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And we’ll add this to the list of frugal failures

you all know, I’m always in the market for new ideas to reduce our
outgo. So, I thought I came upon another one recently when I’d heard of
a number of people who only did their laundry in cold water.

I thought. It’s much better than taking cold showers (yes, we did that
for quite some time when we were first married!) and, best of all, no
one will even notice.

Well, let me tell you, lots
of people will notice. You see, after a week of washing everything in
cold water only, I learned that cold water does not get pre-treated
toddler stains or six-month-old stains out of clothing.

Not in the least.

guess the people who do the cold water only thing must not have
children. Or at least they don’t have children as messy as mine.

any rate, despite lots of stain remover and hot water-washing, the
stains are still there on multiple articles of clothing, some which
were almost brand-new. Let’s just say that I think any money saved by
using only cold water would be quickly lost in all the clothing we’d
need to replace.

So much for a great idea.

Your turn: Have
you ever had a brilliant frugal idea which flopped on its face? And do
you have any great suggestions for reducing the costs of running
laundry besides using cold water?

Originally published January 2008.

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  • KellyH says:

    Hi! here is how I wash our clothes, undies/socks in warm, little kids stuff (6 and under) warm, towels-hot, sheets-hot, all the rest cold. I hate using the dryer. I cannot wait to hang clothes out in the spring. We live in Illinois. I even started to hang out the little ones, and the sock/undie loads this year. In the past, I “treated” myself to drying them, as they take a looong time to hang on the clothesline. I can’t imagine drying our jeans and good clothes. I use wooden drying racks in the winter. Yes they look bad sitting around, but I’m willing to put up with it, hubby doesn’t mind and it saves the wear and tear on the clothes.

    My little ones are messy, and spray Shout is the best thing I have used. It gets everything, mostly out for me. And the good old sunshine bleaches alot of those leftover spaghetti splothes and “racing stripes” out.

    I’ll have to think about the flops, many things are swirling around right now.


  • Crystal says:

    Portable washing machines are a great way to reduce cost. Some turn by hand, and you only have to wash for three minutes and the clothes come out cleaner than ever, and then of course line dry!

  • Michelle says:

    LOL, yes, I have experienced that very same thing. Even tried adding more vinegar with no results. Builder Man installed an instantious hot water heater last year and THAT has made a big difference in our gas bill! So now I don’t even think about trying to save by washing anything in cold!

  • Stacey says:

    I’ve used cold water for years and now use it with my six month old green bean spittin’ baby. I just use Oxy Clean spray when I remove the clothing, or bedding, or towels… Then wash as normal. If there are a couple stained items in one load I add about 1/4 scoop of Oxy Clean powder to that load along with my regular detergent. I’ve never had a stain that wouldn’t succumb the first wash.

  • Hannelore says:

    Hello Crystal, because I have been researching laundry tips (I am trying out homemade laundry detergent) I have an idea for you I read online in many places. Its Fels Naptha laundry bar and its supposed to do wonders on pretreating stains. Its like a bar of soap, but you can get it in the laundry aisle. I found it at Kroger. It’s what I am using to make dry detergent, but it has historically (and I mean lots of grandma’s) been used for stain removal. I have not tried it for this purpose yet, but I imagine it will last longer and cost less than other spot treaters. It smells nice, too. Another thought is that you could do all darks on cold, lights on warm, and only heavily stained items, sheets, and underwear on hot. I’ll bet some of the other readers will have years of experience with treating stains and doing laundry on a budget…and I’d love to hear it!

  • Hannelore says:

    Forgot to add my flop. Definitely trying to have a garden in the Southeast these last couple draught-ridden summers, while homeschooling/caring for 5 little ones! I have wasted a lot of hard work..and gotten little to show for it except experience.

  • I feel your pain. I have a messy toddler, and I’m forever checking his clothes before throwing them in the dryer to make sure the stains are gone. (I hate it when my MIL comes to visit and tries to help by doing the laundry. We always end up with something ruined, and it’s usually something of mine!)

    I’ve found that OxyClean powder really works if you let stains soak. (And I’ve gotten the best results with OxiClean as opposed to other brands). I also like the new Shout with Resolve that’s made for protein stains.

    And I have been known to pretreat really tough stains with full-strength Basic H from Shaklee. Works, too, but I’d be careful with colors.

  • Leslie says:

    We use only cold, too. No more having to sort out laundry by colors. We just throw it all in there.

    The key is spraying on stain remover as soon as possible. Or you can do what we do… let our kids eat without shirts on whenever we eat something messy. We have 3 kids between 3 and 6 and doing that seems to work the best.

  • Breeni Books says:

    I only use hot water for towels and bed linens, and that’s the way I’ve always done it. I’ve never really had a problem, but I learned from day one not to buy light colored clothes for my boys (6 and 9). There’s not so much of a stain problem with black tee shirts and blue jeans. 😉 With little girls, I can understand where there would be a problem because so many of their clothes are light colored.

  • KQ says:

    I have been using cold water to wash everything for years (including my newborn’s clothes). I use LAVA soap to get out stains. It can be found in the grocery store aisle with handsoaps. It removes EVERYTHING “with the power of pumice”.

  • larra says:

    First of all, LOVE the new look.

