Oh, how this wannabe housewife loves to write lists. This week in Femme Economics, I have another list of helpful hints that will save your purse and the environment and still keep you and the “Shirt” you love looking good!

I just spent fifty dollars on dry cleaning. Fortunately, I have figured out how to do this only once a year.dry cleaning.jpg

1. Re-wear. If an item is not food-stained or particularly stinky, surprise- you don’t have to wash it! You can chalk this up to my years as a hippy feminist, but it will save money on water, detergent and will make your clothes last so much longer! Repetitive washing and drying strips items of their fibers, making them easier to rip and tear. You will just be doing less laundry this way. Lint-roll it and…

2. Hang it Up! Invest in some hangers that work for the kinds of clothing you wear. Make a point of hanging things up once they are clean or have been slightly worn.

3. Steam. Invest in a good iron. Starching shirts at the cleaners is a little antiquated unless you are a real big-wig. Almost all work places these days are casual enough to walk into wearing a shirt that has been not quite perfectly ironed. Wash and steam your own (or your sweetie’s) dress shirts. This boils down to five minutes a day. You do not have to have an ironing board, a table will do fine, just make sure it is clean and dry and not recently varnished. As our John can attest to, it’s best to iron items straight out of the dryer instead of letting them sit in a pile. It really turns this femme on to iron my girlfriend’s work shirts. Elbow grease and love and some money savin’.

4. Wet Clean Only. When you are out shopping, let “Dry Clean Only” be the sign that keeps you from buying an expensive item. This item is probably pricey to begin with and will consistently cost you beaucoup bucks each time you have to clean it. Not to mention, dry cleaning chemicals are terrible on the environment, air quality in your town and the chemicals stay on your clothing and many in the scientific community believe they are carcinogenic when absorbed through fabric next to the skin.

5. Sun-Dry. Run some string in the yard, porch or balcony and hang the laundry out to dry in sunny weather. I learned this one from my favorite old fashioned housewife friend, Kristin. I love the way my sheets and clothes feel and smell after drying outside. (This works best with a tiny bit of natural liquid softener in the wash). You save quite a bit of energy and money by not drying one load. Kristin points out it’s more fun to fold and easier to hang up afterwards because you don’t have to untangle the items a second time. Kristin’s daughters want me to tell you not to do this with towels, because sun-drying makes them “crunchy”.

6. Try Dr. Bronners as laundry soap. A teeny squirt of this old soap (from a health food store) goes a very long way toward saving money and it’s pure castille formula will mean you are not contributing to the downfall of water habitats for birds, fish and other critters. Other affordable natural options are found at Trader Joes. The natural detergents may seem more expensive until you realize that they are generally more concentrated and last much longer, plus take up less space than a huge box of Tide.

7. Coupons. Okay. I know, some things will have to be dry cleaned. I’m a sequins femme myself. I wear that fancy stuff about five or six times before getting it cleaned, hence only having to go to the dry cleaner once a year. If you must dry clean, find a cleaner that has a frequent patron stamp card for a little money off. I have a 40 percent off card as a frequent customer at a primo shop. It’s worth asking about or suggesting. Also, do check all of that junk mail you get for fabulous twenty percent-off coupons.

8. Switch Pit-Gel. As a chemical-phobe, I usually tell people not to block their pores with the aluminum in antiperspirant. But I know that many people sweat so much or are so atheletic that they are going to use them anyway. If you do, but you are still staining up your shirts, switch to a different product. Often your body builds up a resistance to the chemicals in a product. You might get a second wear out of a shirt this way.

9. Cheat! We all know that some things marked “dry clean only” have come out just fine when you throw them in the wash. Colleen at The Dollar Stretcher will help you figure out which ones you can and can’t cheat on. Truthfully, I do this with ALL of my “dry clean only” pants, most of the shirts and some dresses, always inside out.

My favorite creative hint from her is:

“To reduce the cost of cleaning, home launder garments and have the dry cleaner press them. I do this for silk blouses because I can’t get the wrinkles out as well as they can. I also save about 40% on the cost of full service.”

What won’t help:

From what I’ve read and heard so far, Dryel and other home dry cleaning systems are more trouble than they are worth. They don’t get stains out, they don’t get all smells out, they can be expensive and they are also a chemical product.

Getting a tax deduction for your work clothes if you have a dress code is, unfortunately a big myth. This is only true if it’s a uniform not suitable for every day wear.