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How to cut your laundry costs by more than $500 a year

These simple tricks will save you money on electricity, water, detergent and more. 

father and son doing laundry
Last updated: 05 October 2021

Let's face it: no-one likes doing laundry. (And if you do, can you please teach us your ways?). It's one of the boring parts of being an adult. 

For most of us, spending money on anything for the laundry is an absolutely grudge purchase – there are far better ways to spend your hard-earned cash than on laundry detergent, electricity and water bills, right? 

But what if we told you that you could save some of that money, just by tweaking a few of your laundry habits?

Here are some simple tips from our laundry experts to save you time and money. 

Let's start with an imaginary scenario:

  • You have a top-loading washing machine.
  • You run a half-full load every day on a warm wash. 
  • You use Omo Active Powder (50c per wash).
  • You use Huggie Easy Iron fabric softener (20c per wash).
  • You use a vented dryer to dry your laundry.

We'll show you how much you can save by making small changes to the way you do your laundry. Trust us, it's worth it!

1. Run full loads of washing – and we mean full

It's pretty simple, really – you're going to use more water, detergent and electricity washing two smaller loads than one big one. So instead of doing smaller washes every day, do a full load every two days instead.

How much is a full load? It's a full laundry basket, right? Wrong.

"A full laundry basket is only around 3.5kg of laundry, and your machine can take much, much more – so much you may even have trouble getting the door shut," says Ashley Iredale, CHOICE laundry and white goods expert. 

"Your machine can still get your clothes clean, even packed in that tightly. Just remember that not all programs are suitable for a full capacity wash."

2. Wash on cold

You'll get pretty much the same cleaning power from a cold wash as from a warm wash – but you'll use far less electricity. (Warm water is still slightly better than cold water, but there's very little between the two – and certainly not enough to justify the extra cost.) 

And washing in hot water can make things worse by setting stains in, so a cold wash can help you get a good clean. 

It's not worth the extra energy and cost of a warm cycle, particularly with modern detergents designed for cold-water washing

CHOICE laundry expert Ashley Iredale

"Washing in warm water is slightly better than washing in cold, but it's so close these days that it's not worth the extra energy and cost of a warm cycle, particularly with modern enzyme-based detergents that are designed for cold-water washing," says Ashley. 

According to our calculations, if you were to switch from washing a half load every day on a warm wash, to washing a full load every day on a cold wash, you could save yourself $135.85 a year. That's not to be sniffed at!

3. Switch to a cheaper (but top-performing) laundry detergent

In our expert laundry detergent testing, the top performers range in price from as little as 13 cents per wash, all the way up to 86 cents per wash. 

For example, let's compare two laundry powders that both scored 77% in our tests:

  • Omo Active Powder Front Loader (50c per wash, $182.50 per year)
  • Aldi Almat Concentrate Arctic Breeze (13c per wash, $47.45 per year).

Let's assume that you run a wash every day. You'd spend $182.50 on the Omo detergent and just $47.45 on the Aldi. So switching from the Omo to the Aldi would save you $134.55 a year, just in detergent costs alone. 

And you could save even more if you also follow our next two steps!

4. Use less detergent

It may seem counterintuitive, but adding more detergent to your washing machine won't actually make your clothes cleaner – in fact, overdoing it can have the opposite effect. 

We're not suggesting you need to walk around in semi-dirty clothes to save money. But you'll find that using just a third of the recommended amount of laundry detergent will still give you excellent results – and your detergent will last three times longer. 

"We've found you can get a great wash with a fraction of the recommended detergent dose," says Ashley. 

We've found you can get a great wash with a fraction of the recommended detergent dose

Ashley Iredale, CHOICE laundry and white goods expert

Not only that, but putting too much detergent into your machine can lead to a build-up of 'scrud' in your washing machine, which could drag down its washing performance. 

Using less detergent is also better for the environment and for your skin. 

So instead of using a full scoop of the Omo detergent every time you wash, you could use a third of a scoop of the Aldi detergent. This would cost you just $14.24 per year in detergent. 

And if you're only washing every second day, you'll spend just $7.91 on laundry detergent for the year – a saving of $174.09 in one year, on detergent costs alone.

5. Skip the softener

Our laundry experts aren't big fans of fabric softener. 

"Fabric softeners reduce the moisture absorbency of your laundry, which is bad news for your towels, and reduce the fire retardancy of clothing, which means you absolutely shouldn't use them on children's sleepwear," says Ashley. 

"And because the fabric softener has to stay behind in the fabric, you're actually re-soiling your clothes with petrochemicals, which you then wear against your skin.

Because the fabric softener has to stay behind in the fabric, you're actually re-soiling your clothes with petrochemicals

"They also build up in your washing machine, which will make it run less efficiently and can potentially damage it, too."

Our advice? Give them the flick. You can use white vinegar, or a DIY fabric softener mix, instead. 

So how much could you save by doing away with fabric softener? If you use an average-priced fabric softener, such as Huggie Easy Iron Fabric Conditioner (20 cents per wash), then by ditching it you could save a further $73 a year. (Based on one wash every day.)

6. Use your dryer sparingly

Most places in Australia are warm and dry enough to make line drying a viable option, so if you can line dry your laundry, then make that a habit. 

If you do need to use the dryer, make sure you've used the highest spin speed available on your washing machine to get as much water out of your laundry as possible – that way you won't need to run the dryer as long. 

If you can line dry your laundry, then make that a habit

If you need to use your dryer frequently, spend a little more money upfront to buy an energy-efficient heat pump dryer – it will save you on electricity. But if you only use your dryer for laundry emergencies, a cheap vented dryer will work out cheaper overall. 

"The average annual running cost for a vented dryer is about $153," Ashley says. "Switch from clothes dryer to clothes line and that goes in your pocket too."

7. Shop wisely when buying a washing machine and dryer

In our expert lab tests, we frequently find cheaper washing machines and dryers that outperform more expensive, big-name brands. 

We've been testing washing machines for about 60 years in our state-of-the-art labs, so we know a thing or two about what makes the best washing machine. 

We frequently find cheaper washing machines and dryers that outperform more expensive, big-name brands

Check out some of the savings you could make in our Splurge vs save: washing machines article

By shopping smarter, you could save yourself hundreds of dollars on a new appliance. Check our washing machine reviews and dryer reviews to find the best appliances for your money. 

Knowing what not to buy can be just as important as knowing what to buy. Here are the washing machines to avoid buying

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE