Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Comeback of the Clothesline?

Last year, a fellow mom mentioned to me that she thought one of the best energy-saving moves Americans could make would be to stop using the dryer. The comment caught me by surprise--mostly because I had never even considered the alternatives. In Seattle, we hardly have enough sunshine to get our Vitamin D requirements! Surely, we don't have enough sun to consider a clothesline...

A few weeks later, my family had the chance to spend a few weeks with in Finland. While staying in our friends' home, I experienced laundry European-style. Most surprising was that even though they had a dryer, they generally chose to line-dry their clothes. They encouraged me to use the dryer (since I was an American), but I was going to live the Finnish life while there so if they could do it, I resolved I could also. One person even told me that it helped clothes last longer and showed me the dryer lint as proof. I guess all those fibers do come from somewhere.

I was told that it usually only takes 24 hours to dry clothes inside, but on warm/dry days, it would be even quicker if I hung them outside. Twenty-four hours?? Isn't that a lifetime in the world of laundry?

It definitely requires a different mind-set, but now that I've opened my eyes, I'm slowly moving over. I have learned a few things along the way.

  • One load each day is ideal. You cannot line-dry a week's worth of vacation clothes!
  • Invest in a good quality rack or clothesline. My first one never stayed together, but my new one from Storables works great and folds down small when not in use. Even cheaper, if you have the room, you could hang a line the old-fashioned way.
  • Sunny days are good days to do laundry, but the laundry room works as well, no matter what the weather.
  • Pajamas and athletic-wear dry the quickest.
  • Cotton shirts look much better after hanging on a rack than sitting in a pile of unfolded laundry (there's not a lot of ironing in my house).

Does it really make a difference? According to the US Dept. of Energy, the average family uses a clothes dryer 500-1000 kilowatt hours/year which makes it quite high on the list of electricity-consuming appliances - above the dishwasher, microwave, freezer, and TV.

What do you think? Would you ever try it?

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