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Another “Money Diet” Guest Post, this time by Marsi!

September 25th, 2009

Here is a guest post by Marsi, a fabulous writer and editor many of us have begged to start her own blog, but she is probably too busy, so we’ll have to be satisfied with this wonderful guest post. Thank you Marsi!


The Money Diet Does Laundry


“After enlightenment, then laundry.” (Zen proverb)


          Although the U.S. is showing signs of emerging from the serious recession of the last two years, many of us still feel its effects in our own personal economies and are looking for ways to save money where we can. When you consider that major appliances (such as washers and dryers) consume approximately 9 percent of the average household’s energy, the laundry room is as good a place as any to make small changes that can save you money. Today, I share with you some of my tips that might help you realize some savings and, I hope, make the drudgery of laundry a little more pleasant.


Wash in cold water. Would you believe that 95 percent of the energy expended in using your washer comes from heating water? According to the Saving Electricity website (http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/laundry.html), a warm/warm wash-and-rinse cycle costs 39 cents per load, whereas a cold/cold cycle costs a mere 3 cents per load — for an average annual savings of $143. In my experience, washing in cold water gets my laundry just as clean as warm water, while better preserving its colors and sizing.


Consider buying a front-loading washer. Because front-loaders use significantly less water and energy to operate, the long-term savings of replacing a top-loader with a front-loader add up over time. If you need to replace your washer, it’s best to do so with a front-loader. Although it may cost an extra $200 up front, it will pay for itself in long-term energy savings. Also, a front-loader is much gentler on your laundry because it doesn’t use an agitator, which can pull and damage clothing, so your clothes last longer — a hidden savings itself.


Drip-drip dry your laundry. Kick it old-school by installing a clothesline in your backyard. My rowhouse has a huge balcony in lieu of a backyard, which is perfect for a multiple-line retractable clothesline. I use it three seasons a year, from spring to autumn. Indoors, I also use a folding laundry rack for smaller items (such as socks and underwear) and delicates. I have found that not putting my shirts in the dryer keeps their color and texture intact for much longer, which saves me money as well.


Make your own laundry detergent and fabric softener. I came across great recipes for homemade detergent and softener two years ago on Modern Cottage (http://modcottage.com/?p=117) and have used them ever since. Modern Cottage estimates that each batch (which yields approximately 35 loads) costs a mere $2 to make, versus nearly the $10 for the equivalent in Tide. My family and I have detected no difference in the cleanliness and freshness of our laundry; if anything, our clothes seem fresher and less dingy because they don’t have build-up from fabric softeners. The cleansers are so mild that they’re perfect for baby clothing, and if you have sensitive skin or allergies yourself, you’ll be pleased with the results as well.


As you can see in the photo, I store my laundry detergent in a cute tin from Cost Plus World Market and have decanted my fabric softener into a decorative bottle. They add a nice touch to my laundry room and are more aesthetically pleasing to the eye than big plastic jugs of detergent. Although young Wolfgang doesn’t contribute much in terms of labor to my laundry efforts, he — along with everything else in my Laundry Room Still Life — certainly improves the view while I go about my task. 


Laundry Detergent (adapted from Modern Cottage)


2 bars Ivory soap, grated (comes out to about 2 cups)
1 cup borax (available in the laundry aisle of grocery stores and Target)
1 cup washing soda (in the laundry aisle of larger grocery stores, also may be available in some hardware stores)


Blend it all together into a bumpy, granular mix. Add drops of essential oil (lavender is my favorite) to scent your detergent, if you wish. Use 1 tablespoon of detergent for a light load, and 2 tablespoons for a large or dirty load.


Note: I urge you not to destroy your food processor by using it to grate bars of soap. Please trust me on this. If you have a standing mixer (such as a KitchenAid) that comes with a metal grating attachment, you’ll make quick work of this task. If not, please do it by hand with a cheese grater and enjoy the firmer biceps that undoubtedly will be yours after this exercise. Do not use any appliance that has plastic moving parts because grating soap overworks the motor, causing the plastic parts to break or melt. Please, use only an appliance that has metal moving parts to grate soap.



Fabric Softener (adapted from Modern Cottage)


1 gallon distilled white vinegar

25-30 drops essential oil


Use 1/4 cup per load to eliminate static, soften laundry, and rinse away soap residue.



  1. September 25th, 2009 at 07:45 | #1

    Great post Marsi! I’m going to use your instructions for making my own laundry detergent. I like how nice your laundry area looks!

  2. September 25th, 2009 at 08:04 | #2

    I agree with Stephanie, thanks for posting such a useful post, although I have some questions – what is borax and does the softener make your clothes smell like vinegar? I only ask because I’m really interested in making it, the softeners over here, even the non-scented sensitive ones irritate my skin and this could be the lifesave I was looking for! 🙂 Oh and your cat is adorable!

  3. Marsi
    September 25th, 2009 at 09:14 | #3

    Thanks, Stephanie and Lunasa! I wish my laundry room walls were painted (the rest of my house is, so this is my only “white” room), but it would be too hard to paint around the machines in such a tiny space.