    I use only cold water but found the miracle stain remover. Zout. I have a 7 month old so you can imagine the stains I have as we are trying out baby foods. Carrots, sweet potatoes, everything. And his whites are SPOTLESS! I love this stuff. And, even better, there is a $4 coupon out there. And the product is only $3.
    I think its good until 10/31.

  • I have been using cold water to wash for over 20 years and now have two boys who get very dirty and I get the stains out of their clothes just fine. I generally use All laundry detergent and a little spray and wash and add 20 mule team borax to each wash.

  • Composting would be the blockbuster in my list of frugal failures. I tried doing it for sometime. I tried putting kitchen waste in a pot and covering it with potting soil…didn’t work. I got afraid that my neighbors would start complaining about the smell soon. I just resorted to buying potting soil and some miracle gro.

  • Stephanie says:

    I have washed only in cold water for years and we have 5 VERY messy kids. I just pretreat anything that is stained with a little Shout and use Tide with Bleach Alternative and I’ve always had success. Even clothes I didn’t know were stained that went through the dryer I have been able to treat and wash again and… no stain. My husband is always getting grease on his work pants and even that comes out.

  • Nicole says:

    My frugal failure was budgeting every cent. Sure it was good to do for a few months to establish some baseline data but when I was getting nervous about whether I had enough money to go for a coffee, I realized I was obsessing and it wasn’t helping me anymore. Now I just take out $100 a week and that’s my cash to spend for my fun stuff. When it’s gone, I’m done having fun.

    In the laundry department, I love how everyone has had laundry drama. My boyfriend thinks there is something in the washer/dryer/my process that makes his clothes smell bad but I think he’s nuts. When I tell him he should do his own laundry for experimental purposes though, he quiets down.

    Love your blog and your new look is fantastic!

  • Hi! I a wondering if we are trying to save money by using cold water, but have to buy extra things to take out stains that the hot water would take out, how much are we really saving? This is not meant to be a sarcastic point, just wondering if anyone ever did the “math?” I wash towels in hot water, and rinse in cold. Most of my other things are washed in warm, rinsed in cold, but my kids are now grown, so stains are few.

  • Finance Girl says:

    Hmm, I use warm water for socks, underwear, towels and sheets, and cold water for everything else. I think warmer water makes the clothes fade and shrink. I don’t really have a problem with stains unless it’s really bad and I didn’t spray it with Shout in time. I usually use the All Stainlifter detergent.

    My frugal disaster was trying to have a potted herb garden. I spent a bunch of money on pots and plants and then they all got some kind of disease/bugs and I had to throw them out.

  • mama k says:

    We do all the laundry in cold with the exception of cloth diapers which get washed on HOT. I presoak the stained stuff in oxyclean and it works as good as anything else I’ve tried. Oh and we recently started using Maggies Soap Nuts in the laundry and I love them. Not the cheapest option though.

    Other than that I line dry as much as possible and use dryer balls when I use the dryer.

    Maybe you could try washing the stained stuff in a warm wash and everything else in cold?

    As far as flops go, making my own laundry detergent was just so so. Same deal with making dishwashing powder, but I’ve found I can get good results by stretching out commercial powder (1 part powder + 1 part borax + 1 part washing soda).

  • Emily says:

    I currently do not have any children and have always washed everything in cold. If I do have something that acquires a stain, I put Spray n Wash on it immediately. Most stains do come out easily, but if they don’t come out the first time, I usually throw them in the next load and it takes care of them. Again, children do seem to attract some horrible stains!

  • Kristin says:

    I have two the same ages yours – one is a boy (almost 3 now) and I wash the same as Larra…Spray n wash and Borax or A&H Soda wash…I often soak over night if there are many stained items to treat. I just save and throw them all in the wash at once. I think the key is NOT letting them sit more than a couple of hours. I will put them in the sink with water until I get them in th wash.

  • Nicole says:

    For that past couple months, I’ve been hanging my clothes on a line to dry. It does take more planning (can’t run laundry late at night before I go to bed) but for the most part, it hasn’t been much extra hassle. I’ve only had one full-month utility bill since I began, but I’d estimate that I saved about $20-25 just in one month by not running the dryer. Over the 8 months or so that I could use a clothesline here in central IL, that adds up to a nice chunk of cash.

  • Sally says:

    I only wash in cold water, but set aside items that need ‘special’ care till I have enough for a small load washed in warm or hot water. Another tip, if I have two smaller loads, say one is washed in hot water and the other in cold, but they can be dried together, then I will wash one, set it in the dryer, then wash the other then add that-then start the dryer. Give it another try, it works great!

  • Lana Dixon says:

    Two ways to save on laundry are to use very little laundry soap-only 1 tsp. of the new 3x cancentrated works just fine. I’ve been using this tiny amount for 15 years or more and our clothes are clean. Another is to eliminate the use of softeners. A really not nice thing about softeners is that they contain formaldehyde! Not a good thing for anyone. Our clothes are way softer without softeners and they have less static cling!

  • I wash everything in cold water. I’ve never had a problem getting stains out, I have a 3 year old and a 6 year old, so I see my share of stains!

