By Tracey Allen
A couple of years ago, I started line drying my own clothes as part of an ongoing quest to reduce electricity usage and live more sustainably. After all, I realized I was hanging up many of my clothes already to reduce shrinkage and protect delicates.
Meanwhile my husband’s and (nearly) adult son’s clothes continued to go into the dryer. Then one day I noticed my son taking one shirt out of the wash and putting it in solo for a full dryer cycle. What a waste! That’s when I unplugged the dryer. Of course, my son would plug the dryer back in to dry his clothes…..then I’d unplug it again….and so on for about a year.
When we sold our house and all the appliances in it before moving into our new passive solar home on Prince Edward Island, Canada, I decided to forgo the dryer altogether. After all, we had pretty much weaned ourselves off of appliance drying anyway, so why spend the money? Instead, I purchased a top of the line wall rack ($100) and an outdoor line ($70), saving me the $600 or so purchase price of a quality dryer.
Honestly, I can’t see ever owning another dryer again.
The Many Benefits of Living Dryer Free
Living without a dryer was not quite as foreign to me as it might be to some since I’ve been line drying laundry off and on during my 29 years of marriage. Mind you, I did this mostly in the summer to air-dry sheets, blankets etc. I mean who doesn’t have memories of freshly dried sheets from the great outdoors?
Since going “cold turkey” I’ve discovered that there are so many benefits to air-drying laundry:
- The smell of air dried laundry is so deliciously fresh without all the chemicals!
- You’ll save $10-20/month on electrical usage or gas usage.
- It’s nice to slow down and take time to do just one thing! The peace of being outside hanging clothes is akin to meditation. Even hanging clothes inside provides a mental break from our chaotic lives.
- Believe it or not, you’ll save some time by hanging your clothes on a hanger before you put them on the drying rack. Once they are dry, they are ready to go right into the closet!
- You’ll eliminate the additional expense for items such as anti-static sheets and fabric softener.
- Eliminating the purchase of fabric softeners also means fewer chemicals going into our land/water – saving our environment.
- Lined dried clothes last longer and they don’t shrink!
- Line drying eliminates the potential for fire or moisture problems commonly associated with dryer exhaust.
- You’ll reduce your carbon footprint.
- You’ll free up about nine square feet of space in your laundry or utility room.
- Finally–and this is a biggie–you’ll have one less appliance to buy, repair, replace, and dispose of. This could save a family thousands of dollars over a lifetime.
Keeping it Real
Okay, I’ll admit there are a few downsides to living without a dryer:
- Weather can be unpredictable, interfering with outside drying. But in my own experience I have found this to be manageable even in winter. If you have two set-ups, one for inside and one for outside, it makes things much easier. I prefer outside drying, but if that isn’t an option I’m perfectly happy drying inside.
- Bugs and pollen have not been an issue for me in Canada, but they could be for people in warmer, more humid climates. If bugs were a problem, I’d simply use my inside drying set-up exclusively.
- The amount of laundry you have to do is also a factor. There are two of us, plus a 21-year-old son who honestly has two loads to our combined one load. We do about 3-4 loads of laundry a week. My son is starting to do his own laundry so this method appears to be reducing the laundry loads. That said, we all have way too many clothes and tend to wash them after one use, when they aren’t even dirty. By being a bit more aware of the resources we are actually using, I’m sure we could reduce our laundry volume.
- Finally, if I was a new mother, I’d have to think long and hard about whether I could give up my dryer, although the fire safety issue might be enough to convince me.
Despite the challenges, we’ve found line drying works great for us on many levels. Eliminating the dryer actually allowed us to build a smaller utility room in our new home, and there’s still space to add a wash tub for hand washing laundry. I’m not there yet, and I may never be, but at least I now have the option!
Tracey Allen is the author of several books available at www.simplifyandsave.ca and lives in an earth-bermed, ICF, Passive Solar house in Prince Edward Island, Canada.