Saving the Planet One Clothesline at a Time


When looking at laundry hanging from a clothesline can drive a neighbor to murder, you know something’s seriously out of synch. That actually happened in Verona, Mississippi, when Keith Spears kept hanging his laundry outside to dry. Neighbor Travis Brinker objected. Spears wouldn’t stop. Brinker tore down the clothesline. Spears got angry. Brinker’s uncle shot him.

The lowly clothesline has sunk to the level of eyesore and worse. Think what we are missing. Take a sun-dried sheet down from a clothesline. Hold it to your nose. Smell the fresh air woven into the fabric. Compare that to linens bounced around with a dryer sheet or treated with fabric softener. If they have a refreshing fragrance, give thanks to some chemical mixed in with the toxins. lists a few of the chemicals used in fabric softeners and dryer sheets and links them to what they’re doing to our bodies. Take just two: Ethanol is considered a hazardous waste that can disrupt the nervous system. Benzyl acetate has been linked to pancreatic cancer.

If we had power meters hooked to our dryers, we could watch our energy use climbing as our duds tumbled around, being battered into faster obsolescence. U.K.-based filmmaker Steven Lake scratched his head over the convenient machine that’s become a global hit and an environmental problem. The result is Drying For Freedom, “a film about our right to protect the planet.”

He points out the peculiarity of neighborhoods and condo councils actually banning the friendly little clothesline. He points to the successful marketing scheme that began with General Electric’s “Live Better Electrically” campaign.  The irony, he points out, is that America uses 25% of the world’s energy for 4% of the population and that 90% of Americans use a dryer on a regular basis.

On a happier note, Lake visits Alexander Lee in Concord, New Hampshire. She launched Project Laundry List in 1996 to lobby for the “right to dry.” The project’s Web site quotes Dr. Helen Caldicott in a 1995 speech at a Middlebury College symposium, “If we all did things like hang out our clothes, we could shut down the nuclear industry.”

Line-drying clothing is not going to end all the wasteful and damaging practices we humans inflict on the planet, but it’s a start. That’s why Steven Lakes produced Drying for Freedom. The film is described as “the new environmental battlefield, exploring energy waste, consumer exploitation, restrictions in basic human freedoms and the impact this has on our planet. Our future is hanging on a line!”

Related Story

    Clotheslines Banned in Thousands of U.S. Communities


      Photo credit orphanjones via flickr


      William C
      William Cabout a year ago

      Thank you.

      W. C
      W. Cabout a year ago


      Past Member
      Past Member 6 years ago

      Very informative article

      jane richmond
      jane richmond6 years ago

      good advice

      Carole R.
      Carole R6 years ago

      I have always used the clothesline except to towels. I love the fresh scent. I am lucky to have a big back yard where I can do this.

      Carole L.
      Carole L6 years ago

      I like the idea of hanging my clothes out to dry but I haven't had access to a clothes line in many years. I hang stuff in the garage and around the house but you don't get the nice smell and the clothes seem stiffer due to lack of wind. I miss clothes lines.

      Jo Asprec
      Jo Asprec6 years ago

      Clotheslines are ok. We have it at home. No neighbors complaining.

      Elaine E.
      Elaine E6 years ago

      One point about the shooting: the complaining neighbor is the man who was killed.

      I've used clotheslines most of my life; in winter - and in places where air quality is questionable or modesty dictates, I hang them indoors. In humid climates, a fan - or that @#%^&* dryer.

      s. ryan
      p. q6 years ago

      i always use the clothesline, you crazy bitches ;)

      Norma V.
      Norma Villarreal6 years ago

      Find a way to hang clothers on a line and out of sight if possible.