How to Build a Solar Clothes Dryer

Emily Wilson

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Were you thinking I was going to tell you how to build something different? Like, say, an off-grid yet electricity-powered clothes dryer that runs off a bank of solar panels on the roof? Guess again. Clothes dryers use so much energy to dry your clothes that there isn’t even an Energy Star rating for them; they just guzzle enery. There is no way of getting around that when you use a dryer you plug into the wall or into a gas line you burn a ton of fossil fuel. However, you can build a solar clothes dryer that uses no energy and releases no carbon emissions; it’s called a clothesline.

How to Build a Solar Clothes Dryer

You can hang dry your clothes inside the apartment, hanging them from a ceiling fan or throwing them over the bathroom shower curtain rod. You can string a line across your kitchen or garage. You can buy a drying rack that folds up neatly and fits in the closet when not in use. Outdoors, you can hang your items from a tree, a railing, your balcony, or an actual clothesline. I use a clothesline, as you can see here:

When I lived in New Mexico, I used an edge of my yard fence, some old rope I found in the car, and a 6 foot downed tree limb I lugged home from the forest to make my clothesline. Here, I didn’t have to do that as someone a long time ago was smart enough to put up two poles and string some line between them. There is no excuse to not have a clothesline of some sort to dry your clothes on, unless you live in one of these communities trying to outlaw outdoor clotheslines. Why do this instead of using an energy-hogging dryer? Here are a few reasons from my list 10 reasons why you should line dry your clothes:

  • Reduces energy use
  • Saves money on your utility bill
  • Saves money by not forcing you to buy a dryer
  • Less wear and tear on clothing
  • No waiting around at the laundromat for the dryer to finish
  • Clothes smell better
  • The sun acts like bleach, making your whites brighter

A Challenge

So this weekend I have a project for you – Build yourself a solar clothes dryer that you can use all summer. If you are so inclined, once you are done send me a picture of it and I will publish it on the site to inspire others. What have you got to lose? A few hours and a few bucks? That’s a small price to pay for everything that you, and our planet, will gain by you going solar when you can. Good luck!

6 thoughts on “How to Build a Solar Clothes Dryer”

  1. For indoors, the way to go is a drying rack. These are space efficient, and are portable, allowing you to bring them into a room conducive to drying, and remove it again. Drying clothes on a rack or line indoors puts needed humidity into the air on dry winter days.

  2. What do you suggest for someone who lives in a damp climate (Washington state), in a small apartment (so not a lot of space), with young kids (so a lot of dirty clothes), in a building surrounded by tall trees (so very little sunlight comes in through the windows)? Line drying doesn’t seem feasible in my situation.

    • I would set up a dryer rack in the bathtub if you have one. Except for the few minutes a day it is in use, it’s mostly wasted space that could be better utilized. Just fold it up when you need to shower or take a bath!

  3. “an off-grid yet electricity-powered clothes dryer that runs off a bank of solar panels on the roof”

    Totally what I was thinking. 😉

    I wish we had a little more of that solar power here for outdoor drying! I have tried to dry more things indoors, but it takes so many days it gets tricky with messy little ones. Tips for a humid climate?

    • Got ya. 🙂

      Humidity is hard, for sure. But if you have sunlight, you can counter the humidity. Sometimes when it’s really humid and takes a few days for things to dry fully we have to use the gas dryer, though. But if you have days to wait… 😉

  4. I live in the S of France, which for the last 2 years is NOT dry or very sunny. Clothes start getting smelly unless I use and electric radiator. I really need something solar a bit like a food dryer, to ventilate and give a few more degrees of heat. I’m not keen on batteries and solar panels for clothes drying. The Swedish have something in lots of homes called a Drying Cupboard. I’d like something based on their idea, but solar heated and ventilated, maybe with a small battery, a 12V ventilator, and solar heated water going through pipes; if you follow me…

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