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Laura’s Laundry Tips — Save Water and Money!

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Guest posts rock.  Particularly when they have everything to do with reducing your impact on the earth by conserving water and reducing impact on your budget. Singing sweet anthems of money-saving, satellite-realigning, and the wonders of the LG front load washer.  Laura, my darling wonderful friend tells all.  Need I say more?

High Efficiency (HE) washers, I could write volumes on these wonderful machines.  I have been the proud owner of an LG for a year now.  But with all new technology — questions arise.  I will try to answer some of the more frequently asked questions and give tidbits of information I have gathered over the past year.

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To use a HE washer correctly, first you have to understand how they clean.  Instead of submerging the laundry in a large tub of sudsy water, the tub has been turned on its side and the laundry tumbles in and out of water with a little cleaning agent added.  That’s right, the water does the cleaning not the soap.  Not much water either, only about a gallon is used in a normal load.

If you see bubbles (suds) the clothes through the window in the door, then you know the clothes are not being cleaned properly.  The bubbles sit on top of the water creating a cushion of air and preventing the water from penetrating the dirt to wash it away.

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I’ve used about every type of HE detergent on the market except for the pricey natural/organic ones like Seventh Generation and Method… I can’t afford them.  All Small and Mighty, Free and Clear is the only one I like of the commercial detergents.  The clothes aren’t as stiff but it still creates some suds.  Tide (all types) is the absolute worst!!  Our clothes felt stiff and the washer had a greasy film.  I’ve recently made the laundry soap on this site, with the personal attention of Lacy and her kitchen, and I have fallen in LOVE!!!  My clothes are clean and my men don’t smell like tropical flowers.

To make sure the homemade laundry soap would be safe (I’m a bit paranoid when it comes to my washer),  I found the Fels Naptha bars at a local Publix, packed everything in the car (baby, too), and headed to Lacy’s for her expert help.  It was super easy to make.  The next evening I went to use the detergent and called Lacy in a panic… the soap had hardened.  It looked like the fancy ice ring in a holiday punch.  After calming my fears, Lacy talked me through breaking up the gelled soap.  I found that it was easier for me to fill a used and clean gallon jug and add an extra 2 cups of hot water.  This way I can shake the jug to completely mix everything.  I only add about 1/4 of a cup to normal loads and about 1/3 cup to heavy loads.

I also use white vinegar instead of fabric softener. The vinegar helps to keep the washer clean and makes clothes very soft.   I do add a little bit of softener to sheets and towels, about a teaspoon with the vinegar, but it’s only because I’m addicted to the smell.  I no longer buy dryer sheets, I add a sponge soaked in fabric softener (wring out any excess).

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The most important thing that I have learned from owning my LG is to keep the seal clean!  You have to wipe down the inside of the washer with a damp cloth to remove any residual dirt.  Also if the washer isn’t running, keep the door open.  Mold and mildew can grow overnight and cause the washer and your laundry to smell horrible!

I hope that I’ve been able to answer any questions ya’ll may have had, if not post them in the comments section and I’ll get back to you.

Posted by Laura Bailey: Southern belle, mom to the charming Will (click here to gaze adoringly), and friend to the author of this blog.

  • Kath - I never thought to soak a sponge in fabric softener. Makes perfect “scents”.ReplyCancel

  • Rosa - Great washing machines! I do most of my delicate washing by hand and only one machine washing per week… I try to used as little washing powder as possible and reduce the heat drastically,

    Cheers,

    RosaReplyCancel

  • The Cotton Wife - I love, love, LOVE talking about laundry. I am still trying to will myself to hang clothes out in the winter. Trying hard, but my laziness is winning out! I’ll keep up the fight.

