Low End Laundry

I’ve been living on my own for three months – and doing my own laundry a lot longer than that. I’ve made several changes in recent months after getting feedback from others on Facebook. Today I’m going to look at the world’s cheapest fabric softener, an inexpensive pretreat for stains that you can make yourself, and reusable anti-static balls for the dryer.

Softer Clothing

I’ve been using those fabric softening/antistatic sheets in the dryer for decades, but not only are they moderately expensive – even store brand – but the chemicals can coat the lint trap, creating a possible fire hazard. But after reading about the cheapest fabric softener ever, I had to give it a try.

Believe it or not, and I was skeptical, but plain old everyday vinegar works very well as a fabric softener. I’ll put 2-4 oz. (60-120 ml) in the fabric softener receptacle of the washing machine, depending on load size, and it works. Better yet, any scent from the vinegar is completely rinsed off before the spin cycle.

No need to buy name brand vinegar; store brand will do. For one guy living alone and doing maybe two loads a week, a gallon bottle lasts about two months.

DIY Laundry Soap?

I have not tried do-it-yourself laundry soap. I’ve heard it’s quite labor intensive, but I’ve heard it is also a lot cheaper than laundry detergent. If you have experience here or tips to share, come to our Low End Living group on Facebook.

Get the Stain Out

There’s no need to shout it out or oxy clean it when you can make your own pretreat solution using two household ingredients. All you need is blue Dawn dish soap, hydrogen peroxide, and a spray bottle.

Pour one part Dawn and two parts hydrogen peroxide into the spray bottle, shake gently to mix things up, and you’re ready to go. Dawn is especially good for breaking down oil – they use it to clean up wildlife coated with crude oil, so it’s also gentle. And hydrogen peroxide is related to those oxy-named cleaners. This mixture can clean most set in stains, many stains that made it through the washer and dryer cycle one or more, and even works on those pit stains in T-shirts, although older pit stains may take several applications to get thoroughly clean.

Spray the stained area, let it sit for 20-30 minutes, rewet if it starts to dry out, and then put it in with the rest of your laundry. For especially stubborn stains, use an old toothbrush to work in the stain remover and spray both sides of the fabric.

WD-40: I Don’t Think So

I had read that WD-40 could break down oil-based stains, so I tried it on an old black T-shirt with a set-in stain. It did not work for me. I might try it as a last resort if the above mixture doesn’t do the job.

Fighting Static Cling

Especially in dry winter weather, static cling can be a real issue when drying your clothes. This seems to be especially true for polyester. Some people swear by wool balls, but I’ve found an even cheaper solution: aluminum foil. Take a piece of aluminum foil about twice as long as it is wide, roll it onto a ball, and you have an antistatic tool. Make several more, and most of your laundry will come out static-free.

The foil balls also get smaller and more rounded as you use them, so you don’t have to make them very tight to begin with. The aluminum is a simple conductor that helps discharge to static – and they will last pretty much forever.

UPDATE: I have discovered one drawback with foil balls. Especially when they are new and not yet made smooth, they have a tendency to create pilling on some clothing. Turning your clothing inside out can help with that, but tennis balls are a safer solution.

My polyester sheets* – so soft and comfy – still have a bit of a static charge, but not enough to switch to something else. The only persistent problem I have is some black dress pants with polyester that come out with lots of lint. For those, I use half of a dryer sheet. After all, that box is just sitting there, so I may as well use them when necessary.

BTW, 2-3 old tennis balls in the dryer will also soften your clothes and speed up the drying process by creating more air space around your clothing.

Your Unmentionables

At my previous job, we often listened to the Free Beer and Hot Wings show in the morning. Free Beer and Hot Wings are the nicknames of the show’s hosts; no beer or chicken wings are involved. Anyhow, one day they were talking about laundry – they cover anything and everything on their show – and got onto the topic of underwear.

Here’s the lowdown: If they touch your butt, they get the longest, hottest laundry cycle available. Simple as that.

Now I’m just one man living alone, so that’s a pretty small load of laundry. I wash my undies as they suggest, but I don’t use fabric softener (vinegar) or throw them in the dryer. I leave them in the washing machine, add my next load, and they get an extra cycle using warm or cold water. That load gets the vinegar fabric softener, so the underwear ends up benefitting from it. Why do it twice?

This saves on dryer loads, as the briefs/boxers/whatever you prefer are in the same load as whatever you wash next.

Share Your Laundry Tips

Have you learned any good laundry tips? Share them in the comments here or in our small-but-growing Low End Living group on Facebook!

 * We all need a little personal spoiling in our lives. For me it was buying a soft new set of polyester sheets and retiring those old cotton sheets that were functional but not soft. That set cost me about $20 in a pre-Christmas sale and feels wonderful.

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