Dirty Laundry: Secrets of Your Washer and Dryer

Could your clothes be dingy from too much soap? And what's the number-one reason your dryer doesn't dry?

Things you don't know about your washer and dryer that could save you time and money:

Detergent: Do We Use Too Much or Too Little?

Too much!

The truth is, most clothes would get plenty clean just from the agitation of the water in the machine. But what do we do? We fill up the detergent lid or dispenser to the very top. That can wreck your machine long-term and make your clothes stiff short-term.

So here's a concept! Read the instructions on the box or bottle. Many brands come with multiple fill lines for different-sized loads now and you can experiment with using even less than recommended. If you want to see if you've been using too much detergent, throw a few towels in your washer without soap. Run it for five minutes on hot and if you see suds, that soap is coming from your towels. If your skin is always irritated, that could be why.

What About Water Temperature?

My mom won't like this, but cold water is perfectly fine for all but the toughest laundry loads -- clothes with oily stains on them, for example. Ninety percent of the energy your washer uses goes to heating up the water. Switch to cold and you'll save money and your clothes will last longer. Even switching to warm instead of hot can cut your costs in half.

What About That Mildew Smell Some Washing Machines Get?

Cutting back on your soap will help because the soap scum lingers and provides a place for bacteria to breed.

Another possibility is to run a cup of bleach through an empty washer once a month, but consult your owner's manual before doing this. Some recommend it, others don't.

On to the Dryer: Lint Is the Enemy

Cleaning the lint trap is not enough.

Your dryer has an air vent that releases hot air to the outdoors. Eventually, it clogs up with lint. Not only will your dyer stop drying, you could set your house on fire.


Dirty Laundry: Getting the Most from Your Washer-Dryer

The vents can be 30 to 40 ft. long and you need to vacuum or snake them out once a year. Also, check for birds' nests. Birds love the warm air and fresh scent.

Another no-no: Don't use multiple dryer sheets. One's enough. Too many and you'll have not just lint, but sticky lint.

Click HERE for tips on improving the efficiency and durability of your other household appliances.

Does Over-drying Clothes Waste Money?

Many of us are guilty of dryer overkill because it's so annoying to keep checking the thing and finding the clothes -- especially if the waistbands of jeans -- are still wet.

But since we don't read our owner's manuals we often don't realize that many modern dryers have moisture sensors that cause them to stop when the clothes are dry. That's if you use the sensor setting instead of just hitting time dry. Try it. You'll like it.