So maybe I gravitate toward “granny-sense” a bit more than the average gal in New York City–I get my milk in glass bottles (although from the farmer’s market, not from a white-capped milkman, but if I could…), I’ve been known to make my own butter, and little makes me happier than putting up some summer fruit. I know I’m not the only person in the city to lean towards simplicity–I think part of it is a tinge of rebellion about living in this huge metropolis. Even though I choose to live here, and I adore it, I can’t deny the part of me who desperately wants laying hens and a long walk to the mailbox. And that’s the part of me who thinks that line-dried laundry might be just about the loveliest thing ever.
I’m not sure which comes first. Does our desire for simplicity lead to green living, or does green living lead to simplicity? Either way, what could epitomize both concepts better than a clothesline with fresh, fluttering, air-dried linens? Of course, in this vision I am picturing there is ample grass underfoot, the smell of wildflowers in the air, and rolling hills in the vista. But still, there is something undeniably urban-romantic about the Brooklyn old-timers who always have a load of laundry drying on a clothesline stretched from their window to a pulley on a neighboring phone pole. I have come to love the creak-creak-creak squeaks that each tug of the line elicits as some old aunt is pulling her clothes home.
Now add to the romance a few important considerations. In many homes, the clothes dryer is the third most energy-consuming appliance–and I think we all know that by cutting back on our energy use we are helping to reduce our dependence on dirty coal-fired power plants.
And there are some great side affects to air-drying, Green America points out the benefits and offers some great tips:
• The dryer shortens the life of your clothing by over-drying items and thinning them out. So firing your dryer is also a great strategy for conserving your favorite clothes longer and saving the cost of replacing them before their time.
• Anyone who’s had to wait around the laundromat or delay an errand to fold clothes right when the dryer finished will appreciate the flexibility of air-drying clothes. While it may take longer for clothing to get dry–from a few hours to about a day–you don’t have to be present to fold them to prevent wrinkles or leave a shared dryer for someone else. You can hang your laundry on the rack or line and go about your day, then come back to fold whenever you get around to it.
• Another perk to “firing” your dryer is that it eliminates the risk that your dryer could ever start a dangerous fire. According to a report by FEMA, clothes dryer vents can become clogged with lint, causing more than 15,000 house fires every year.
• A clothesline enables you to spend some of your laundry time enjoying the outdoors, your clothes smell “sunny” when they come back in, and drying in the sunshine helps to naturally disinfect clothes, and to gently bleach whites.
• You can purchase a variety of racks and lines for outdoor air-drying of clothes. Some fold out into a rotary umbrella shape; others stretch multiple lines between two “T” posts. Gaiam’s Real Goods offers a $20 retractable clothesline that can mount to a post or the side of a house. The innovative Cord-O Clip is a time-saving clothesline with built-in clips that close automatically when people place clothes on the line and push, and open automatically as the line is pulled around once the clothes are dry.
• If you have pollen allergies, don’t have an outdoor space for hanging up clothes to dry, or expect the weather in your area will be too rainy or cold for a successful outdoor clothesline, forego the outdoor approach and use an indoor drying rack instead, of which there a wide variety of available.
• Large items like sheets and towels can dry draped over a door, banister, or a shower rod; and tablecloths generally dry happily right on the tables they cover (use your best judgement as to whether a damp tablecloth will affect the finish on your table or not). Socks and other smaller items can air-dry using hangers lined with clips.
• Nancy Hoffmann in New York City has been drying her clothes indoors in her apartment for years. To speed up the process, she turns a floor fan on a low setting facing her drying racks. She reports that “most of my clothes dry in a couple hours, max” with much less electricity use than a dryer would require.
• Drying clothing indoors can also have an added perk when it helps to keep indoor winter air moist, a kind of low-tech humidifier.
I would love to hear from you whether or not you have ditched your dryer. What benefits have you found? And will you share your tips in the comments below?
By Melissa Breyer, Senior Editor, Healthy & Green Living