Laundry Lite

by Margaret Marquis

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When spring (finally) arrives, I find that I can cut corners well into autumn in all the most pleasant ways. I turn off the heater and open my windows to enjoy warm breezes. I leave lights off until dusk and open blinds to let in sunshine, but most pleasant of all for me is wrapping up in a bathtowel that has dried outside on a clothesline, picking up the best aromas of springtime.

I confess that laundry is my archenemy when it comes to battling electric bills. With a very messy three-year-old and my own love of wearing jeans that seem to require infinite drying time, I have always been challenged to find a way to cut back on running the biggest energy drain in my home. According to the California Energy Commission, dryers account for more energy costs than just about any other large appliance.

Even if you're diligent about cleaning out your lint trap (a clogged lint trap can increase your energy costs by a whopping 30%), a dryer can be a costly convenience.

When the air turns warm, some strong rope or string and a handful of wooden clothespins can be a lovely way to eliminate the need for a dryer. Even apartment dwellers can string up a simple clothesline on a patio or indoors in front of an open window to allow nature to do a dryer's job in a most cost-effective way. A wooden drying rack will do the trick as well, though it loses the pleasant effect of clothes swaying on a line in the sun. As an added benefit, your clothes will last longer when they are dried in this decidedly gentle manner.

If you just can't find a way to drop the use of your dryer, be sure you're using it to maximum effect. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends that consumers, when buying a new dryer, invest in a model that has a moisture sensor and automatic shutoff when clothes are dry to save money in the long run. Checking your lint traps after every load and inspecting dryer vents will not only clear out energy-sucking blockage, but will decrease the danger of fire.

For the truly committed, you can reduce your electricity use altogether by not only line-drying your clothes, but also by investing in a hand-crank washer like the Wonder Wash (more information available at For under $50, this machine uses water, soap, and good old elbow grease to get the job done. Though apartment-living has saved what I invest in water bills (that bill goes to the landlord), for folks footing their own water costs, this machine can significantly cut down on water usage in addition to cutting out the electricity needed to run a washing machine altogether.

Though I don't expect everyone to find the same serene joy I experience while reading on my back patio as clothes flap in the breeze, financial peace of mind is definitely to be found in the small pleasure of saving money in such a relatively effortless manner.

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