1. Make sure you've got a full load
If you're going to use your washing machine then you really ought to try to do so in the most efficient way possible. Some machines have settings that alter the programmes to accommodate half loads, but the most efficient way to wash has to be to only put it on when you have a full load – it's unlikley that a washing machine really reduces the energy and water used by half if you put it on a half load setting.
This might mean sometimes having to wait a day or so before you put a load on, especially if you're trying to wash all whites together and most people wear patterned things, but I doubt that you'll really run out of clothes in that time.
2. Minimise detergent usage
As well as the cost of water and electricity to run your washing machine the detergent you put in it is another expenditure. Read the back of your detergent's packaging carefully to understand how much you need for a load and check what it says if you have hard water in your area.
There are some theories which say that with modern washing machines you don't really need washing detergent for most day to day wear of clothing. Obviously if you're washing babies' nappies or work in a dirty environment you may need something more to shift the dirt, but the agitation of the machine often does the trick alone. Try it and if it works for you then that's an instant cost saving!
One very green alternative to detergent is to use soapnuts. One set of soapnuts can be reused between 3 and 8 times (depending on if you have soft or hard water) and then can be composted, rather than going into landfill. Using soapnuts also means that you won't have detergent clogging up your washing machine's pipes, which is something that can reduce the machine's life. Per wash they also cost less than detergent does.
3. Make the most of the weather
I know it's very difficult when you have a young family to not have a tumble dryer to use when you need to, but lots of families do manage without one and before they were invented people still washed and dried clothes without problems.
If possible, plan to do your washing on days when the weather is good enough for you to hang it outside to dry. On a hot sunny day with a bit of a breeze a load of washing can easily dry within an hour on a washing line in the garden. If you get organised and put the machine on when you go to bed in an evening you can get the first load up on the line first thing the next morning and make the most of the day's nice weather.
If you don't have outside space invest in a foldable airer for inside. Something like this
doesn't take up much space once folded, but does have enough space on it to hang up an entire washing load. Place it somewhere where there is a draft in your house and is possible in front of a sunny window to help the drying.
Cutting down tumble dryer usage will greatly help your electricity usage, and help the planet too.
4. Read care labels.
I know they're not the most thrilling thing, but do you know what all the care symbols on the labels on your clothes mean? Admittedly many modern day things can just be thrown in on a 40 degree wash and come out fine, but the last thing you want to do is accidentally shrink a new top just because you didn't realise it was supposed to go on a wool cycle – trust me I've been there myself!
Understanding how best to wash your clothes means that you can treat them correctly and then they're likely to remain wearable for much longer too – therefore saving you money from not having to replace them so quickly.
If you're unsure what the symbols mean then there's a great guide that I've found here.
5. Use your iron sparingly.
I'm not suggesting that you should go out looking like a crumpled mess, but perhaps question what you do iron. Not only do you need electricity to run your iron, but some materials may actually become slightly damaged by the iron's high temperatures and ironing them very regularly could mean they don't last as long.
If you line dry clothes and hang them out carefully you can avoid ironing many things and not have to spend as long ironing some others. Getting creases out of something that's been in the tumble dryer on a high heat is never simple.
What tips do you have for being thrifty whilst doing your laundry?