  • Layla says:

    I just recently made the switch to cold, and have only had problems with one messy, Cheeto-stained white polo shirt. But my kids are 7 and 4, so somewhat less messy than infants and toddlers.

    I’m thinking about the line-dry option, too, but when I did that years ago the clothes got so crunchy and stiff, even with fabric softener…

  • jessi says:

    Someone already said it, but I just wanted to say that we wash about 90% in cold water and I always put in a small amount of OxyClean (about a tablespoon). Often I haven’t even pre-treated stains (so lazy I know) and they still come out. I love love love OxyClean – it has saved me a bundle on clothes, carpet, etc. – anything with a stain. If you have a really tough stain, you can pre treat with an OxyClean solution.

  • Gardening would be my frugal failure. I don’t even know how much we spent of garden supplies and our entire garden was washed away during a week of nonstop rain :).
    As for your laundry, I wash everything in cold except sheets and towels. I have 6 kids, 5 of whom are extremely messy and I get most stains out. I use Purex detergent, spray and wash dual action, and my secret weapon, Oxy Clean. I soak things for 4 or 5 days and it is almost miraculous how the stains come out. Blood, grass, dirt, everything! I love that stuff!

  • Jen says:

    I’ve been making my own laundry soap for the last 2 months. I have noticed that our laundry is much brighter than usual. This has been a huge money saver for me. I have a toddler too but haven’t really paid much attention to stains. I usually still feed them until they are a bit older to help cut down on that anyways. I’ve also been using white vinegar in a downy ball which cuts down on the fabric softener. I’ve always used cold water only to keep clothes from shrinking so I don’t have advice there…

    As for my frugal flop. I’m always trying to cut corners and alot of the time it ends up more expensive in the end. Still trying to learn when to cut corners and when to not.

  • Cathy says:

    Same problem here. I think this is one area I have down to a science.

    Whites-hot and pre-soak
    Towels-hot and pre-soak if I’m not rushed.
    Diapers-hot-with a cold pre-soak
    Kid’s clothes-warm with a pre-soak
    Pastels (mine or a mixed load with the kid’s)-warm
    Cleaning rags and “dog” towels-hot with a pre-soak

    Guess I’ll have to save money elsewhere, cause cold just doesn’t cut it on some items. Likewise with the homemade detergent on kid stains.

  • Wendy says:

    I also wash everything in cold water and I have a very busy 10 month old who believes that what he eats, he should also wear!! lol Anyway – I’ve never had any trouble getting stains out using cold water. Just my own experience!

  • Kristy says:

    I wash everything but whites in cold, and only warm with them, but I add bleach each and every time. Stains are always treated with Shout and now Zout (goof off for really bad industrial stains), whichever I have and I just check to make sure they came out before drying. Heat will often lock a stain in! I’m not brand specific on laundry detergent, but Arm and Hammer is my fav. Borax is great to use for those male odors that get into my hubbies work clothes too!!

    The only frugal failures I have had to endure thus far would be buying produce or meat in bulk and not getting it all put away in time. Saving money is great, but sometimes I find my time more valuable….

  • lacy says:

    We only have cold water, so I really don’t have the option. I use Spray and wash most of the time on the no biggie stains, and on my real big 15month old hard to get out stains I have to use a little elbow grease! I mix the oxy clean in a glass jar with water, and scrub the stains gone with a toothbrush! If it comes out still stained, I put it in a basket to take to the laundry mat!

  • Charity says:

    Before you throw those stained clothes out, try using Shout Advanced…even on dried/set-in stains. It’s made for set-in stains and I’m amazed at what stains it has removed!

  • jaime says:

    Crystal, Try adding 1/4 c. of borax or washing soda in your cold water wash cycle. This did the trick for me, and they are very inexpensive additives. I have hard water, and these soften the water and make the stains come out easier.

  • Mel says:

    I have 4 children, three of those being boys ages 10, 8 and 7. I found when they were young that if I didn’t use Tide, the stains just did not come out. I used to use the cheapest stuff you can buy in bulk from Sam’s, but I was having to buy clothes more often due to stains. You can imagine how many grass stained knees we have in a typical week! I use Shout spray when I have chocolate, grass, grease or blood stains and then just use regular Tide powder. If I have a particularly dirty load, I let the washer fill up and sit without agitating for a couple hours before letting it finish the cycle. We also do one to two loads a day, so I wonder if washing more regularly helps in that the stains are not sitting for a week at a time.

  • Michelle says:

    Using Big Crumbs was a frugal failure for me . I purchased a $3,000 camera through one of its merchants and they refuse to award me my earnings. They said there was no “click through” which in fact there was. I am really dissapointed with this company.

  • Jes says:

    I do all my laundry in cold water only, and I have a toddler. I use dawn dish soap to treat the stains. I just squirt some on there, rub it together and throw it in the hamper. if it’s a real bad stain soak it over night in the sink after treating it with the dawn. It’s gotten everything out!

  • Jenn says:

    I have always used cold water, and I have two kids.
    I always spray stains with oxyclean powder form that I have mixed with water in a spray bottle. It works great!

  • Julie says:

    My grandmother, now 95 yrs old, was in the laundry business. My mother also worked there for YEARS! They washed everything in cold water except whites.

