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The old saying goes that nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. However, we could probably add laundry, dirty dishes and grimy floors to that list.

On the face of it, you might not think too much about the price of your cleaning habits. After all, how much does it really cost to run the dishwasher or spin out the wrinkles in your work shirt? Probably not enough to break the bank, but it may be enough to nickel-and-dime your budget.

Check out this chart put together by a New Jersey mom who wanted to see how much she was paying to run her household lights and appliances. According to her calculations, vacuuming your house may cost a mere 28 cents a month in electricity, but an electric dryer could set you back $16.98.

If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, every penny counts, and spending more than $200 a year to dry clothes may seem like an extravagance.

Do the Dishes for Less

Washing dishes can cost you in multiple ways. Unless you’re served by a private well, you likely have to pay for the water you use. Then, you might have natural gas costs associated with heating that water. Finally, you need to buy electricity to run the dishwasher, if you have one.

All told, it’s a bit hard to quantify exactly how much you spend to do the dishes each night, especially since utility rates and dishwasher efficiency can vary greatly. However, if we use the national average of 12.2 cents per kilowatt-hour (as reported by Pacific Power) for electricity and the data included in this report from the Florida Solar Energy Center at the University of Central Florida, we can assume you spend anywhere from $23 to $57 per year to run your dishwasher. And that’s just for the electricity. Water and natural gas will tack on more.

However, you might be able to cut your costs in half by using these tactics:

  • Be selective about pre-rinsing. Rinsing off food that might quickly dry and get caked on makes sense. Pre-washing all of your dishes when you have a newer-model dishwasher is simply a waste of water, about 10 gallons of water per washing, according to the Florida Solar Energy Center study.
  • Avoid the sanitize or heavy-duty setting. The Florida study also found that using the sanitize, pots and pans or heavy-duty settings can, in some cases, increase your energy costs by 40%. This is where smart pre-rinsing comes into play. By pre-rinsing cooking pots and baking pans, you may be able to avoid using these energy-sucking settings.
  • Let dishes air dry. Likewise, turn off the heated dry option for additional savings.

Unfortunately for those of you who are standing over the sink every night, the Florida Solar Energy Center says today’s dishwashers beat even the best hand washer when it comes to efficient water usage. However, you might be able to cut costs by pre-rinsing pans and using only the minimum amount of soap needed. Remember, you don’t need a sink of overflowing bubbles to get your dishes clean.

Hang Out in the Sun for Laundry Savings

When it comes to your laundry, the very best way to save is to skip the dryer completely. That’s where you’re spending most of your money to clean your clothes.

Set up a line in the backyard and hang the clothes out to dry in the sun. If you’re worried about the neighbors seeing your unmentionables, invest in an umbrella dryer, which will allow you to hang your delicates on the inside and surround them with less scandalous articles of clothing, like jeans and T-shirts.

If you’re a really hardcore saver, you could also buy an indoor drying rack and hang your clothes to dry year-round, regardless of the wind, snow and sleet.

Another way to save on your laundry costs is to use cold water. I know, I know. Some people swear the clothes don’t get as clean, but I’ve never noticed a difference. If anything, cold water is gentler on your clothes and will help them last longer. There are specially formulated detergents on the market for cold water washing, but I’m not convinced they’re needed.

Finally, wait until you have a full load to run the washing machine and be careful about how much detergent you use. No need to fill the bottle cap! Flip the cap over and look for those faint lines near the bottom. That’s about all you need. Really.

For powdered detergents, measure it according to the instructions rather than filling the scoop and calling it good.

Save on Supplies

Next we come to cleaning supplies. If paper towels are your go-to picker-upper, it may be time to invest in some hand towels and washcloths.

Rather than disposable cleaning products, go with reusable ones. Try rags for dusting and an old-fashioned mop rather than a refillable model. When it is time to buy a new vacuum, go for a bagless one to keep your long-term costs down.

Above all, consider trading your store-bought cleaning formulas for homemade ones featuring baking soda, borax or vinegar. If you don’t think the homemade versions work as well, check out our previous article with the results from our Earth Day smackdown pitting store-bought cleaners vs. homemade concoctions.

Recipes for DIY Cleaning Products

Once you’ve decided to try your hand at DIY cleaning products, you can find recipes all over the Internet.

Right here on Money Talks News, we’ve already covered how to make your own laundry detergent (you’ll find more money-saving tips in that article as well) and your own dishwasher detergent.

Looking for more? Try these other inexpensive ways to clean. For best results, you may want to use white vinegar rather than the apple cider kind. If you like your cleaners to smell pretty, add a couple drops of your favorite essential oil.

  • Toilet bowl cleaner. Mix ¼ cup borax with 1 cup vinegar directly into the toilet bowl. Let mixture sit for 10 to 15 minutes before scrubbing and flushing.
  • Glass cleaner. Mix ¼ cup vinegar, ¼ cup rubbing alcohol and 1 tablespoon cornstarch with two cups water. Shake well, spray on windows or glass and then wipe away.
  • Soap scum cleaner. Mix one part vinegar with one part original Dawn dishwashing soap in a spray bottle (heat vinegar first to make it easier to mix). Spray on affected area and let sit 15 minutes. Remove with a dry towel.
  • Stain and odor eliminator for carpets. Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Generously sprinkle baking soda over the affected area. Spray with water/vinegar mixture (baking soda will fizz). Let sit 5 minutes and then blot with dry cloth.
  • All-purpose cleaner. Warm 2 cups of water and add 1 teaspoon borax, ½ teaspoon washing soda (not to be confused with baking soda) and 1 teaspoon liquid castile soap. Shake well prior to use.

This post originally appeared on Money Talks News.

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