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Air dry to cut energy costs

By on March 22, 2008

photo by joeannenah
Cut utility costs during the warm months by giving your dryer a break. Instead, line dry your laundry on a clothesline. There’s sometimes a stigma attached to clotheslines, which are often viewed as a sign of poverty or as an eyesore, but the truth is that many people simply don’t want to waste energy, actually enjoy hanging their clothes to dry and want to cut their expenses. Even if you can’t line dry outside because of zoning laws or allergies, you can still air dry in your home or in an enclosed porch with retractable clotheslines and drying racks.

I have indoor and outdoor clotheslines. I hang most anything inside, but I won’t hang underwear outside. I won’t embarrass my family to save a buck. Some folks claim they don’t like using outdoor clotheslines because their clothes get stiff, but most clothes soften if you given them a good snap when they come off the line, after an hour of wear, or from tossing them into the dryer for just a few minutes. Your clothing lasts longer, too. It takes only about 10 minutes to hang a load of laundry, and hanging them makes them almost wrinkle free.

I have fond memories of my mother and grandmother hanging laundry on their clotheslines. It was a ritual that was soothing and comforting to me as a child. My mother had T poles that I would use to swing around and around, and my grandmother had an umbrella-type structure with lattice-like cords. My mom would store her metal-spring clothespins in a clothespin bag, and my grandmother stored her vintage wooden pins with rounded heads in a plastic milk jug. I remember playing games with the clothespins and running around and in between the clothing as it fluttered in the breeze. Sheets were the most fun. I still remember the clothes had a fresh, natural, outdoor scent.

I went years without line drying my laundry. Convinced I didn’t have time and that it was old-fashioned, I tossed my clothes into the dryer and didn’t give it much thought until I started my frugal journey. That’s when I came across Project Laundry List ( It’s a nonprofit organization that advocates simple lifestyle changes, such as the use of outdoor clotheslines, to educate people to be more self reliant and less dependent on energy sources. They view frugality as a virtue, as I do, and it hit home that even if I didn’t have time every single day to hang-dry my laundry, I could make a conscious effort to line dry at least during the summer months and indoors when possible.

I discovered that hanging laundry was almost therapeutic. I could fit in a little more exercise, and it became a wonderful time for me to take in the fresh air and add a mindful moment to my day. What really sealed the deal was when I witnessed my own children playing with the clothespins and darting in between the flowing sheets. Now it’s as much a part of summer as burgers on the grill and lemonade. It’s a shame some communities ban clotheslines. Perhaps it’s time for that to change.


  1. DixieJ

    3/22/2008 at 2:44 pm

    I love the smell of fresh linens dryed in the sun. I agree about the stigma attached to clotheslines. I discovered the older I get the less I care about the “stigma” about things, I’d rather live my life the way I want to. Plus, I find that there’s something about hanging laundry outside that’s relaxing.

  2. Linda

    3/24/2008 at 10:51 pm

    During the months that are warm enough for laundry to dry my dryer is never run. I imagine that my neighbors do a lot of eye rolling, but the older I get, the less I care.

    During months that I can’t hang clothes outdoors, I use drying racks that I stand by the furnace grates. Usually overnight and my laundry is dry. I do use my dryer during these months for some items, underclothes, washclothes…..but that is very little.

    Good article. People need to get back to the basics, and this should be at the top of every frugal persons list.

  3. Kit

    3/28/2008 at 5:04 pm

    I find that clothes don’t last as long when hung on the line regularly.
    I used my dryer for winters and my clothesline for nice weather for years, and when the dryer died I decided to make the switch completely – I use only the clothesline now, and have for over a year.
    Since the complete switch, I find that towels and jeans DO wear out faster.
    I also line dry dainties, etc – for the simple reason that they get ‘cleaner’ this way !
    White socks, undies, etc – all seem brighter when dried in the sun.
    Of course, we have our lines in the backyard, and our property lines are all heavy with vegetation. I doubt my neighbors could tell what’s hung there without being VERY nosy, but then again, I doubt they’d care.

    Overall, I plan to continue, as the wear is nowhere near as costly as the amount I save in not running a dryer.

  4. Marie78

    3/29/2008 at 11:43 am

    We are not allowed to hang clothing outside where I live (in an apt. complex). I do hang 2 loads a week from our shower curtain rod to save on the cost of drying. One load of my work clothes and one load of the fiance’s clothes (pants and shirts). I am asking for a drying rack and retractable drying line for my birthday. That way we can hang 4+ loads of laundry a week and we’ll only have to dry one load of our laundry a week (sheets, socks, and undies) That should cut down on how many quarters we go through in a month.

  5. SJ

    2/26/2012 at 6:42 pm

    It is so funny to me that in America it is just the done thing to use a dryer. I live in Australia and the dryer is only ever used if it rains for more than a few days in a row. I understand the seasonal requirements in some parts where you don’t want your clothes to freeze! But seeing the industrial size dryers that most people have over there really shocked me. Energy is used in the States as if it comes out of the air and with no consequence. So good for all you who realise that drying clothes in a dryer in the summer is a complete waste!

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