    You should use HOT water to get the brightest whites plus it kills those yucky germs.

    You should also seperate you colors. I do darks, whites and light colors. If you wash your light clothes with dark ones the dark clothes will fade onto your light clothes making them look dingy. Next time you wash jeans or dark clothes, open the washer and look at the water…it will be a dark bluish color. If you don’t seperate them, that dark water will rinse through your light clothes.

    Spot treat your clothes each evening with something like Shout. It works wonders! If you treat the stains quickly, they are less likely to “set”.

    When you switch your clothes from the wash to the dryer, look over your clothes to make sure the stains came out. Once you dry them in, they are MUCH harder to get out.

    OxiClean is a LIFE saver! If something is stained and it won’t come out with the usual methods, I boil water and add OxiClean and my stained item. I let it soak overnight and wash it the next day. I have gotten stains out of my mom’s baby clothes using this method (that’s 50 + year old stains!)

  • I wash everything on cold, unless I have a major mess on my hands (like the time there was a purple crayon in the dryer). I have 3 under 6, and they make plenty of messes.

    As for a flop, I’d have to say it was the time I got cheap on breast milk storage bags and started using freezer bags. The first brand I tried worked great, but the second brand I tried leaked all over my freezer and wasted several bags of precious milk for my preemie…

  • Debbie M says:

    Mostly my frugality efforts have worked great. But:

    I lost money at first when I got my first rewards credit card. I accidentally paid it late. Twice. Those fines ate up rewards faster than I could earn them! I told myself that if I did that one more time, I’d cancel the card, but I haven’t had to. That’s because I also have a new system (I check at the end of each month that I’ve paid everything on my list).

    A few times I’ve bought things that had a good-looking sale price at one store only to learn that the normal price at my regular store is lower. Hate that. A price book prevents that most of the time now, but I don’t have everything in my price book. I also keep a list of things I’m looking for and add prices I see as I do research.

    I’m not totally sure that buying a house has saved me money. I got a fixed-rate mortgage, but rents haven’t moved up much either, and I was able to save extra when I lived in a (smaller) apartment. Also, moving around, you don’t get so sick of the problems in one place, but after being here 12 years, I want to remodel. (I want a dryer connection. And a dishwasher. And our 1955 plumbing and electrical systems could use some work. And a walk-in closet would be a great help. And someplace to park our second car besides out on the street, preferably someplace shaded.)

    My house has recently increased in value quite a bit and the stock market has plummeted, so I’m thinking my equity may now be more than what I would have been able to save otherwise. The best part will be when it’s paid off in five more years and I’ll only have to pay taxes, insurance, and repairs. (And surely rent will cost more than that by then! Right?)

  • Debbie says:

    I wash everything except “the whites” in cold water. Let me tell you…9 and 12 year olds can be just as messy!

    First, I have a stain stick with me all the time! (in my purse–either just the CVS brand or Tide to Go) So hopefully I can take care of the stain soon after it happens.

    When I am doing the wash, I pre-treat the stains with ZOUT (I swear by that stuff!) I have a nail brush with my laundry supplies, and after leaving ZOUT soak in a little, I scrub the stain with the little nail brush. Of course, this depends on the fabric, but most of my kids shirts can stand the scrubbing! Of course, not everything will get taken care of, but i guess that’s just the way it goes with kids. Most of the stains do disappear, however.

  • Debbie says:

    Oh yes, forgot to add….I am also a fan of Fels Naptha, which I saw mentioned above.

    If the stain does not come out the first time, I just hold off on drying it and treat it again.

  • Lisa says:

    I wash ALL our clothes in cold. I just pretreat with shout gel and it all comes out fine.

  • Laurenlulu says:

    This sounds silly, but we really use our laundry before we wash it. Jeans can go several wears before they’re washed, and towels we use till they (almost) stink. Thats not for everyone, but for us its good. We use cold water, but my washing machine has a cold water sanitation cycle, so it can kill germs. The only thing I wash in hot is diapers.

    As for flops- I’ve had too many. Most recently has been poor planning before CVS outings- or any shopping outings. Or taking my husband shopping anywhere at anytime.

  • Patti says:

    Crystal, if you are reading The Tightwad Gazette (book one) by Amy Dacyczyn, she has a stain recipe on page 272: Add one cup each of powdered Cascade and Clorox II to 5 gallons of the hottest water to come out of your faucet. Soak several items overnight and launder as usual. (Do not use on delicate fabrics or non-color-fast items.)

    I used this when I had a baby and it worked great – especially on stains on yard sale clothes. We did not have Oxiclean then. I now use Zout for my teenagers stains.

    One of my frugal failures was making my own detergent. It did wash the clothes and they seemed to be clean until we got a new washing machine and used the sample of detergent that came with it. It made our clothes look 100% better so I decided to find laundry detergent on sale or with coupons. Much better results.