    Great post, Laura!ReplyCancel

  • AnnMarie - Have you tried using no fabric softener at all? We quit using it about 6 years ago and haven’t noticed a difference except when a couple nylon clothes are dried–and frankly they could be air dried easily! BTW, softener is one of the worst things you can put on towels: It makes them absorb less water as the towel gets coated with the softener instead. (My Mom used fabric softener when I was growing up…unless there were towels. Which is how I became an utter fan of dry stiff towels (they are great for exfoliating).)

    We use 7th Gen in our HE and it works great. One thing to remember is that you can use a tiny amount of the detergent. We use about a 1/4″ up the lid, less than 1/4 of what’s “recommended” w/o any problems with cleanliness.ReplyCancel

  • YDavis - I too no longer use dryer sheets. I use almost the same trick that you use: Fill a small spray bottle with 1/2 fabric softener and 1/2 water, shake well each time you use, spray(just a few sprays would be good) the mixture on a wash cloth and toss in the dryer with your laundry.ReplyCancel

  • Aunt Laura - Thanks for the compliments!
    I really love the spray bottle idea!

    LG recomends only using 1 tablespoon of HE detergent in our machine, and it still suds. I even tried to run the excess soap out with the ‘tub rise’ cycle inbetween loads and nothing compares to the awesome cleaning and ‘un-sudsyness’ (I’m sure that’s not a word) of the homemade stuff.

    It’s so awesome to air dry clothes. It can really save on the electric bill. Unfortunatly I am spoiled rotten, I like my towels soft :o)

    Laura BaileyReplyCancel

  • Maureen - I immediately went out and bought the ingredients for this soap and can’t wait to try it! I do need to ask tho, the amounts to use in the machine vary on this post and on the recipe post from 1/4 to1/3 to1/2 cup per load….can someone clarify here?ReplyCancel

  • Ashley - How exciting- if laundry can be exciting! I think I’ll get the stuff to make this tomorrow- I have a font loadre too and LOVE how little water it uses and how it cleans my clothes. I also use All small and mighty/free and clear and have been very happy with it! What a great post- thanks so much!ReplyCancel

  • RazorFamilyFarms.com - Hi Maureen! I can answer that one!!! We diluted the main recipe with some more water. We took a five gallon bucket, followed the recipe and then topped it off with water just an inch or two shy of the top.

    If you use my recipe posted on the site without diluting you will still not have suds but you will be using a little more concentrated detergent. If using the concentrated detergent, use 1/8 cup to 1/4 cup (1/4 cup for BIG loads) per load. Remember, these instructions are for HE washers.

    Blessings!
    LacyReplyCancel

  • Christina - Vinegar is the best! I use it alot…. I am going to try Lacy’s soap recipe soon! Great article! ThanksReplyCancel

  • Aunt Laura - It is such an awesome laundry soap! I still can’t get over how clean our clothes smell. It’s not the heavy perfume of the fake ‘rain storm’ or ‘tropical whatever’…just clean.ReplyCancel

  • Maureen - Ok….thanks so much for the response Lacy….except I may still be confused (what’re the odds?). I went ahead and put mine into a bigger bucket and measured the soap (with a ruler on the side of the bucket) I then added enough water to double the amount of liquid soap. I figured that would mean I could use 1/2 cup per load rather than the 1/4 cup I had originally planned on using, which works perfect because our machine has a line at the 1/2 cup mark. Anyway, I guess this will work but I didn’t get nearly the 5 gallon amount that I ‘think’ you are saying you get from one recipe???

    If I’m mistaken here (and it wouldn’t be the first time:) let me know….thanks!

    Oh, and because our ‘laundry room’ is on our back porch, the soap had solidified overnight. I’m hoping the additional water will take care of that issue….if not, we’ll just keep the soap in the house.ReplyCancel

  • The Holly Tree - This is an excellent post, Lacy! Last summer, I had the chance to use a front-load washer that took only about 1/2 capful of detergent, and man, what a difference there was! I was stunned at how much LESS water was used (as well as how little detergent was needed), and I’ve wanted a front-loader of my own ever since. Currently, I have the standard top-load washer.

