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At the close of 2019 I find myself checking out some suggestions for thrifty living. The world has thrown some nasty curves at us this year, mostly after I retired. That made me dip into savings more than I wanted to. Thus the new interest in frugal tips for 2020. Here are a few.
Frugal tip #1: Dryer balls
In the recent past, someone decided to throw felted woolen balls into the dryer to replace fabric softeners, both sheet and liquid-in-the-wash. I didn’t think too much about it at first, thinking it was a little odd and wondering how it could possibly work.
Then I went to the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival in charming Tunbridge, Vermont. There I saw many wondrous things, including felted woolen dryer balls sold in packages of three for $20 each.
Hah, I said to myself, I have plenty of leftover wool for balls. I’ll try it at home for less. Sure enough, the recipe was on Pinterest. I wound up three balls of real wool yarn about the size of billiard balls while watching a movie, tied them into a knee-high nylon one by one, and threw them in the next hot load.
After washing, I ran them through the dryer and then cut them out of the stocking. Three felted dryer balls for free, basically, from stuff just lying around.
Do they work?
I use them mainly in clothing loads. With the dryer balls no extra stuff goes into the fabric, so the clothing is just clean. It doesn’t have to smell like anything; if it did, I could dribble essential oil in the balls and the laundry would have a cheery scent of something.
I have little or no static to report either. Of course, we don’t use much polyester.
Sometimes you have to dig the balls out of tee shirts or pants, but usually they wind up in the bottom of the dryer.
The only complaint was with my husband’s undershorts, the woven ones that aren’t very fine but are quite new. For now we’re putting liquid softener in the wash for that load and drying without woolen balls, so he can be comfortable in them.
Because softeners tend to make fabric less absorbent, I don’t use them on sheets and towels, and the balls would be inconvenient to find in these loads. But with cotton, static isn’t a huge problem so who cares?
So currently I use dryer balls for outer clothing, softening the undies only. Jeans come out with no wrinkles, as opposed to jeans with softener, which had creases randomly distributed if I didn’t stand right there and pull them out when the cycle stopped. Less wrinkling overall, and plenty soft enough for us.
Plus all our microfiber cleaning cloths are clean and not coated with stuff that makes them less useful.
Frugal Tip #2: Speaking of cloths…
My husband became a fan of microfiber cloths, made from recycling plastic, for wiping up spills on our newish refrigerator. It’s got the stainless steel finish, and it agrees with microfiber–if the microfiber is washed without softener. He buys them at Harbor Freight where they’re cheap.
I have to agree with him. Microfiber cloths do extremely well with the stainless steel doors, keeping the gooey spots, smudges and streaks to a minimum. I only wish the fronts of the doors were actually magnetic. The cloth we keep at the fridge is hung on a handle and it falls off a lot. I’ll just put it on the side with a magnetic clip.
We also have microfiber mop covers for the Swiffer squirt mop, so we don’t have to keep buying special pads to throw away. When the mop cover gets grubby, into the wash with it.
Even dry Swiffers can use a cloth instead of paper disposable pads. More savings for you.
#2.1: Cotton towels
I’m a weaver as well as an all-around fiber snob/worker. That means I’ve woven many cotton tea towels for the home. I’ve had most of them for years. These things are great for drying dishes, of course, but they’re good for much more.
For example, with our hard water, it’s important to wipe off water drops from chrome fixtures so you don’t get those spots on them. Cotton towels do just fine at that. They also dry your hands or a juicy apple, wrap homemade bread, or polish silver if you happen to do that.
Then into the wash they go.
Big spill? A couple of raggedy old bath towels in the closet will get things under control till you get the mop out.
If you don’t weave, get cotton dish towels wherever they’re cheapest and use them instead of paper towels. Get plenty and you won’t miss the paper even on laundry day.
#2.2: Ditch the paper napkins too
A friend of mine, who taught me to weave, has piles of informal handwoven napkins in a basket that she uses instead of paper napkins. Again, nonweavers can buy cloth napkins at cheap places and wash them for reuse. I still have plenty of cotton yarn to make them with.
My friend taught her family to use the napkins at their places for three meals and then they’re washed. If you think about it, wiping one’s mouth three times on a piece of cloth isn’t too much, plus some sticky fingers occasionally.
And when a kid made a big mess he could get a new napkin easily enough with which to finish the day. On balance it worked for her for years.
When you use dryer balls in the dryer with cloth napkins, they aren’t really wrinkly, just fold them up and put them away.
Frugal tips results
OK, so going back over things I find that I’ve saved some money. Sure, we spent a few dollars on microfiber towels and the mop covers, but they’ll last for years. So will our cotton towels. Many knitters will find they can do dryer balls for nothing extra; others, be sure to get woolen ones and don’t pay more than $20 for 3.
That’s amazing to me; maybe I should go into business. Designer dryer balls. Hmmm…With the leftovers from avocado socks!
Anyway, this cuts down on use of fabric softeners for us, maybe eliminating them for you. That stuff isn’t cheap. What, $6-7 a bottle?
Cutting paper products means another $2-5 a month for decent napkins and about $1 a roll for paper towels. What do Swiffer pads cost now? They’re not exactly cheap.
Not to mention the volume of waste generated. We pay $1.70 a bag to throw stuff out. Then all those trees are in a landfill while we need them to suck up carbon dioxide out in the woods. So you benefit and the world is a little better off too. That’s a fair amount of benefit for little effort and expense.
Happy 2020! Share your frugal tips in Comments!