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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Line Drying your Laundry

If you've never had the chance to hang your laundry on a line outdoors you are really missing out. Line drying your clothes is just as romantic an activity as it seems to be in pictures. It is one of my favorite things in the world to do. Surrounding myself in the smell of clean laundry invigorates me while the sound of sheets billowing in the wind seems to cleanse my over stimulated ears. And my hanging laundry creates an artistic installment in my boring backyard. There are many other reasons to line dry your clothes. Here are a few*:

  • Electric dryers use five to ten percent of residential electricity in the United States!(Some say it cuts their electricity bill in half!)
  • Save money (more than $100/year on electric bill for most households).
  • Conserve energy and the environment.
  • Clothes and sheets smell better.
  • Clothes last longer. Where do you think lint comes from?
  • It is physical activity which almost anyone can do.
  • Sunlight bleaches and disinfects

There are a few options for line drying your clothes outside. Many older homes already have a line installed and ready to go. These lines are pretty but do take up a good amount of space. This year I purchased a space saving model from Amazon because it fit my needs in more ways than one. What I like about it is that it easy to put up and to take down. We are renting right now and so I didn't know if the Landlord would like me to put up anything permanent - and I wanted something I could take along to our next place. I also love that it is so compact. I have memories of walking up and down the clothesline and dragging my basket behind. With this compact and rotating clothesline, I can pretty much stay right in the same place for the whole thing. Here is an image of the clothesline in it's three stages. I took it down because the lawn was getting mowed. It's really light and easy to take up or put down. The pole in the first image is also removable leaving only a small green sleeve that has a cap to close it so it doesn't fill with water.
As with any of these images - click to see larger

Now that Spring has finally arrived down south, I can put my new clothesline to work. This morning I started with a huge load of laundry as you can see. You really could easily fit two to three extra large loads of laundry on this clothesline. I am using wood clothespins because I like the feel and look of them but plastic ones will work as well - they may even make less marks on your things. I have about 200 of them in this handy hanging holder I got. That's probably way more than I'll ever need but I hate running out and like having an abundance of these so I can use them without thought. They also get stolen and used in the kitchen to hold bags closed!

My first encounter with hanging laundry in the real world was at a neighbor's home down the street. I was only about 7 or 8 and I thought that they must be so poor if they needed to hang their laundry! This stigma is changing and line drying laundry is quickly become the chic thing to do for those who care about the planet. That day, I also went and felt some of the clothes expecting to feel something akin to that commercial with the fabric softener bear. I was surprised when it felt stiff and hard. I have now learned tricks for overcoming that stiffness. Right before hanging the clothes snap them a few times by shaking them hard. Do it again when removing them. And hanging them so that the wind can continue to wave and snap will increase the softness. If it still isn't quite soft enough - especially on those towels you can throw them in the dryer for a couple minutes. I've never felt the need to do this but maybe if guests were coming in town I might make an exception!

Something I hate about laundry is the mountain of clothes it makes after I dump them all out on my bed or sofa. In fact, sometimes this mountain is so overwhelming we start just dressing ourselves out of the laundry basket for a few days until we finally break down and fold the laundry. With line drying that step is completely eliminated because I fold each item as I take it down so that it's ready to go straight to it's proper place once I go inside.

Once you've started putting up your laundry you'll start to develop some tricks for quicker drying or more discreet placement. I, for one, like to put my underwear towards the inside behind my other laundry so that neighbors get to enjoy billowing sheets not bras!

In the end, hanging laundry is a spring and summer activity that I look forward to and enjoy. It gets me outside and enjoying the weather and it makes me feel happy knowing that this enjoyable activity is helping save resources that are really in need of saving. So whether you rig up your own clothesline, use an existing one, or buy a new one - I'm sure you'll find that it fast becomes a treasured quiet time to reflect and enjoy mother nature's best resources!

*List of items comes from Project Laundry Website.


marisa said...

beautiful pictures! I already talked to Michael, and he thinks it is a good idea to have one. It looks like I might be getting one too. I can't tell if I want one just so I can take beautiful pictures of my laundry, to save energy, save money, or the romanticism of it all. Probably all of the above.

Jennifer said...

Clotheslines are a fixture of my childhood. I can vouch for the brightening power of the sun -- it's amazing. I can take some of my baby's things out of the washer with stains that sadly made it through the cycle, but hang them up in the sun, and they disappear!

A tip I learned growing up: slightly overlap the clothes when hanging to conserve time, pins and space on the line. For instance, rather than using four pins to hang up the corners of two towels, place them side by side and use the same pin to fasten them both in the middle (three clothespins total). You can pack a lot of things on the line this way. Plus, it makes it even faster to remove. Trust me about this being a bonus if a thunderstorm strikes! My mom's urgent plea, "Someone run get the clothes off the line!" is another childhood staple. (Lots of showers must have slipped by those weathermen!)

Vinegar in the rinse cycle (about a cup) can also help soften clothes.

Megan said...

I agree with Jennifer - the bleaching of the sun works really well - especially with "natural" stains like the ones our little babies leave! In the past I have also used the overlapping method though I bought tons of clothespins this time because I hate running out so I didn't need to. And the space thing wasn't an issue....but I hadn't thought of the time saving part of it!

Cute stories, Jennifer!

Jennifer said...

I need to note that you should never mix bleach and vinegar!

Further thought for using vinegar in the rinse cycle -- it's best for whites, because sometimes vinegar affects dyes. Actually start with less than a cup to see what works with your load size.

Sarah said...

those pictures are beautiful!

Em said...

Great post! We have the same clothesline in our backyard! I mainly use it for diapers (the sun is great on those poopy stains!), but will start using it for more clothes now that it's really getting warmer. Great post!

baba said...

I live in the country and wish I could do this more often, but we have dirt roads with alot of farm equipment traffic. So, no so good on those days.

mike said...

baba, I never even thought of that, sorry you can't line dry your clothes!

John said...

SInce it has been more than a year? Do you still like this model of clothesline. I'm looking at buying one.

-Sydney- said...

@John: I have one and have been very pleased with it. It is a very efficient use of space and I love that it rotates.

Mr Steamy said...

Thanks for sharing this post. Older homes may have a line attached to it to hang clothes after washing them. Good stuff.