  • I have 6 messy kids (soon to be 7) and started washing in cold-only a few months ago with good results (although towels and sheets get washed w/hot). Maybe it depends on your washing machine. When I tried cold only a few yrs ago w/a regular machine, and it didn’t work. I have a top-loading Fisher and Paykel machine that is less than 2 yrs new, and it works great using cold only. My favorite stain remover is Zout, although I do use Shout and whatever else I get free or very cheap. I pre-treat a few minutes before washing. I check to make sure the stains came out before loading into the dryer, because the dryer will set them. On the rare occasion a stain doesn’t come out, I just pre-treat again and re-wash before drying. Works very well. Also, I use whatever laundry soap I get free or cheap- even store brands with no problems. I definitely think it depends on the machine more than anything. Obviously it’s not worth doing if the clothes are ruined, as you said.

  • Holland says:

    We wash with cold on the delicate cycle and our clothes come out great. It cuts down on the bills and the delicate cycle is gentler on our clothes. We don’t have kids but my husband works in construction and comes home with some serious dirt. The clothes go in dirty and come out clean!
    Side note: As a little kid I remember eating many lunches while taking a bath. My sister and I’d have play time in the tub, eat our lunch and take our bath. We were fed, washed and my (single) mom didn’t have to clean up afterwards. Genius!

  • Jeannine says:

    Don’t give up on cold wash. We have been using it for years and most stains come out with a good stain remover. Try Fels Naptha bars, or Grandmothers.

  • Steph says:

    Yikes. Do you have well water? Laundry soap that is formulated for cold water doesn’t work if the water is too cold. Well water is around 50 degrees, so I sometimes do half warm and the rest cold to bring the temp up a bit. Luckily we also have a coal furnace which is cheap and there is always a fire so if I use hot water it is no worse than not using hot water. I have also been making my laundry soap. Stains rarely ever come out for me unless I use Spray N Wash stain stick.

  • Lee says:

    I’ve used cold water for years. In fact, my mom’s used cold water as long as I can remember. I have 3 year old and a 7 month old and haven’t had a problem yet. However, we do use Oxy Clean on most items. I figure it’s the trade off for not having a washing machine and doing laundry at a friend’s once a week. So the items sit longer than I would like, thus the need for Oxy Clean.
    My not so favorite thing is line drying. I do it, but certain items come out really stiff. Training pants, hand towels, etc. I do it to save money, but some items I just have to run through the dryer.

  • Tina says:

    First off my flop seems to be common with others, Gardening!! I can start a crop of seedings but once I put then in to a “garden area” in the yard they keel over, I’m in Florida so maybe they need more care than I give, don’t know!!

    As far as Laundry goes I have always used cold for everything(so has my mom), except baby laundry but even then I would only do warm washings when I knew there were more than 2 or 3 stained items, and they were usually treated with Zout ( I loved that stuff when my DD was little!! )

    Oh and can anyone explain to me why would you wash towels in hot water, I can understand sheets (I do those in warm), but I have never really understood towels, since they are being used to dry off a completely clean body, no offense to those who do this I’m just courious for the reasons.

  • Gretchen says:

    I also wash about 90% of our laundry in cold water. I also use OxyClean, but I use the Laundry stain remover, the spray in the blue bottle. I cannot live without it because I have two little ones that are very messy. Honestly my stains always come out with Oxy clean. Really! So I use cold water on almost everything except my cloth diapers (I use hot) and my kitchen and cleaning cloths (I use hot there too). I don’t see many coupons for Oxyclean, but even without them it is still worth it. If only there were a homemade alternative!

  • Lori says:

    Just to echo others:
    Forget about fabric softener. If you don’t want to give up fabric softener, dryer balls work well at softening clothes (but not at reducing static cling.) You can purchase a pair of these for about $10, and they’ll last years. Just throw them in the dryer with clothes.

    Hang clothes out to dry. I need to make room for this.

    Or, just don’t do laundry at all. That might be my favorite option.


  • vigilant20 says:

    Just wanted to chime in as a (child free) cold water user. The only way I’ve ever washed was the “wash in cold, dry on low” if I have to dry indoors method. Even for my dry clean only items. I’ve never once ruined anything.

  • Andrea says:

    I have always used cold water to wash clothes. I have a 3 year old and a 2 month old. I use Tide and color safe bleach (meijer brand) in every load. The stains come out like magic. No pretreating either!! My dad taught me that trick!! Also I am pretty sure if you use hot water and/or dry them it just sets the stain forever.

  • gina says:

    I use Murphy’s Oil Soap for stains. It cleans grease stains even after clothes have been dried. It also removed taupe paint from my fave black shorts – took several washes, but I kept treating the stain & tossing back into the hamper until they came clean.

  • Emily says:

    My frugal flop was trying to use baking soda in the dishwasher. I read somewhere that this is a frugal method – use half as much detergent and fill the rest with baking soda. My husband was so mad – it left a dusty film on all the dishes! The glasses were cloudy and everything had spots. I gave up on this months ago. Now that I have a cabinet full of electrasol thanks to my recent couponing discovery, I don’t need to be so frugal with this anymore!

  • Anna says:

    You’re not the only one Crystal! I wonder if it may partly be how hard or soft one’s water is? We just moved to a home with really hard water and I’ve been struggling getting the clothes spot free.

    Thanks, Patti, for the idea from The Tightwad Gazette. I might even go try it tonight. 🙂

    By the way, I love the new design. Thanks for all the work you’ve put in to help us all save money.

