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.
But there’s something soothing about line-dried clothes. I love hanging out laundry to dry when it’s warm, watching it flap in the breeze and shine in the sun’s reflection.
(And fellow Americans—did you know that most of the world line-dries their laundry as default? We’re the exception here.)
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 home 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, when we line-dry almost exclusively, our electric bill is considerably lower. That’s a good enough reason for me. A portable drying rack isn’t too expensive (and it folds up nicely by the washer), and clothespins are only a few bucks.
2. It saves the clothes.
Yes, dryers make your clothes softer, but they also weaken the fabric’s fibers 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, sure, I 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 more aware of whether our clothes actually need to be washed, or if they could be worn another time. I’m not sure, but I think it has something to do with the act of hanging out our clothes being more an activity than just tossing them into the dryer.
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 directly on fresh grass to air-dry gets them stunningly white.
Dryers cause static cling, and the ingredients found in dryer sheets is a criminal line-up of carcinogens. Line-drying takes cares of this need.
5. It’s therapeutic.
I genuinely like hanging out clothes to dry. Most of the time, it’s a few minutes of peace with my thoughts, doing something quotidian and methodical with my hands. It’s a simple act of service for my family.
When life isn’t crazy, I usually do a load of laundry several times days a week in our small, European-made washer. It’s a quick and painless process, with a toss into the washer, then a trip onto the clothesline.
A few hours later, I take down the clothes, fold them immediately, put them away, and… that’s it. So, not that much extra time than using a dryer, except for the few minutes to hang them.
I get some good thinking done. While my body is busy doing something rote and routine, my mind is free to wander.
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.
• Get the kids involved, and this will eventually be normal to them. My four-year-old hangs the clothes in all sorts of artistic ways (which I often have to re-do later), and my toddler loves emptying and restocking the clothespin basket, handing me one as needed.
Don’t let this be another “should” in your life, but give it a go, if your neighborhood allows it. (Americans, you’ll be joining the rest of the world.)