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11 July 2007

The frugal laundry

If you believed the advertisements on TV, washing clothes is one of the most difficult things to do if you don't have THE special magic potion. The reality is that washing can be done easily and effectively with simple products, a bit of time and some elbow grease.

In our house we often have clothes that need washing but aren't really dirty. They might have been worn for a few days and are starting to get a bit grubby or smelly, but there are no stains that have to be treated. These go straight into the washing machine and are washed with my home made laundry powder. We also have clothes that need stain removal - that stain might be grease or oil stains on H's work clothes, or stains from a food or coffee spills. These clothes go into the laundry tub with some oxygen bleach and hot water and stay there either overnight or until the water is cold. Then they are checked to see that the stain is gone, scrubbed with laundry soap if it's not, and put into the washing machine on a normal wash with the HM powder.

If pre-soaking hasn't removed a stain, usually scrubbing with laundry soap will do the trick. Don't wash the soap off, put it straight into the washing machine and let it wash with the extra soap. This generally removes even difficult stains.

use a cold water setting with most of my washing but every so often I'll wash the sheets on a hot water wash. I also use hot water if H has some greasy work clothes. I soak them first, then hot wash.

Don't overcrowd your machine. Everything needs to move around inside the machine, it's part of the washing action that cleans then. If they can't swish around, they won't wash properly.

These need special treatment as they're used in the kitchen so need to be disinfected. When I've used a dishcloth for a couple of days it's placed in the laundry room in a dry bucket and left until the rest of the washing needs to be done. The night before I start the washing, I fill the bucket up with hot water and some oxygen bleach to soak the cloths. Every so often, I give this same treatment to the tea towels. It keeps them looking good and removes any food stains that have built up since the last soaking. After the cloths have soaked overnight, they are washed in the machine with the general washing.

Most clothes benefit from being soaked. It loosens dirt and is a good treatment for stains. If you can soak clothes before washing, do it. It's gentler on fabric than washing. If you start your washing with cleaner clothes you need less laundry powder, less energy to run the machine on complicated hot water washes and less time in the machine.

I have a fully automatic washing machine but I never use the programmed settings. I modify every wash according to what goes into the machine. So if I have towels, my auto setting tells me a hot water wash and three rinses. I disagree with that - I use cold water and two rinses. Every couple of months I give all my towels the hot water and oxygen bleach soaking mentioned above. It disinfects the towels and gets rid of in ground grime.

Remember, you don't need a mountain of different products in the laundry. Generally homemade detergent, laundry soap, oxygen bleach and ammonia will keep your fabrics fresh and clean. Soaking will get rid of stains - then just wash as normal.

  • Read the labels on new clothes and wash accordingly.
  • Always wash with phosphate-free detergents.
  • Try using homemade laundry detergent, there is a recipe for it in this blog. Not only is it an excellent cleaner, it's also much cheaper.
  • Try to always hang your washing on the line to dry. Dryers use more energy than any other home appliance.
  • Treat stains as soon as you can. The longer a stain remains on the fabric, the harder it is to remove it.


How to fold a fitted sheet
Washing in Victorian times
Staying clean in the colonial outback


  1. Great post Rhonda, I noticed that you wash in cold water, do you dissolve your HM powder first in some water and add it to the bowl or do you put it into the dispenser in your machine. I have made your HM liquid detergent but would prefer to use the powder, but not if I have to dissolve it first.


  2. Lenny, I just put it straight into the dispenser.

  3. ok thanks I might give it a try then


  4. I love your container for your laundry detergent! I wash all of our clothes on cold and I'm eagerly awaiting our clothesline at the new house. (My patience is wearing

  5. Hi,

    I also wash in cold water and instead of fabric softener, I pre soak towels the night before in 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar to replace fabric softener. Then I wash them as normal.


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