  • I don’t want to be a salesperson, but the only detergent and stain remover I use is from Quixtar. I am an Independent Business Owner(IBO), I have read your blog since May and truly enjoy it.
    I have never had anything not come out! I lent my sons baby clothes to a friend and got them back and they were stained with spitup and everything else, after some prewash and soaking in all fabric bleach and SA8 detergent, every stain came out and they have probably been in there for over a year! It is a little expensive up front, but you only need 1/4 cup per load of detergent and it comes out to about 30 cents or less per load not including shipping, the bigger the box the more you save per load. Tide and a lot of other powder detergents are full of corn cob filler, not this. I have extremely sensitive skin too and have used this my whole life. If you are interested in it drop me an email and I can give you some more specifics on it. I normally buy an 18 lb. box and 3 liquid prewashes and it lasts me about 3 months or so. I have 3 children too, so before you throw all of those clothes out, try this stuff first, I guarantee you won’t be sorry. Anyone else is welcome to try it too. Thanks again for all you have done to help my family save money!

  • I think the cold water might be my problem, going to start using warm. I’m just tired of having to wash stuff 2 or 3 times, and still having marks on it.

  • I can’t read all the previous comments, but don’t throw those clothes away.
    You can soak any stained clothes in a mixture of borax, cascade dishwashing soap, and water. I sometimes add a bit of Chlorox two- the recipe for this is in one of the Tightwad Gazette books- I’ve been using it for something like 20 years.

  • My biggest flop was homemade laundry detergent. Yes, it was cheap, but we’re all sensitive to most soaps, so our clothes made us itch! I went back to my scent-free All, and will probably never go back to homemade.

  • I was my two little ones’ clothes in cold water only, and have had no problems with stain removal. I use All Baby and LOVE it! For tough stains I pretreat with Shout gel, and/or add Borax to the load. The only thing I wash in Hot water is my whites.

  • stephanie says:

    spray oxyclean stain remover. it’s only $3 (approx), and I’ve yet to find a stain it won’t get out. If it’s especially stubborn, I spray it and soak it for 24 hours in a small bowl on my kitchen counter. If it’s old linen (antique) boil water and put powder cascade in. Remove from heat, stir and insert clothing. Soak for 30 minutes, rinse with cold water. (I do stain treating separately, then I can wash everything on cold…only small amounts of warm water)

  • Jen says:

    I wash socks, underwear, sheets, and towels in hot water and rinse them in cold. Everything else gets washed/rinsed in cold. As far as stubborn stains go, I really like Oxiclean. There is also an eco-friendly version at Trader Joe’s. The label says to let clothes soak for 6-8 hours. I like to put the clothes in hot water with Oxi and let them soak for up to 2 days. Sounds ridiculously long, but it was gotten out spit up stains from several years prior.

  • Larra says:

    Ok, this is totally random but sort of crazy. My name ended up on the wrong comment..I actually was the post above about the Zout. it says it was posted by KQ.

    Doesn’t matter at all..but very weird. Haha

    Money Saving Mom here: Larra, on Typepad, the commentor’s name is shown *below* the comment instead of *above* the comment, as in Blogger. Hope that helps clear up the confusion!

  • Marin says:

    My boys are pretty messy (11 months and 22 months) and I do all our wash in cold water, more to prevent shrinking, etc. than anything else. I also hang dry most of our clothes. For the most part, I get all the stains out. I use Oxiclean (both the powder & the spray) and I haven’t found anything that works better, although I’m giving Shout a try since I got it WAY cheap at Publix today! I check everything as it comes out of the washer and if it is still stained, I throw it back in to soak again.

  • Michele says:

    We only use cold water to wash clothes. I have never had a problem with it. I have a toddler and if I can’t get a stain out, I set up a tub of water/oxyclean and let it soak…until the stain is gone…works like a charm.

  • Kahle says:

    Hey Crystal I’m telling you I do have a toddler who does not toddle but scoots on her bottom, she is a late walker and I have never done our wash in anything but cold water but you just have to spend the time pretreating, I have always used the liquid spray shout and the liquid spray oxy clean, spray both of them on the same stain, rub the material together in your hands and wash in cold water and I have NEVER in two years plus had a stain that did not come out! You might give those two together a try. I alway found that hot water made our clothes look miss shaped and worn out way before they were thats why I always have used cold water. Good Luck! Try try and try again! 🙂

  • Lora says:

    I generally only use cold water for laundry, too, and most all stains come out. My typical procedure is: spray on stain treatment (OxiClean), then if the stain is tough make a paste with Biz (which I pretty much keep only for stain treatment), treat and wash again and that usually gets it. The only thing I’ve found that doesn’t succumb to ANYthing is this red clay Alabama dirt where we live-ha!

  • I have one, but its definitely not cheap up front! LOL!

    I just switched to a front loading washer, and I can’t tell you how much it saves and how great it cleans! I bought it using all kinds of deals and only paid $100 oop for it, so I’m pretty proud of it. Anyway, the other day I was opening a jar of black apricot jam I’d bought at a farmer’s market. The jar splattered ALL OVER my church clothes–white ones. Red stains everywhere! I was so worried it wouldn’t come out. To add insult to injury, I ran upstairs to change and in the rush out the door forgot to put them in the wash right away. It was 8 pm before I could get them in the wash, and I thought they were goners. Nope. A tiny bit of detergent, a tiny bit of water, and a COLD wash (!!) and it all came out the first time!