    Because we’re on a super-tight budget most of the time, we always look for ways to be as green as we possibly can, without digging ourselves into a debt-hole so deep we’d never get out. One of the things we started doing last year was we switched to cold-water washes using a laundry soap specifically designed for cold-water washing. So far, we’ve saved quite a bit of moo-lah on our water bill, cuz the water heater doesn’t have to work so hard… 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Maureen - We also use only cold water….so that’s my next question (getting to be a pain huh?). Since this soap kind of sets up when it gets cold, does it work in a cold water wash?ReplyCancel

  • Tipper - Neat post-with good tips!ReplyCancel

  • Aunt Laura - Yes you can use it in cold water.
    This soap will set up in the cold or in my nice warm house. That’s why I put it in the used detergent bottle to shake it back together.ReplyCancel

  • Maureen - OMG…this stuff is the BEST…our clothes are clean and softer than ever…yippee yahoo!ReplyCancel

  • HollyBeth - Hello;
    I’m very eager to try the vinegar for fabric softener. In the past years I had some femine issues and the docs. said that detergent is a scam… you only need a bottom full of a cap. If you use too much it only adheres to your clothes and, in my case cause skin irritation. That goes for fabic softener, too. It not only coats your clothes, it coats your dryer. Your clothes will actually start feeling more stiff as time goes by. I can see why clothes will feel softer with vinegar, now that I’m reading on it, it is a natural cleaning agent against scum.

    I am a little concerned trying the borax after the warning in other comments if it will cause more skin irritation for me.

    I am also not sure where to find the natural soaps you are suggesting. I have never done this thing before. And, I don’t remember seeing any ‘Super Washing Soda” in the detergent aisle [but I wasn’t looking for it either}…. is it just ‘arm and hammer baking soda detergent’? I’ve seen that.

    One thing I will use fabric softener for is wrinkles. I don’t measure, just pour a little in the bottom of a spray bottle, and fill the rest with water. When you have something with wrinkles, instead of pulling out the iron, grab the spray bottle. Give the garment a few squirts, and brush out with your hands. I take a bottle with me when I travel. shake a lttle before using. I’ve used it on all Kinds of materials. Of course if you’re the “tight collar” type of person, keep that iron handy. But for casuals, it’s a wonder!

    With towels my HE loader would over suds. I found that my dish cloths still had soap in them so when the laundry detergent mixed with the soap in the dish cloths I would have too much soap. I started putting my towels through a short rinse cycle before putting them through the full wash cycle. That took care of the problem.
    I’m looking forward to reading more of your website.
    HollyBethReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - I have greatly enjoyed reading these articles and posts about laundry! I love laundry! I’ve used different home made recipes and found many that I liked, I’ve never used liquids or gels before so I’m looking forward to trying Lacy’s recipe!

    I would like to add that when it comes to the clothesline, I have found a very happy medium. On laundry days I put the wet clothes in the dryer set to ‘permanent press’ for ten minutes, while I set up the next load in the washer. It lightens the weight of the load and the results are fabulous. As I have pets it helps with some of the pet hair that can sometimes linger and fluffs up the towels just enough to have soft nap while retaining some stiffness. I don’t need the chemical softeners this way and they don’t weigh quite as much to carry up the stairs. The garments don’t get pulled out of shape at all while finishing on the line. In my little old dryer a small load of towels or jeans can take more than 70 minutes to dry, so this really saves us a lot of energy, without sacrificing softness, and of course static is not an issue which is the main reason I have ever used fabric softeners with a dryer.

    Thanks for the great posts!
    JenniferReplyCancel

  • Amanda - Great article and information! My friend and I started a wash and fold laundry service from our homes. We too swear by white vinegar as a fabric softner! I’ve also read on other sites that it’s great as a stain remover when applied directly on the stain.
    http://www.laundrycare.bizReplyCancel

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