How Much Money Do You Pay to Use Your Clothes Washing Machine?

To calculate how much money you spend every year to wash your clothes in your washing machine, you need to consider 3 cost streams:

  1. The amount you pay for water.
  2. The cost you pay to heat your water.
  3. The price of electricity that’s required to operate your washing machine.

These cost streams are impacted not only by how often you do your laundry, but also by what types of washing machine and water heater you have.

Water Costs

The average washing machine in the US uses about 31 gallons of water per load. The average US household does about 320 loads of laundry per year! This puts the average washing machine’s annual water consumption at almost 9,900 gallons. With water utility companies charging an average price of $0.015 per gallon, that puts the annual cost of water at $149.

For a more accurate count of the gallons of water your washing machine uses per load, check out the specifications in your owner’s manual. Some settings have lower water usage than others, so they can save you significant money on your water bill.

Hot Water Costs

The cost to heat water greatly depends on the type of water heater you have and which type of fuel it uses. Check out our episode on water heaters to learn more!

But anyway, about 20% of the water used in washing machines is heated in the water heater beforehand. The average US household spends $296 per year to heat the hot water that they use. About 12% of this hot water is used for clothes washing machines. This puts the annual cost of hot water for washing machines at about $36. 

Operating Costs

Similar to dishwashers, washing machines require electricity to operate their controls and moving parts. The EIA estimates that the average washing machine uses about 59 kWh of electricity per year to operate. At an average rate of $0.12 per kWh, this adds another $7 per year to your washing machine expenses.

You can check your washing machine’s specifications to see how much electricity it requires to operate. This amount will vary across washing machine models and across different wash settings.

Putting It All Together

Summing the costs of water, hot water, and operating electricity, the average US household spends about $192 per year to wash their clothes in their washing machine. With an average of 2.6 people per household, that’s about $74 per person per year. 

How Can You Reduce the Cost to Use Your Clothes Washing Machine?

There are several simple strategies for reducing the cost of washing your clothes.

Wash Fewer Loads

You might be thinking, “How can I wash fewer loads? I wear clothes every day!” Well, there are a few different tactics for reducing the amount of laundry loads that you need to keep your clothes clean:

  • Wash only full loads. Make sure to run your washing machine only when it is full. Running loads that are half full doubles your laundry costs!
  • Don’t separate colors. With the exception of some delicate clothing items, there is no harm in washing all your clothes together in one load. To avoid bleeding colors, it’s best to wash in cold water. If you’re concerned about your white clothes, you can bleach them in cold water in their own separate load.
  • Rewear clothes. Instead of washing every clothing item after 1 wear, you can usually get at least 2 wears out of shirts, jackets, and pants before putting them in the machine. If you hang up your clothes after wearing them to let them air out, they’ll be fresh enough to wear them for a second round!

Use Cold Water

Using cold water to clean your clothes eliminates all hot water expenses. It’s okay to use hot water every once in a while for white clothing or to disinfect the clothing of someone who has been sick. But in general, washing clothes with cold water gets the job done!

Upgrade!

EnergyStar washing machines use only about 14 gallons of water per load, as opposed to the national average of 31 gallons per load. This brings down the average annual expense of washing machines from $192 to just $90. And be sure to purchase a washing machine that has the door on the front of the machine as opposed to the top of the machine. Front load washers are much more efficient than top load washers, so they can save you money in the long run.

Would You Save Money by Using a Laundromat?

About 20% of US households don’t have a washing machine. While many neighborhoods and apartment complexes have communal laundry facilities, public laundromats are commonly used to wash clothes. The average cost for one load of laundry in a washing machine at a laundromat is about $2. So if your household does the national average of 320 loads per year, that’s $640 just to wash clothes. 

But if the average household only did 1 load per person per week, the annual cost for a laundromat could be as low as $270. This is still higher than the $192 that the average household with a washing machine spends on washing clothes, but isn’t that bad if you consider the capital costs of purchasing the washing machine in the first place.

So if you are within walking distance of a laundromat, the laundromat might be the more cost-effective option. But if you have to drive there, you might spend enough money on gas that it would just be worth it to purchase your own front load, Energy Star washing machine. 

Disclaimer: Please consult with a professional before making any upgrades to your clothes washing machine, laundry room, or home. Any and all upgrades should maintain proper health, safety, and sanitation levels within your homes. It All Adds Up and its affiliates are not responsible for any household damage or personal injuries that should occur from following any suggestions from It All Adds Up.

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