce package, says Robert Shelton, a retail and consumer packaged-goods consultant who recently served as senior vice president and general manager of nonfoods for Safeway, the supermarket chain.

Costco's Kirkland and Safeway's Ultra laundry detergent are two store brands with formulas that closely match national brands, he says.

Who knows? You might never go back to that expensive national detergent.

"Statistics show that half of consumers who try private label continue to purchase the private label product," Shelton says.

Don't Overdose

Chances are you're throwing money down the drain by pouring excess detergent on your wash.

"Overdosing is a manufacturer trick to try to get you to use up your bottle faster," Shelton says. "The cap they give you is designed to make you overdose.

"Here is the big, 'aha': The fill line is twice the amount of detergent you need to clean effectively," he says. "Fill your cap up halfway to the fill line and your detergent will last twice as long."

Buy an Energy Efficient Washer

If your washer goes kaput, make sure to replace it with an energy-efficient model that will use less energy and less water, which will save you money over time.

Look for models marked with the Energy Star label, but don't stop there.

Compare the yellow EnergyGuide labels on the different machines, which estimate how much it will cost to run the washer over the course of a year, based on national averages, Kuperszmid Lehrman says. "There are variations between different Energy Star-rated products."

By definition, front-load washers are energy efficient. The Kenmore 4027, for one, got Consumer Reports' Best Buy rating. "It's a high-efficiency washer that did well in our tests," she says. "It's excellent for cleaning and energy efficiency."

And don't waste money on a new dryer just because your washer dies. That's a common, money-wasting mistake consumers make just to have a matching set, she says.

As a general proposition, dryers tend to outlive washers. What's more, while washers have become more energy efficient, dryers have not, which is why none of them carry the Energy Star label, she says.

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