    I am totally amazed at how little energy and water this thing uses, and it gets out all of my kids stains! And mine! It uses less than a 1/4 of the water a typical washer uses, is quieter and cleans better! Its a long term savings–will be a year or two before it pays for itself–but its definitely worth it for us!

  • Marsha says:

    I think a lot depends on the hardness of your water, and just how COLD your cold water is. Our water is medium-hard, and the municipal water is just above freezing, especially in the winter. I have my washer on warm wash/cold rinse, but the “warm” water is really just about room temperature because of the temperature of the cold water. I do rinse in cold, though.

    I have two teen boys, who regularly get filthy. I had to become a laundry chemist when they were toddlers! I think you just have to experiment on what works for you, given your water conditions, your machines, and the types of stains. I tried so many cheaper detergents, even home-made, but nothing has every worked on my kids’ clothes except Tide. This really aggravates me because it’s usually the most expensive. I pretreat with Zout, and use oxygen bleach (Walmart or Aldi brand is much cheaper than oxyclean, and it’s the same chemically) on my whites, because it’s much gentler than chlorine bleach. I also double rinse in cold water since my husband and sons are sensitive to the chemicals I use.
    I frequently buy stained–but otherwise good quality– clothes at garage sales for real cheap. I get out the stains about 90% of the time. On the others, I strip them of buttons, zippers, etc. for my sewing box and cut them up for rags.
    As for a frugal failure–trying to make everything from scratch, and never buying convenience food has not worked for me. I need to have an easy fix-it meal in the cupboard or freezer on those nights I’m really busy, sick, or extremely tired. It’s bliss to just be able to tell my sons to make some hamburger helper (Walmart or Aldi brand, of course). Much cheaper than ordering pizza.

  • I only use cold too, even for the dirtiest stuff (except the diaper loads). I line dry and it gets all the stains out in the sun (whatever didn’t come out in the wash). For especially dirty loads, I’ll add some borax or washing soda. I haven’t had a problem with stains not coming out yet.

  • SC says:

    Oxy Clean Laundry Stain Remover Spray is the all-time best! I have a 2 year old boy who makes BIG messes and the Oxy Clean gets out everything–blueberries, blood, poop, literally everything. And I have always washed in cold water using cheap generic brand detergent. I usually spray it on the stains before tossing them in the hamper, but occasionally I’ll forget and even after a stained piece of clothing has been washed AND dried I spray Oxy Clean on the stain and it comes out in the next wash! I think there is still hope for your kids’ stained clothing!

  • Sheila says:

    I’m shocked to read this. I have 3 kids under the age of 6 and i only wash in cold. I have NEVER had a stain that i could not get out. I spray with Shout and then mix a little oxyclean in the sink with cold water…soak over night and throw in with the laudry. I have not had an issue. Of course, i must pretreat the stain before throwing it in the laundry. I find if i wash in hot and forget to treat the stain i often set the stain.

  • Pam says:

    Tide cold water works. Most other detergents are mostly water. I have found that tide takes out the stains without pretreating.

  • Beulah says:

    Peroxide can work just as well as a soak for clothes as oxyclean does–great if cvs or somewhere has a good sale on it! It works wonders on natural stains! Soaking in a sink of hot water for a while with oxy or peroxide has always worked wonders for me. Obviously some things just won’t come out, but I’ve been able to get stains out of hand me downs enabling us to use them.

    Another trick I’ve used for stubborn stains is adding a small amount of bleach to the hot water oxy/peroxide mix. I know it sounds noxious, but i’ve had no problems. This only works on lighter fabrics. It will generally fade them, but it’s nothing tragic with light fabrics, even if they do end up white. Leaving them in the sink with the hot water allows them to fade evenly if that happens. It works great as a last ditch effort. If you’re ready to pitch the clothes anyways, what harm can be done?

    We also use only cold water except for towels and heavily soiled items. I’ve found that plain old baking soda or Fantastic work wonders on stains….and the soda really helps the detergent work better if you have hard water or an old machine.

    My biggest flop has been “falling for” BOGO sales at Walgreens without checking Walmart first. I’m much more careful now!

  • Tara says:

    I am not sure why the stains did not come out. My experience is right the opposite. My mom always taught me if you are trying to get a stain out, always use cold because the heat would set it in (that could just be a wives tell). I always use shout (Spray and Wash just doesn’t seem to work as well) or zout for tougher stains. I have also been known to use hairspray for ink if necessary. The only time I use warm or hot water is for sheets so it will kill the germs.

    I will say too that if we go somewhere that might be messy (pick strawberries, blueberries, ice cream shop) I put the girls in white shirts and dark bottoms. And then if a stain doesn’t come out I spot check it and put bleach on it and it’s good as new (on the white only of course). Usually I can’t tell if the dark bottoms got dirty. That doesn’t always work because life is spontaneous sometimes, but we rarely ruined clothes when the girls were smaller. We also stripped them down at the table in warm weather (9 months or more out of the year here) if it was just us. And I still do that with my younger one if it’s spaghetti or pizza. We don’t mind and they are old enough to know that we don’t do this in public or if we have company.

