Saturday, March 20, 2010

DRYING YOUR LAUNDRY ON A LINE IN FRESH AIR - heirloom skill worth revisiing

Well, I am still on the laundry.  I told you to reduce your laundry detergent in my St Patricks post. Today I want to talk to you about line drying. Drying your clothes on a line in the backyard invokes many different images. Some may dream of the clean sweet smell as you collect them from the line on a lemonade scented afternoon. Some may think of how much they are saving by not running that energy hog drier. Sadly, many will think of the lint riddled, stiff as a board towels they took down the first time they tried to dry in the sun. Worse, some will groan about better uses for their time and sniff at the silly waste of opportunity.

Let me address each of these images, started with the last one first. Is drying your clothing without a drier as waste of time and opportunity? Well, strictly speaking - yes. Of course it is quicker to dry clothes in a hot drier powered by a quarter ton of coal being burned to generate the electricity off at the power plant. I would argue, that if you do not care about saving the environment, you might enjoy saving the money needed to run an unnecessary appliance. But let us hit that opportunity cost idea. That concept is a hideously corrupting idea dragged into our homes from the business world. The idea is that one should compare the value of everything we do to the rate of earnings we could make spending that time working. So, if anything you do does not generate or save dollars equal to the rate at which one gets paid - it is a waste of time. Hogwash! First of all, this idea assumes that the dollar is the only measure by which we can get paid. If this were true, every minute we spend with loved ones, every time we went to a play or a picnic was a waste.

Now, it might be true that the time you spend drying clothes might be spend on preparing that picnic, but that would cloud my argument so we won’t deal with that. Seriously, I understand that you have to prioritize your time. But, you can have clean, fresh cloths, without spending a ton on dirty electricity, save money and still have a good value for your time. If your time is so precious that 30 minutes of it cannot possibly be wasted or western civilization will perish, then by all means run the damn drier. But for the rest of us, here is a way to make both ideas meet in the middle. Take the time to hang and dry you clothes on a line. How much time are we talking – well it can take from 30 minutes to hours depending on the weather. So, to be sure you get your money’s worth out of that time let’s examine a few things. First, it takes about 3 hours for your jeans to dry but the sun and air are doing all the work. All the effort you put in is in the hanging up and taking down. How long can that be? I would propose that it can certainly be done in less than half an hour. It would take at least 10 minutes to put them in and out of a drier. That leaves us 20 minutes of time that we have stolen from productivity. So, to preserve the sacred order of the economy and prevent the world from flying off its axis, let us find a way to make those 20 minutes count. Now mind the 20 minutes really are gone – you spent them outdoors in fresh air, but they are gone. Well, let’s examine what benefits can be wrung from those 20 minutes.

1) Time to be alone and think – trust me no one will hang around you if there is manual labor to be done. Take this time to plan the rest of the day – assuming you can hang and think at the same time or has television removed that faculty?

2) 20 minutes can be used to do stretching and breathing exercises.

3) You can spend the time examining your laundry. Stains you may have missed or minor repairs that need to be made can be identified. This will save costly replacement or professional repairs later – the ultimate in opportunity cost!

4) Oh who cares, it is only 20 minutes – If your life is that critical for time you need more that laundry advice.

So, hopefully, that puts to bed the idea that air drying is a waste of opportunity. Let us move on to the problem of stiff and lint covered laundry that some of us have met with when we first tried air drying. The drier helps to reduce lint by a mechanical means and it does a very good job of it. If we are going to avoid the machine and air dry then we have to address the lint issue.

Well, hmm, yeah ok, it takes some more work. But nothing that will shatter the universe I promise. Simply, separate your laundry and wash real lint problems by themselves. The main culprit is going to be towels and fleece items. There, see, problem solved and usually there are enough towels to warrant their own load anyway. How to we avoid that stiff as a board problem. I have to confess, I have taken things off the line before that I feared might break if I folded them. Well, luckily for you the answer to this problem has been addressed already. Remember my post on cutting way down on the laundry detergent? Well, here is another great benefit from that simple living idea. Once again, suds and residue are the problems. If you use too much detergent – anything more than half is way too much – you are going to have residue. This icky chemical buildup is one of the main reasons for stiff, crunchy towels. If you reduce the detergent to half or less you will find that among a dozen other blessings it will make your towels feel softer – even if you use the drier by the way. If you do not get the results right away do not panic. Residue builds up over a long time and it can take time to wash it all out. A couple of cups of white vinegar in the wash water will help if you are impatient.

Now let’s talk money. The drier is one of the most energy intensive appliances the average house. Even a modern drier uses more than twice the energy of a washing machine and can be the second biggest user of electricity in a busy home. Number one is central air and heat. Now if we use the official results of the energy rating takes we find on new appliances we determine that it costs about $140 dollars a year. This does not seem like that much, but remember, these are the little tags on the appliances that tell you it only cost $114 a year to run a side by side refrigerator and $14 to run my toaster. If those numbers are accurate – then how do I pay over $180 a month? What I am saying is that those numbers are bogus and you will save far more than $140 because you spend far more. Before I go on to rant about the BS those ratings are and how they serve to increase corporate profit, let me just say – you will save heap big money.

Whew, okay I have covered the idea of opportunity waste, solved the problem of stiff and linty laundry, and shown that you can save a lot of money – all by air drying your clothes. Heck I think I even threw in time for yoga. Now, I realize that air drying is an heirloom skill that our mothers gladly tossed away as soon as they could get their hands on a Kenmore drier. But those were those days and these are our days. Wouldn’t you like to help save the planet when it is in so much trouble? Wouldn’t you like to save money when it is in such short supply? Well, this is a simple living win win solution that we can all use. Maybe you won’t dry all your laundry on a line, that’s ok. I own a nice energy efficient Fisher and Paykel drier and I use it when I need to. But, I also take the time to hang my own clothes up in my own backyard and carry them back in that afternoon fresh and sun kissed. I always smile when I take those towels off the line and I cannot say I ever smile when hauling things out of the drier. That has to be worth something. Gosh, that reminds me - I haven’t covered the image of warm laundry on a lemonade scented afternoon. Well, I will leave that up to your imagination. Unless…. You just happen to have some nylon line available – then you can experience it for yourself. Go on.. It’s easy and it’s rewarding.


  1. Personally, I adore crunchy towels. It's invigorating to dry off with one.

  2. LOL - well let me tell you that is great simple living thinking there. They are not crunchy towels - they are circulation enhancing spa style exfoliating towels. 10 points for redefining success

  3. I am going to say that you can air dry your clothes even if you do not have the luxury of a clothes line. I have a family of four and I dry all my laundry year round on clothes drying racks. When the weather cooperates I place the racks out in the driveway. Most of the time I simply do laundry last thing in the evening. I hang clothes on a rack in the middle of the living room and a rack in the middle of the kitchen if one of the racks has exfoliating towels on it or jeans I simply turn the ceiling fan overhead so that I am sure they will be dry when I get up in the morning.

  4. Thanks mary those are all very useful tips. I sometimes forget not everyone has access to the hot florida sun


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