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Washing hacks to save you time, water and money

From tricks with vinegar to reusing greywater, these simple tips will make washing and cleaning a breeze.

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Last updated: 31 January 2020

We spend a large portion of our lives washing clothes and cleaning dishes, so why not make these tasks as easy as possible while saving a little cash and as much water as possible along the way? 

Our expert tips will help you get the most out of your washing machine and dishwasher – and help make sure these big-ticket items last as long as they should.

We've also got handy tips for washing up in the sink, including which bargain liquid you need to add to your supermarket shopping list.

1. Be wary of 'magic' hacks

Before we get into our expert tips, here's a warning about hacks you might read about online that aren't quite so expert.

Recently there was a social media storm around using dishwashing tablets to clean your washing machine, with many people claiming it gave them miracle results. 

Our white goods expert Ashley Iredale does some myth-busting.

"This may work initially," he says. "But I wouldn't recommend it. Washing machines aren't designed to deal with highly caustic dishwasher detergents, so doing this may damage seals and hoses over time. Which could also void your consumer guarantee or warranty as the manufacturer may say you didn't follow proper instructions."

Tips for using your dishwasher

2. Don't wash by hand

Our CHOICE experts all agree, using a modern dishwasher on a full load is more water- and energy-efficient than washing your dishes by hand. So it's a win-win on saving you time and money! 

"OK, so it's not exactly a hack," says Ashley. "But using a typical modern dishwasher uses about six times less water than hand-washing a typical pile of dirty dishes, and getting the water in your sink hot enough to do the dishes takes nearly twice as much energy as you'd use running your dishwasher." 

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White vinegar is a multi-purpose wonder in the home: we use it to clean our dishwasher and keep it free of odours.

3. Clean your dishwasher with vinegar

Use this clever – and cheap – hack to remove soap build-up and odours, and give your dishwasher a little TLC to help ensure it lasts as long as it should (around 11 years, according to our experts). 

Pour around 1 cup (250ml) of vinegar into the bottom of the unit or into a bowl on the top or bottom rack, then run the machine through a full cycle with no dishes or detergents. 

Note: Check your manual first, as some manufacturers advise that you not use vinegar to clean certain models. 

4. Save time and water: don't rinse! 

But do scrape. Our expert testing has found that rinsing dishes before you put them in the dishwasher doesn't make any difference to how clean they'll come out at the end. 

Do scrape off any large bits of food residue though, otherwise they'll accumulate in your dishwasher. 

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Run out of dishwashing tablets? Turn up the heat and do a wash with plain water (it will still work on lightly soiled plates).

5. Turn up the heat

Run out of dishwasher tablets or detergent and got a pile of dirty dishes you really don't want to do by hand? 

We've found that many recipes for DIY dishwasher liquid or natural alternatives don't work very well. 

What might work if you're desperate though, is turning the temperature up and doing a cycle with plain water – our extensive tests show this will still clean lightly soiled dishes (and perhaps leave you with a little less to wash up later).

Tips for washing by hand

6. Buy a cheap washing liquid that works

Sick of wasting money on expensive dishwashing liquid? Our experts have done the hard work for you and put 41 supermarket dishwashing liquids to the test to find out which is best. 

And their hack? Go to Aldi and buy their Tandil Ultra Power Soak N' Clean dishwashing liquid. It came second in our test, with a score of 72%, but costs just 0.35c/100ml, which is less than a third of the price of our top-scorer from Morning Fresh (Morning Fresh Ultra Concentrate Ultimate Dishwashing Liquid) which costs $1.23/100ml and scored 81%. 

7. Explore new ways to use it

Once you've got your cheap and effective dishwashing liquid, explore all the other things you can clean with it.

It's great for cleaning windows (just mix with warm water and a drop or two of rinse aid) and for removing light stains from clothes (if you've spilled some spag bol on your shirt, just rub with a bit of dishwashing liquid and water). 

You can also use it to wash make-up brushes and hairbrushes, and it works wonders to clean and shine jewellery: mix with a little soda, then soak and scrub with a toothbrush.

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This DIY hack for reusing your greywater will save thousands of litres.

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You'll just need a few bits of equipment from your local hardware store.

Washing machine tips

8. Convert a wheelie bin to reuse your greywater

Try this affordable hack to reuse greywater from cleaning your clothes to save water. 

Rig up a hose from your washing machine and feed it outside to collect in a tank, or, as our clever CHOICE staff member Alice did, in a wheelie bin. Then you can use the water on your garden and save hundreds of litres in the process. 

"We wanted to put a small water tank outside to capture and store greywater from the washing machine, but our local hardware store had sold out of all the water-saving products," says Alice. "Instead, we settled on a 100L wheelie bin – it holds the same amount of water but it's about half the price." 

"We rigged it up with an inlet for the grey water extension hose near the top and a tap kit at the bottom by drilling two 28mm holes. Our backyard is on a slope, so we can hook a regular garden hose up to the tap at the bottom of the bin and gravity takes care of distributing the water onto the lawn. 

"All up we spent about $100 and a couple of hours to set it up. Now our lawn is lush and green again – it's actually being watered more often than before the water restrictions!"

9. Do the occasional hot load in the washing machine

Commercial washing machine cleaner is expensive and largely unnecessary. 

Keep your washing machine clean and in good working condition with this simple trick: if you regularly wash in cold water, run the occasional very hot empty cycle, with just a bit of good-quality detergent in the dispenser, and it'll help keep scrud at bay. Also, ditch fabric softeners as they add to build-up.

10. Brighten up

Brighten your colours and whiten your whites without using expensive and non-eco-friendly bleaches with, you guessed it, vinegar! Try adding around a cup to your load. 

Vinegar is also a great alternative for fabric softeners, which are expensive and damaging to the environment (plus we've tested ones that perform worse than water). Check your washing machine manual before using to ensure they don't warn against using vinegar in your model.

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