I love the response this post got when I first published it in summer 2009 — it really show the vast diversity of all our living spaces and cultures.
I‘m not a luddite—I love technology. I love the ways it enhances our home life in so many ways, from storing our food at adequate temperatures, to washing our clothes so that we don’t have to work our hands raw with a hand-cranked wringer. We have much to be thankful for in our generation.
But there’s something rather soothing about line-dried clothes, I find. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but during these warm summer months, I enjoy hanging our laundry out to dry daily, watching it flap in the breeze and shine whitely in the sun’s reflection.
Here are some of my favorite reasons for line-drying clothes during warm weather.
1. It saves money.
This is the obvious one. Dryers use up a lot of electricity—almost more than any other household appliance. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that an electric clothes dryer accounts for almost six percent of a household’s annual electricity consumption.
That may not sound like a lot, but consider how many items in your modern-day dwelling use electricity. If you average $100 a month for your electric bill, your clothes dryer accounts for $72 per year. That’s almost another month of electricity in your home.
All I know is, since we’ve been line drying almost exclusively, our electric bill is considerably lower than it was last year. That’s a good enough reason for me. It cost us $20 for a drying rack and $4 for a ton of clothespins. Not a bad deal.
2. It saves the clothes.
Yes, dryers make your clothes softer, but they also weaken the fabric’s fibers much faster than if they had been air dried. All that lint after a cycle in the dryer? That’s fabric slowly wearing off of your clothes. It’s gradual, for sure, but in our family, we prefer buying fewer quality clothes, so I want them to last as long as possible.
3. We go through less laundry.
Since line drying takes a (tiny) bit more of my time, I’m a bit more aware of whether our clothes actually need to be washed, or whether they could be worn another time. I don’t know what it is — I think it’s because the act of hanging out our clothes to dry is a more active activity than tossing them into the dryer while I start something else.
When life isn’t crazy, I usually do one load of laundry about five days a week (which includes two loads of cloth diapers). It’s truly a pretty quick and painless process — a toss into the washer with Soapnuts and a few drops of essential oil, and then a trip on the clothesline.
A few hours later, I take down the clothes, fold them immediately, put them away, and… that’s it.
4. It uses fewer chemicals.
The sun is a natural whitener, so when you put thoroughly wet whites out on the line, the stains fade naturally. No need for bleach. In fact, I hear putting wet whites on fresh grass to air dry gets them stunningly white.
The dryer causes static cling, and the ingredients found in dryer sheets is like a criminal line-up of carcinogens. Line drying takes cares of this need.
5. It’s therapeutic.
I genuinely like hanging our clothes out to dry. Most of the time, it’s a few minutes of peace with my thoughts, doing something basic and methodical with my hands. It’s one of those acts of quotidian liturgy that, for me, is a simple act of service for my family. I enjoy praying for each person who wears the clothes I’m hanging.
Other times, my kids join me to hang clothes, and that can be just as fun. My four-year-old hangs the clothes in all sorts of artistic ways (which I often have to re-do later), and my toddler giggles at the feel of damp, cool clothes brushing his head as he walks under the rack. He also loves emptying and restocking the clothespin basket, handing me one as needed.
Much like showering, I get some good thinking done. While my body is busy doing something rote and routine, my mind is free to wander. Where do you think I came up with this post idea?
Tips for clothes drying
• If you don’t like the stiffness of line-dried clothes, you can give them a quick spin in the dryer for five minutes after they’re dried. It’ll soften the fibers a bit.
• Plan your laundry colors with the sun’s peak. I aim to have my whites drying in the late afternoon, when the sun is at its brightest here.
• Clothes will line dry even when it’s cooler or wetter. Simply put them under a roof, like a covered patio or balcony. And if you have a drying rack (as opposed to a permanent clothesline), you can bring your drying laundry inside overnight.
• If you really want to dry your clothes in the dryer, use dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. They can be rubber with little stubby spikes, or they can be all-natural made of felted wool. Basically, they bounce around in your laundry load, separating the clothes and fluffing them up, so that you don’t need to reduce static cling chemically.
Do you line dry your clothes? Why or why not? What tips do you have for effective drying?