Hanging Laundry

by Pat Veretto

Estimates of "average" costs to dry clothes for a year in a conventional dryer range from $120 to $250 per year or up to $1500, according to some! Seldom do the statistics mention whether that's for one person or a ten member family, but whichever it is, that's your money going to the wrong place, namely someone else's pocket.

There was a time when every house (and even some apartment buildings) had clotheslines in the backyard that were nearly always used, even when energy was cheap. "Solar power" wasn't even a proper phrase back then, but people hung clothes out to dry because it worked. It was far more convenient than waiting for a dryer to go off so they could unload a bunch of clothes, then load up another bunch and be trapped in the house, waiting for that load to dry.

Huh? Yes, that's what I said. You can hang all your clothes at one time, and go off to the library or take a nap or go visit a friend. Your clothes will all be dry and waiting whenever you want them, not when the machine says it's time.

If you need more than convenience to convince you, check out the figures above. To be honest, I'm not sure how anyone came up with the $1500 figure, but even at $120, using a dryer is expensive.

It's not just the cost of energy (electric or gas) that costs. Where do you think all that dryer lint comes from? Your clothes. Have you ever wondered why clothing doesn't last as long as it used to? Believe me, beating them on a rock is gentle compared to what those fibers go through in the dryer. They're heated, slammed and scrubbed against other clothes continually for a minimum of 15 minutes at a time (I know, some things take an hour, even!). The fibers get broken and pulled and torn and worn. Have you ever had a shirt or pair of pants ruined by pilling? That's what a dryer does. Have you ever dried a pair of jeans and have them come out with creases all crooked? Thank your dryer. And that stain that you missed is now permanently set due to the heat of your dryer.

That heat is enough to set a stain, but it's not enough to kill much bacteria or other unwanted growth. As a matter of fact, some can wait inside the dark, warm drum until another load is put in. Damp, dark, warm... oh, how they love it!

I don't want to sound like a commercial for Mother Nature. However, air-dried material not only lasts longer, but also the sun helps to remove stains from white clothes, and the ultraviolet rays kills bacteria and other dangerous growth, including most fungi. Whew!

Ok, your objections:

  1. You don't have a clothesline.
  2. You don't have room for one in your backyard.
  3. You live in a tiny apartment where there's no room for your clothes, much less a clothesline.
  4. You hate the sight of clothes flapping in the morning breeze.
  5. You hate to hang up clothes.
  6. You work and don't have time.

My answers:

  1. Put one up. They don't cost much. Get someone to make two clothesline T-posts and hire a handyman (or your son, husband or neighbor) to dig a hole and set the posts in the ground. Use metal clothesline if you can find it.
  2. Use an umbrella type clothesline with arms that fold down when not in use. You can hang a lot of clothes in a small space. Alternately, use a retractable line that all but disappears when you retract it.
  3. Use an indoor clothes drying rack. They make some that fit neatly over a bathtub or can be adjusted to a shower stall.
  4. See answer above. Or put yours in the garage or laundry room. Consider it a necessary evil.
  5. See answer above again. Just drape them over a rack. Or put shirts, pants, etc. on hangars and hang them on the rack. You have to put them on hangars anyway.
  6. So you'd rather spend your Saturdays or your evenings running back and forth to the dryer? Seriously, think about the convenience of putting clothes to dry one night and forgetting about them until the next night.

There are some places in this nation that won't allow anyone to save money, time, health or the environment by hanging clothes to dry out of doors. If you happen to live in one of those communities, please consider petitioning for a change in the rules.

Pat Veretto is a work-at-home grandmother who has homesteaded, homeschooled and happily lived frugally most of her life. She currently freelances.

Take the Next Step:

  • Decide which device will work for you--an outdoor clothesline, a drying rack, an indoor clothesline, or a clothes rod. If you can't find what you want at your local superstore, shop online for the right device. Check out Walmart.com
  • Stop struggling to get ahead financially. Subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist And What You Can Do About It for FREE!

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