    Borax is a mineral detergent that also softens water. 20 Mule Team is the brand I’ve seen in my grocery store. Here is the company website: http://www.20muleteamlaundry.com/

    Washing soda is a bit trickier to find. I’ve never seen it at Target (which does carry borax), but find it easily at my grocery store, which is part of the Kroger chain, in case that’s helpful to anyone. The brand is Arm & Hammer. Washing soda is very similar to baking soda, but differs, I think, in its pH, which makes it better for laundry.

    Vinegar rinses clean away and leaves behind no vinegar scent at all. And it doesn’t seem like it’d be good at eliminating static, but it does.

  4. Heather
    September 26th, 2009 at 13:28 | #4

    Marsi, do you know if this detergent can be put in an HE washer? I am dying to try this! I went to the website you linked, and saw that a few people made comments asking that same question, but no one seemed to know the answer. I would appreciate it!

  5. Marsi
    September 26th, 2009 at 19:37 | #5

    Heather, my front-loader is an HE washer and I’ve used this detergent for two years with no mishaps. It doesn’t get all sudsy, which is one concern, as I understand it, with detergents and HE washers. So go for it!

  6. September 27th, 2009 at 08:14 | #6

    Thank you, Kristi. Thank you Marsi.

    Sometimes I think I should be writing the reverse blog: “What American Women Can Teach Frenchwomen.”

    There’s a nice twist. Maybe we should all get together, a chapter a piece, and write a book. What do you think?

    • Kristi
      September 27th, 2009 at 14:47 | #7

      I’m in : )

  7. BethG
    September 27th, 2009 at 11:51 | #8

    I love this! I’m going to use this recipe as soon as I finish the goliath-sized contained of detergent I just purchased at Costco. I’m looking forward to saving money as well. Do you use bleach with this deterent, same as with commercial detergents?

  8. Marsi
    September 27th, 2009 at 14:23 | #9

    Beth, I don’t use chlorine bleach at all, but I think it would be just fine if you did.

    • Kristi
      September 27th, 2009 at 15:36 | #10

      I have a question for you about line drying. I have line dried my laundry all summer long since my dryer broke.
      Now that it is not hot, I have noticed a BIG problem. My big fluffy white towels which take a long time to dry, actually begin to smell before they dry and I end up washing them AGAIN! If i had a working dryer, I would continue to line dry, but electric dry items like these towels, blankets, etc.
      Right now that is not an option. Do you, or anyone else, have any tips for this problem? Thanks Kristi

  9. Marsi
    September 28th, 2009 at 12:11 | #11

    Kristi, I don’t know what’s going on with your towels, but I sure would be annoyed, just as you are. Maybe try a vinegar rinse? The only times I’ve had laundry smell bad were (1) when I’d left it in the washer overnight and (2) when I got oil from a sugar scrub all over a bath towel as I was toweling off and then the oil left on the towel went rancid. (Yuck. I had to buy a new towel.) Is this a new development for you?

    • Kristi
      September 28th, 2009 at 13:22 | #12

      I’ve never line dried my towels in cooler weather. Also, I live in a very humid part of the country so I’m wondering if that was part of it …. I am going to experiment with hanging it in the dryest, warmest spot int he house next time.

Comments are closed.

What is it about those Italian women? You know the ones I’m talking about: beautiful, sexy, dressed to the nines just to take the kids to the park. They have a certain something that is indefinable. It is in the way they dress, the way they prepare their meals, the way they spend their leisure time.

It is because they know the importance of la bella figura. Roughly translated from Italian, it means putting you best foot forward in everything you do. It means cutting a beautiful figura. The opposite of la bella figura is la brutta figura, which is what someone might say about the falling down drunken guy at the party or the super tackily dressed woman at church. It means ugly figure.

La bella figura is much more than your appearance. It goes much deeper than that. It is about how you act. It is about how you treat others. It is about how you care for yourself, your home and your family. Living a life in line with la bella figura doesn’t take money. In fact, it is more about how to have class without a lot of money.

Someone who exudes la bella figura will have clean, pressed clothes and be well groomed. They will not be rude or sloppy. Their fingernails will be impeccably groomed. Their hair shiny and clean and their shoes will be polished. They will not have stray threads hanging from their suit hems. They will not be driving a car in need of the car wash.

La bella figura means driving that 15 year old car and meticulously cleaning it and caring for it. It means keeping your belongings in good repair. It means taking time to clean your house and not cluttering it up with meaningless objects.

When you focus all your spare energy, time and money on the things that bring you the most amount of pleasure, then you are truly living a life in line with la bella figura. The best part about it is that you don’t have to be Italian to do so. You just have to think like an Italian.

Italian children are raised to present la bella figura in whatever they do. From the time they are small and are groomed perfectly to attend church or school, they know that appearances count. They count because it is the first thing people judge about you. That first impression does matter. Appearances are also important because when you take the time to look nice, you are showing that you care about yourself. When you care enough to look good, it shows you have good healthy self esteem. Nothing is more attractive than self confidence.

In addition, dressing nice also shows respect for others. If you invite people over for dinner and greet them in flip flops, baggy sweats and a stained shirt, it is really disrespectful to them. The same if you dress sloppy to go to church or even to the market. By dressing nicely and being well groomed, you show respect for everyone in your world.

Having la bella figura means presenting yourself in the best light possible in all your interactions.