  • Melodie says:

    Hmmm . . . I’ve washed in all cold for years because every time I washed in hot, I always forgot to change the setting on the next load with dark colors. I ruined so many outfits from running colors, that I decided to do all cold. I never had a problem with stains till I switched from Tide to cheaper brands of detergent. That is one of the only products I am brand loyal to. Oxy Clean spot cleaner or Shout Action Gel are both a life saver too now that I have little boys making messes.

    A friend has been giving us detergent from Quick Star that is pretty good. Since it is a gift and it lasts forever before running out, I have been appreciating it. Sometimes I do think I still miss Tide, though.

  • lylah ledner says:

    i only do laundry in cold water and hang sheets on the fence of our pool. don’t have and can’t have a wash line in our scottsdale subdivision. such a shame for desert dweller, so the closest i get is my pool fence. love the fresh smell on our sheets. and i LOVE your new look. fabulous.

  • Heidi says:

    I so agree with this! I almost always use warm water wash for this reason. Cold water also allows underarm stains to build up, when they wash out better with warm or hot.

    My frugal flops are when I buy an article of clothing that shrinks and then I not only can’t wear it, but can’t return it either!

  • Jan says:

    Oxy Clean does not work for me. I have been putting it in every load- hoping it would work on my daughter’s clothes- but no luck! I wash everything in warm except reds in cold. I hang a lot of stuff to dry on wooden racks- but not towels and underwear! Shout has been kind of so- so for getting out stains- but I have the worst luck with food stains.

  • Lisa says:

    I have been washing with cold water only for years. My teenaged son finally started doing laundry, and I noticed that he wants to use hot or warm water to shrink his shirts (and thus show off his muscles). So to save money, I turned off the hot water behind the machine and he doesn’t know the difference. He just sees water coming into the machine and he’s happy.

  • Jessica says:

    I use cold on everything except bedding. I have a 21 month old slob er I mean daughter 🙂 :), and a sweaty, messy husband and I’m often messy myeself. I would say 98% of our stains come out.

    What detergent do you use? I use tide. I also soak any stained items and / or do a prewash.

  • Ruby says:

    Crystal, Don’t give up on cold water in the washing machine just yet! I wash everything in cold and I know this saves lots of money for us. I just pretreat stains and rinse the item out in hot water in the sink, then wash in cold. We have never had a problem with stains and we have 3 messy kids!

  • Lori says:

    I forgot to add that making laundry detergent is also very inexpensive:

    Shred one bar of Fels Naptha and mix with 1 cup Washing Soda and 1 cup Borax. Use 2 tablespoons per load.

    I have been using cold water for a while now and haven’t had a huge problem with stains. (My kids were 2, 4, and 6 when we started with cold water and homemade laundry detergent.) But I wonder how different washers affect the outcome. Our washer is nothing fancy, but it seems to work just fine.

  • Lori says:

    Okay, I am back again, because I just love laundry THAT much.

    I just remembered what my mom used to do. For a long time she had been buying a fancy pre-treater from a company called “Stanley.” She finally figured out that it was basically dish soap. So she switched to dish soap for greasy stains. It is much cheaper, and it always seemed to work.

    Dish soap works on stuff like tomato sauce and chocolate as well as other greasy stains, but not on stains like coffee, tea, rust, or sweat.

  • Susannah says:

    Question: where on earth does one find washing soda these days?

  • Jodie says:

    I have been doing cold only for years, and with two little boys. The key for getting stains out has been the use of Tide, which you can always find deals on! I found once that I tried to get the same stain out a million ways with other detergents, temperatures, stain removers, etc. I washed this item at least ten times. The FIRST time I washed it with Tide, it came out! I was sold, and have been ever since. I’ll still use bargain brands for some things, but when you really want to get it clean…there is nothing like Tide.

  • I’m surprised you had bad results, we haven’t had problems getting stains out of clothes but we also dont have any children. But, it’s awesome that you tried, you never know until you do.

    You could always break up your washes so that you have your heavily stained loads and your lightly stained ones that way you can wash with cold water sometimes and hot water other times. (it’ll beat hot water all the time!)

  • Vanessa says:

    I have used cold only ever since I got my front loader, and I almost never have trouble with stains. The only thing that I pre-treat is blood (I work at a vet clinic, so this is not unusual) with straight hydrogen peroxide, which is cheap and effective. Otherwise, I don’t even look at the clothes until they come out of the washer, if they are stained then, I will treat with plain, cheap dish soap, then put in with the next load of like-colors. Even my dog towels are washed in cold, and they come out smelling fine (I don’t worry about stains with those, though). They do get a double rinse and are *always* put in the dryer as line drying leaves them still furry!

    Speaking of line drying-I, too, hate that stiff feeling that they get from it, so after taking them off the line, I just toss them in the dryer on medium with a rag moistened with water and fabric softener. It only takes about five minutes per load and my fabric softener rag lasts for several loads (using less than I would for a single load in the washer). They come out just as soft as if they were dried entirely in the dryer.

    I do not understand the need to wash towels and sheets in hot water…how are they more “germy” than any other clothes?

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