Drying laundry can be expensive! According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, most households wash and dry up to 300 loads of laundry a year. No wonder a clothes dryer can consume over 4% of a home’s energy usage.
In addition to hiking up your energy bill, gas and electric clothes dryers add to your carbon footprint. Yes, your clothes get clean, but the planet gets a little bit dirty each time we turn the dryer on.
Plus, clothes dryers take a toll on the clothes themselves. All that washing and drying puts a lot of wear and tear on fabric. Clothes may shrink if they’re subjected to hot temperatures. And who doesn’t hate the static cling that a lot of clothes get from spinning around in hot, dry air for an hour or so?
Here are seven ways you can dry your clothes without racking up big bills or wrecking your fashions. They still use natural resources to get the job done, but those resources — sunlight, and air — are completely free.
1) Old-fashioned Clothes Line. Sunshine and fresh air can’t be beat when it comes to naturally beating back germs and odors – which is why I hung my kids’ cloth diapers on a line, and still hang out kitchen towels, sheets, underwear and socks. I like line drying t-shirts, dress shirts and pants, too, but I turn them inside out to protect them from the fading powers of the sun.
If you’re going this route, use a length of rope you already have, but make sure it’s thin enough to be able to clip a clothes pin to. Otherwise, you’ll have to throw things over the top of the line, which works unless a strong (i.e., fast-drying) breeze whips about. You can find several clothes line options online or at your local hardware store. NOTE: Most lines stretch over time, so when you see yours drooping a bit, re-tie it on one end or the other. I would gladly put up a clothes line if my yard were closer to my laundry room.
While some community Home Owners Associations have banned neighbors’ rights to dry their clothes on “unsightly” outdoor lines, a national movement is afoot to overturn these bans and promote line drying.
2) A Foldable Clothes Line – Foldable clothes lines collapse into each other, then fold flat against a wall so when they’re not being used, they’re out of the way. When you need it, unfold the frame and voila. This could be a good solution if you don’t have two poles to attach a regular line to. Just use the back wall of your house or garage.
3) A Rotary Line Dryer – In this style, a central pole that’s permanently sunk into the ground opens up like an umbrella. Instead of water-repellent fabric, a mesh of lines unfolds, making it possible to hang an entire load of laundry. A hand crank on the pole makes it easy to raise the load a few feet above the ground, where the clothes can catch the breeze and dry quickly.
4) A retractable clothes line in your bathroom or laundry room. These lines can’t accommodate a lot of laundry at once, but they’re great for socks and underwear.
5) Dryer Rack
Dryer racks can’t be beat for convenience, and many of them are large enough to handle an entire load of laundry at one time. I use a light-weight rack I put on my sunny back porch in the summer. My washer and dryer are in a big utility closet behind louvered doors in my master bathroom; in the winter, I just set up the rack in there. The humidity from the clothes helps humidify the dry winter air. You can get racks made from wood, but mine are lightweight steel with rubber feet and
By the way, if you’re using a line of some sort, you’ll need clothes pins to secure the clothes. Use the sturdiest clothespins you can find. Choose wood, not plastic, and store the pins inside and away from the elements when they’re not in use to keep them from getting dirty or wet if it rains.
6) The Shower Stall - I regularly toss shirts, blouses, sweaters, pants and dresses over the top of my shower.
If you hang your laundry in the sun…
Line drying is terrific for sports wear, underwear, jeans, pants, towels, sheets, blouses, socks, and shirts. But towels? They can get a little stiff or crunchy when they line dry. Some people find that adding white vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser helps soften their towels. I prefer to dry mine on the line almost completely, then toss them into the dryer to fluff up for ten minutes or so.
What about pet fur?
My throw rugs collect a LOT of fur from my dog and two cats. Tumble drying is still the most effective way to capture all that fur, even when I shake my rugs out before I wash them. I let the rugs dry almost completely outside, then tumble them for about 15 minutes to capture the fur. See what works best for you.
Keep in mind one final thought:
Dry drier clothes. The wetter your clothes are when you take them out of the washing machine, the longer it will take to dry them. We use the top spin cycle on our washer to get as much water out of our laundry as possible before we hang it up to dry or throw it in the dryer. It shortens the drying time significantly, which means it saves us money.