10 Reasons You Should Line Dry Your Clothes…If You Can.

January 11, 2010

There is a big movement afoot to “legalize” the line drying of your laundry. Shamefully, it is actually illegal in many places around the U.S. to hang your clothes out to dry. Some people complain that it lowers their property value or it makes them feel as though they live in a ghetto because they occasionally see a few t-shirts blowing in the wind. To those people I say – you need to reassess your priorities or take up a new hobby.

The clothes dryer has become the biggest energy hog in the majority of homes, which in 2001 accounted for about 6% of our total energy use. And I am betting it is a higher percentage now, as other appliances have become more energy-efficient while dryers really haven’t changed that much. In fact, they don’t even participate in the Energy Star program because the DOE says none of them are any more efficient than any other one on the market.

While I don’t (and can’t really outside, as it is illegal here too in my complex, but I do it anyway in small batches) line dry my clothes nearly as often as I should (or like I did in New Mexico, which was almost every time I did laundry), there are many important reasons to try to do it as much as you can, such as:

1. It saves me money. Running a dryer costs a lot compared to all other appliances in your house.
2. My clothes last much longer. Clothes dried in a dryer each week tend to tear and break apart faster than those dried by hanging in normal air temperature.
3. The sun whitens my whites – for free and without toxic bleach.
4. Conserves a ton of energy. How can I write on being “green” every day and not try to save a little energy where I can?
5. Sunlight kills bed bugs just like a dryer does.
6. Not much smells better than clothes that were hung outside all day to dry.
7. In the summer, line drying helps to keep the house cool. Running a dryer tends to warm the place up!
8. A breeze makes a hell of a fabric softener. I don’t know when people were convinced that they needed chemical fabric softener, but my clothes are always soft without it – whether they get hung outside or come out of the dryer.
9. Clothing doesn’t shrink when hung outside versus forced to dry in a heated tumbler.
10. And lastly, I think hanging laundry looks pretty cool. When I used to travel to Europe and see that everyone had laundry hanging on their balconies, I really thought that it added something to the feeling in the city, made it feel more “lived-in”. I would like to see more of it here in the U.S.

It’s hard to believe that in these crazy times of war, recessions, hunger, spiraling debt, uncontrolled gang violence, and any other number of important subjects, that some people actually have the interest (or time) to try to stop people from hanging up clean laundry outside their own homes in order to conserve our natural resources. So go on – line dry your clothes if you can. And if you can’t, then work to get it legalized in your community. If you need help with how to get started, check out Project Laundry List. Yes, it’s ridiculous that any of us would even have to go that far, but like I said earlier, there are many people who need a new hobby.

Photo from Shutterstock

Filed in: Environment • Tags: , ,
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Comments (12)

  1. tigerlily says:

    I’ve always wondered when and why line drying became illegal? I almost always line dry, but since I’m in a building that mean hanging my laundry around my apartment. It takes awhile, and maybe isn’t the best time to have someone pop by but I think it makes the whole apartment smell great!

  2. Ellen says:

    During the the winter I hang my clothes on wooden drying racks which I placed over my home heating vents, thereby adding needed moisture to the room(s)while getting the clothes dry.

  3. When I was growing up, I lived in a neighborhood where clotheslines weren’t allowed specifically because they said it lowered property value. Even as a kid, I knew it was counter intuitive. But as a kid, I also accepted it.

    I hang dry all my clothes now, and my electricity bill went from about $65 to about $40 per month. Can you believe it?

  4. Jill says:

    The best way to keep line drying is to give up the clothes dryer! I haven’t had one for years and I do just fine. It rains/snows all winter where I am so I have 2 wooden racks (one for darks and one for lights…otherwise you can get faint “stripes” across the light clothes) that I set over my heat vents. The clothes dry overnight. Even blankets and sleeping bags dry within a day. If you need something quicker, put a fan on low pointed at the clothes and they will be ready in a couple of hours.

    Not only do you save energy on the electric bill, your clothes last much longer. All that lint in the dryer is fabric from your clothes that gets ground off while the clothes are banging into each other.

    In the summer I dry outside on a line and since I live in a semi arid area, my clothes are often dry within an hour.

    If you live in a VERY cold climate (well below zero fahrenheit temps) you can freeze-dry your clothes in the winter. Hang them outside and the moisture will be drawn out and freeze as frost on the outside of your clothes. Just whack and shake them a few times to get the frost off and they will be almost dry when you bring them in. People in Siberia use this method.

  5. April in Autumn says:

    I always tried to line dry and funnily enough, it was easier when I lived in Cleveland where it’s cold most of the year. There, we had laundry lines hung in the basement so I could line dry everything.
    In California, my current and last place I’ve lived have banned air drying. In the last one I got around it by hanging my laundry line below the fence around our patio enclosure and bringing everything in promptly. In my new place the HOA (which I believe is evil incarnate) won’t allow it. I can be fined for trying to reduce my energy consumption! And the place is too small to line dry inside.

    I can’t wait to move somewhere where common sense is more important than looking perfect.

  6. You can dry small batches of clothes in any apartment with a bathtub. Put the wooden clothes drying rack in the bathtub and turn on your bathroom fan.

  7. Paige says:

    I had also previously done a list of tips to help improve the ec friendliness of doing laundry… http://www.thebudgetecoist.com/archive/eco-laundry-options-go-green/

    A simple change I wish manufacturers of washers and dryers would employ? Presets should always default to cold water. Whites should not = hot water wash.

  8. Tyler says:

    The best thing to do is to get a water softener for your washer. This will help extend the life of your clothes and you will not have to use as much detergent. ECO Water, is the best company there is to get these great systems for your house.

  9. Brent says:

    I’ve created a great solution for air drying laundry indoors. It mounts directly to a window and provides for air drying of clothing using ventilation and solar energy. It mounts in seconds and works better than you could hope! Best part is we’re offering a special price to kick start the new year! http://www.windowdry.com

  10. Tyler says:

    In defense of the dryer… The only way to reactivate the water repellent finish on many outdoor jackets is with the heat of a drier. This is explicitly explained by Patagonia here: http://www.thecleanestline.com/2008/08/the-care-feedin.html . However, otherwise, line drying is a solid choice. Typically it’s the only one here in Japan.

    • David Quilty says:

      Of course, there are always exceptions. Thanks for reminding us Tyler. I still use the dryer sometimes too, but try to use the clothesline when possible.

  11. Aussie says:

    It is legal in the whole of Australia I am very suprised it’s illegal in some countries!