(Originally written March 2001)
Yes, I do own an electric dryer, but I can hardly wait till the first time I get to hang my laundry out in the sun. This review is meant to show you the benefits of using your natural resources, as opposed to buying a dryer as your only means of drying laundry.
It's a typical day in Idaho today - windy. The rest of the world knows it as "March". You know, the whole "in like a lamb, out like a lion" stereotype. In Idaho, (which I'm convinced is some Indian word for "the wind never stops blowing") there seems to be barely a day without the wind blowing. However, you won't catch me complaining too much. That ever present wind does wonders for drying clothes!
I hung out my first load of laundry on the line today. It's the earliest I've done it since I started using that fantastic natural resource. As I hung out my freshly washed sheets and tried to stay away from the whipping corners, I realized how I missed this over the winter.
I've noticed that the sun and wind dry my clothes faster than throwing them in the dryer. The smell of outdoors is just driven right into every fiber of the clothing or sheets. There is nothing like climbing into bed and falling asleep with the smell of the outside surrounding you. The smell lingers in the linen closets and dresser drawers far into the winter.
Now, there is no reason that you can't hang your laundry outside during the winter, either. I promise, the wind still blows then, too. Unfortunately, I have yet to meet an Idaho winter where I can make it out my back door without landing in snow up to my knees at least. But, assuming that I could make it to the clothesline and back without getting lost or snowed on, I suppose it would be a viable option.
No, you can't hang laundry outside when it's raining. A drawback if you live somewhere wet, true. But, laundry can be hung out in almost every other kind of weather imaginable! Snow, no problem, if you don't mind frozen clothes. Sun and wind are the best. You can even hang laundry out right before a storm when the wind is picking up or at night! Talk about freeing up some time.
Let's talk money - a driving factor in many people's lives. Money is something that is always in short supply around here and NOT sending any more than I must to Rockey Mountain Power is always something to work towards. Not using the dryer in the summer is a great money saver, too. Like I said before, drying outside takes less time, which means you aren't waiting for the dryer to finish those towels and blue jeans so you can throw in your T-shirts and socks. I'm saving my money for running the dishwasher and using the computer! Not to mention that not running the dryer keeps the house cooler in the summer. And it looks like it's going to be a hot one!
Another money saving feature? Okay, how about bleach? A big bottle of regular bleach will run you between $2.50 and $5.00 depending on what kind strikes your fancy. Try hanging your clothes outside and get a natural, gentle bleach for your clothes. The sun is great at removing or lightening stains, taking out nasty smells and it's FREE!
I find that being outside also presses the clothing . Yep. No more running the iron for me! The clothes come out fairly wrinkle free and easy to fold. Since I hate folding sheets more than most anything except cleaning the bathroom, this is a super fantastic side effect! The king-sized sheets are no longer big and bulky and hard to manage. They are crisp, pressed, and held in place by clothespins till I'm ready to fold them up.
Stepping outside every now and again to collect or hang the clothes is a big booster for the morale. It helps me feel like, yes, someday the housework will be finished... and then I can start on the lawn. Seriously, it's nice to be able to leave the house for a few minutes and not worry about locking up, to get a few minutes of sun, and to relax and stretch a bit. Plus, it gets me away from the kids for a few precious seconds that even going to the bathroom lacks.
Now, there are a few things I don't hang out to dry, but it's personal preference. I don't like wearing stiff
undies and socks. Or using stiff towels. So, those loads go into the dryer, but everything else makes it's way outside. Even my baby's cloth diapers go outside on the line. You can always toss them in the dryer for five minutes or so with a damp washcloth to soften them if you think they are too stiff.
So, you ask, what do I need to get started? Well, first the obvious: clothes. We all wear 'em and they get dirty, so I guess you're set. You'll also need a clothesline stretched between two points a good distance apart. Mine are two metal "T" shapes set into a bit of concrete roughly 20 or so feet apart.
Get a good quality clothesline. I've got a plastic covered wire that works well. You can buy plain old cotton line or specialized clothesline. But get a good quality or you'll be replacing it sooner than you'd like. Of course, it's not expensive, but every little bit, right? The only not so great thing about the line I got is that it has to be tightened every so often as the line slackens a bit after use. But, one tightening at the beginning of the "outside laundry season" is all it usually takes. I bought my line in a big grocery/department/home improvement store in the same section as the irons, ironing boards, and clothespins.
And speaking of clothespins, it is very worth it to get the good quality clothespins, too. I bought some one year at the Dollar Store and I seriously regret it even now. Every time I opened one to put it over the line, it would snap in half and one piece would fly left, one right and the metal thing would go straight up. Oh well, another dog toy (she loves old clothespins!) Get the nice, all-weather ones - no I don't think that is what they are really called, but they are marked.
Outside storage for your pins. Some people use a cloth bag (mine broke off in the wind and flew into the neighbor's yard), some people use a cut out old bleach bottle (handy but haven't tried it, yet), and I use an old 5 gallon ice cream container. I don't have the lid any more, so the rain/snow/leaves do go into the container. To keep the pins from rusting and getting super dirty, I have punched some holes in the bottom of the container. The nice big handle goes right over my arm as I move down the line, pinning and unpinning, or it sits on the stairs, awaiting my return with no hope of tipping over. Some people have containers that slide along the line with you, but that never worked for me. I'm sure you can buy a special clothespin holder, but... why?
So, to recap, hanging laundry out to dry is a good thing for the following reasons:
1 - good smells linger in the laundry and closets
2 - the sun bleaches out stains and smells for FREE
3 - drying on the line presses out wrinkles and makes things easy to fold
4 - save a little money on running the dryer
5 - keep the house cooler in the summer
6 - take a little break from other work to step outside and enjoy the sun and beauty
7 - fun for kids to run in and around the sheets playing hide and seek
Try it! You might never go back to that loud, long running, hot dryer.
Images courtesy morguefile, jpkwitter, rollingroscoe, cohdra, and xandert.