Taking It Outside

IMG_6205Why does linedrying our clothes seem so quaint, so old-fashioned, somehow backward?  Some communities even ban line-drying saying it’s an eyesore or some other benign hazard.  My unofficial survey of friends across the globe tells me that 98% of the world line-drys their clothes, at least in good weather.  Basically the whole world except North America. When I lived in Japan, everyone dried their clothes outside no matter the weather. When I lived in Australia ditto. And two summers spent in Europe tell me they do the same there as well.  And during my family’s trip to Turkey last month we found ourselves, you guesed it, hanging up our clothes to dry.

And why wouldn’t we? Dryers use up vast amounts of energy, even the Energy Star ones. According to a 2001 Department of Energy Report, dryers account for 6% of US household electricity. Why would I put my clothes in a machine to dry when today it’s 75 and sunny on my back deck? After returning from Turkey I was inspired to unwrap the drying rack I had bought last summer at Ikea that has been since hiding out in the garage. I put it out on the back porch and hung a full load of clothes to dry in the yummy spring sunshine. Within a matter of hours they were dry and smelled so fresh. They were even soft thanks to some ancient liquid fabric softener I’d found shoved in the back of my laundry room cupboard.ikea_dryingrack

My husband thinks line-dried clothes feel too crispy, even with fabric softener, so we don’t line-dry his clothes.  The rack from Ikea only holds one load and we usually do 3-4 loads at a time in our house. I can’t have mountains of wet laundry sitting around so, so far, I’m drying about 1/4 of our laundry outside and the rest in the dryer. I guess it’s all about baby steps but maybe the next baby step I need to take is to invest in another $6.99 drying rack from Ikea.

Do you linedry your clothes? Year round or just in the summer? Have you noticed a cost savings?



  1. Ceitidh said,

    May 21, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    I line dry my clothes all year round as I do not own a tumble drier. I live in Scotland and have to admit that sometimes it is a pain having to dash in and out in between showers to bring washing in and out. We use a rotary airer and I can’t imagine drying my clothes any other way.

    Admittedly in winter our house can look like a laundry as from about October to April our garden receives no sun whatsoever. Only if it is breezy is it worth hanging out clothes outside during those months.

  2. KarenP said,

    May 21, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    I love line dried sheets, and would be willing to consider line-dried clothes (I hear they de-crunch easily with just a couple of minutes in the dryer) but the problem is that in Oregon, sunny days=allergy season. With my husband’s allergies, there’s no way he could wear clothes/sleep on sheets that have been outside, and he probably couldn’t handle being around our clothes either. If I work outside, I have to shower before coming to bed or he’s miserable.

  3. jill said,

    May 23, 2009 at 10:41 am

    When I was an exchange student in Kenya, we handWASHED all our clothes (and towel and sheets!) and line dryed them on the flat roof of our dorm. The African students highly disapproved of our habit of line drying our undergarmets, but were hesistant to say anything. After we finally figured out that we weren’t supposed to hang our undergarments where they could be seen, we didn’t know how we were supposed to dry them. Finally, my Kenyan roommate showed me a metal clothes hanger she hung hidden under her bed. There she discreetly hung her undergarmets to dry. :)

  4. May 30, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Yes, I too love the smell of sun-dried sheets! I’ve been using our retractable clothesline for 5 years. I put it away during winter, since it rains so much, as our clothes would probably mold out there! But the rest of the time I try to hang them outside when it’s sunny. Just realized I shouldn’t hang 2 loads of jeans on the line…pulled the line down 2 times…may invest $10 in another line. My 5 foot tall wooden drying rack holds most of a load, but blows over in the wind all the time. I grew up without an electric drying, so our 2 wood stoves dried clothes in the winter. It’s nice to have a drier now, as it takes the crispy-ness out of them, if I use it for 5 minutes. Thanks for the inspiring article – Lorie D. in Beaverton is a friend of mine & told me about you. Have a great day!

  5. Liz said,

    June 2, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    I line dry my clothes, towels and sheets 85 to 90% of the time. I live in AZ so on rainy days in the monsoon we hang the towels and thicker clothes (ie jeans) in the hallways on hangers to dry most of the way before throwing them in the dryer. However – for when you have to use the dryer – Do you know about the trick with the fabric softner? You soak a washcloth in fabric softner (1 Tablespoon after the first time – took almost 2 Tablespoons for the first time. This last batch was just fine using the same washcloth for two loads without re-soaking) and throw in your dryer with your clothes instead of putting it in your washer. You use less- and less gets wasted. (We put a big “X” with thread on the washcloth so we only use it for this purpose!) The main disadvantage to this is you have to take the washcloth back out as soon as the dryer stops – otherwise you might mark your clean clothes with residue. Have a great day!

  6. Julia said,

    June 17, 2009 at 8:05 am

    In the summer, line drying is great! I love being outdoors. I recently wrote a post about line drying as well. Aren’t solar powered clothes dryers wonderful?

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blogs… I think our paths have crossed before (Illinois and/or Asia?).

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