NEW YORK (MoneyTalkNews) -- Ever look at the label on your laundry detergent? Every so often it reads, “New & Improved!” But when you stop to think about it, how new is soap? And how do you improve it?

That’s a financial question as well as a philosophical one. A typical American family does about 400 loads of laundry every year – or about eight loads a week, according to the California Energy Commission.

And it isn’t cheap. Laundry detergent alone costs about 20 cents per load. Add that up and you’re spending $80 a year on soap. But you don’t have to.

Check out the recipe for homemade laundry detergent below, plus more tips for saving – while washing and drying…

1. Skip the detergent
Want to save 100 percent on laundry detergent? Don’t use any at all. Modern washing machines work by agitating laundry in water. The agitation is enough to clean lightly soiled clothing. Don’t believe that? The blog Funny about Money conducted just such an experiment and concluded, “By and large, all of the freshly washed clothing came out with an odor: It smelled of clean water!”

2. Make your own detergent
When you do need detergent, you can save about 90 percent by making your own, as discussed in this video.

Ingredients

•1 bar of soap
•3 gallons plus 4 cups of water
•1 cup borax
•½ cup washing soda
Directions

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Grate the bar of soap with a cheese grater. Drop the pieces into the boiling water and cook until the soap dissolves. Pour 3 gallons of water into a large bucket. Add in the soap and water mixture. Add in one cup of borax and half a cup of washing soda. Stir until the ingredients thicken. Use about ¼ cup (the size of a normal laundry detergent cap) per wash cycle.

Former Money Talks News staffer Jim Robinson actually used this recipe. His results: “I made and washed several loads of clothes with the homemade detergent. And I, like many before me who’ve traveled this road, couldn’t tell the difference between store-bought and homemade.”

His cost: 2 cents per load – a savings of 18 cents compared to traditional laundry detergent.

3. Use less
If you’re using store-bought laundry detergent, don’t pour in an entire capful. Laundry detergent caps have a line about halfway down – the amount the manufacturer wants you to use for soiled clothes. See if you can use less and achieve the same result. Unless my clothes are truly dirty, I only use about 2 tablespoons per load – about half the recommended amount.

4. Don’t wash as often
I save the most on laundry by doing less of it. I’ll wear the same jeans two days in a row, use the same towel for three showers, and hang up anything I’ve worn less than a couple of hours. It’s all still clean, so why wash it again? I’ve cut down from five loads of laundry per week to three this way.

5. Don’t buy dry-clean only
A friend of mine buys dry-clean-only linen shirts for work. He goes through five shirts a week. Our local dry cleaner charges $2.50 per shirt, which adds up to:

•$12.50 per week
•$50 per month
•$600 per year
For half that much, he could buy really high-end washable shirts. Bottom line: Check the tag before you buy and stick to machine-washables.

6. Buy store brands in bulk
You’ll save money buying laundry detergent in huge sizes from bulk stores, but you’ll save even more buying the bulk store’s generic brand. In 8 Massive Ways to Save at Bulk Stores, I break down the cost of Tide and Sam’s Club’s brand Members Mark:

•Tide with ActiveLift, 170 ounces/110 loads = $19.98
•Member’s Mark Liquid Laundry Detergent, 225 ounces/146 loads = $13.68

7. Wash in cold water only
In “Green Up” Your Laundry, Stacy says almost 90 percent of the energy used by your washing machine is used to heat the water. Personally, I wash everything in cold water with any kind of laundry detergent I have on hand – and my clothes always come out clean.

But if you don’t want to use cold, use the warm setting with a cold rinse. Switching from hot to warm can cut energy use by 50 percent.

To clean up your laundry act and "clean up" on all the savings, read the rest of this article here on MoneyTalkNews.