It’s Time To Ditch Your Dryer! Why You Should Be Line-Drying
I’ve been line-drying clothes for years. When I had babies and toddlers, I dried their cloth diapers outside whenever the weather permitted. Sunshine kills all kinds of germs, and when cloth diapering, germ-killing without irritating chemicals like bleach is really important.
When my oldest child was a toddler, we took a trip to northern Europe to visit friends, and I was amazed to see that many well-off people over there didn’t even bother with dryers; they all had racks in various parts of the house.
Back in the States, when our electric dryer broke a few years later, we switched to completely line drying while we waited a month for the replacement part to arrive. This was a little frustrating, because we lived on the Gulf Coast, and our dryer broke in the middle of a cloudy winter. So it was humid, and the clothes took a while to dry. But it worked; nothing got moldy. I just had racks of laundry in the living room most of that month, in varying stages of dryness.
Then, we moved to the High Plains, where laundry often dries faster on the line outside than in an electric dryer. I got rid of my electric dryer in 2019. My house is very small, and I need every bit of space I can get with three growing children. I’ve got three drying racks that take up far less space (and electricity) than my old dryer did.
There are a variety of great reasons to line dry. The first, obviously, is that it’s cheaper. You don’t even absolutely need drying racks; clothes will still dry hanging up over the backs of chairs or doors. When I was little, my parents lived overseas in an area without dryers. They just draped laundry everywhere. And even if you do decide to get drying racks, you’re looking at $20 or $30, not $500.
Electric dryers are one of the most energy-hungry appliances in your home. Some parts of the country have seen dramatic increases in the cost of electricity recently; if you’ve had skyrocketing power bills, cutting out your electric dryer can make a big difference.
Improve the Lifespan of Your Clothes
A lesser-known advantage of line drying is how much longer clothes last. A lot of people love that nice, soft dryer feeling, but it is rough on the fibers in your clothes. I found this most noticeable in sheets. My kids destroy their clothes because they’re kids, but sheets with the exact thread count last noticeably longer if they’re line dried. I used to wear out about one set of sheets per year when I used my electric dryer; the same brand started lasting me at least two years and often three once I started line drying.
Line-drying clothes also means far fewer wrinkles. There will usually be one big crease if I’m drying something like a tablecloth; if I needed to iron it, it would take far less time than when I used to iron tablecloths that came out of the dryer. Line-dried clothes need less treatment to look nice.
Improve Your Indoor Air Quality
Depending on your climate, drying indoors can also improve your indoor air quality. For example, when I first moved to the High Plains, my youngest child got nosebleeds so often from the dry air I thought about getting a whole house humidifier. I ran the small humidifiers regularly in my child’s bedroom, but I wanted to improve the air quality of my entire house. However, I had a very limited budget then and asked one of my older neighbors what he thought my options were.
“Well, you could look into a humidifier system,” he said. “Or you could just dry your clothes inside and see if that helps.”
Sure enough, I started putting up clothes indoors, and the nosebleeds significantly decreased in frequency and severity.
And obviously, this isn’t an advantage if you live in Houston or Atlanta, but if you’re in an arid region, it’s something to think about.
My Favorite Kinds
I’ve used many different methods over the years. When I moved into my current house, I inherited an outdoor clothesline originally built in 1954. The people I bought the house from had six kids and did not have an indoor dryer, so they put up more than a hundred feet of outdoor drying space. It’s great in the summertime. I can have a load of laundry plus tents hanging up to dry.
In the winter, or on our rare rainy days, it’s nice to have indoor drying racks. I had some racks when we lived on the Gulf Coast. We didn’t have a clothesline; we just bought drying racks and set them up in the backyard as needed. I first purchased a cheap bamboo one; it was pretty flimsy, and I got rid of it when we moved.
I’ve had a few different kinds since then. I have two of these. They’ve lasted me more than four years. They work well, though the screws get loose after a while. I need to retighten them regularly; it’s not surprising my indoor drying racks get a lot of use during the winter, and the metal screws go into plastic connectors that eventually wear out. Considering that the racks only cost $15 each when I bought them (they’re about twice as expensive now), I still consider them a good buy. If they ever totally fell apart, I could probably find a replacement connector piece at Home Depot. Or get my son to solder the pieces together.
Most people probably don’t want to spend $150 on an indoor drying rack (it’s not in my budget), but if you did want to get something like this one I’m guessing the connections are part of the appeal. It’s entirely made of wood; the screws go through wood into more wood, which I’m guessing holds tight for far longer than metal screws going into plastic connectors. My mom has had a wooden drying rack similar to this one for decades.
I also have two over-the-door racks similar to this one. I like these kinds because they are primarily solid; as I mentioned above, the connections seem to be where most drying racks eventually fall apart. But this a solid piece you can put over any door in the home. Sure, they’re advertised as towel-drying racks, but you can dry other things on them, as well.
I had to go to Japan for a family function a while back and traveled the length of Honshu by train. Everyone in Japan uses line dryers, and there, on almost every balcony I saw, they dried laundry in a way that reminded me of dry cleaners in the States. There would be a rack like this one on the balcony, and then the clothes would be put on individual hangers to dry. When I lived on the Gulf Coast, we had a chin-up bar in the backyard, and I used to put shirts on hangers and then hook those over the chin-up bar in the same fashion. It worked well and was nice because, at the end, the shirts went straight from the rack into the closet.
Drying your clothes on a rack saves money, makes your clothes last longer, and isn’t that much extra work. Inside, it’s easily done while watching TV or streaming something in the evening. On nice days, it’s an excuse to spend time outdoors and still feel productive. Many people in other First World countries consider electric dryers superfluous; if you’re looking for ways to save money, it’s something to think about.
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