Dryers are energetically expensive. Hanging laundry out to dry provides a sustainable alternative.
Clothes dryers are the workhorses of laundry rooms. You pop a soggy load of laundry in them and turn a few dials. After an hour of rolling and tumbling, you’re rewarded with a heap of warm, dry clothes ripe for folding. Dryers are undeniably convenient.
What’s also undeniable is that they’re expensive, although the associated costs aren’t always immediately obvious. Dryer usage can account for 10-20% of your electric bill.
That energy expenditure isn’t doing any wonders for your attempts to downsize your carbon footprint. Nor is it all that good for your clothes (what do you think dryer lint is composed of?).
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Getting started weaning yourself off your dryer
You can fight these hidden costs by minimizing your dryer usage and opting for Mother Nature’s free alternatives: air and sunshine. Granted, unless you’re planning to hang your laundry out to dry on the trees and bushes in your yard, you’ll need to make a few initial investments.
Clothespins and a rope are the weapons of choice of anyone planning to battle dryer usage with a clothesline. If you have space, use some sturdy hooks to string up a clothesline or two in your laundry room for rainy days.
As for drying racks (clothes horses), do yourself a favor and spend a few extra dollars on a good quality rack. Wooden racks, being made of a renewable resource, may be more sustainable, but metal racks tend to be sturdier and last longer. One rack is usually sufficient for drying the laundry of 1-2 people.
If you live in a small apartment or if you can’t use your house’s outdoor clothesline due to incessant rain, you’ll need to search out handy places to dry your clothes indoors. Here are a few tips to maximize your drying space:
- Position your drying rack near a sunny window or heat vent to speed things up (don’t get too close to the vent, though!).
- Unless you’ve got a fancy dinner planned, feel free to hang jeans over doors and sweaters over the backs of wooden chairs.
- Learn to view your shower rod as an indoor clothesline; though you can’t pin clothespins to it, you can dangle hangers from it.
- Clip a half-dozen clothespins to a hanger and use them to dry socks or underwear; place the hanger on a handy doorknob or on your drying rack.
Avoiding stiff or wrinkled clothes
If your air-dried clothes feel stiff or “crunchy,” odds are you’re pouring in too much detergent during your wash cycle. See this New York Times article for more information about how much soap you should really be using.
To minimize wrinkles, give wet clothes a swift snap before hanging them. If you feel the need to fluff up towels or take the wrinkles out of dress shirts, pop them in the dryer for 5-10 minutes before or after air-drying (experiment to see which works best for you).
A final note: taking the plunge
Air-drying your laundry might not seem like an ideal solution if you’ve grown up with electric dryers. After all, it takes more time on your part and it takes up space, especially if you dry your clothes indoors. On the other hand, drying your laundry the old-fashioned way is free, easier on your clothes and–best of all–better for the environment.
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