Show your support by stringing up a line and flaunting your “greenitude”.
We started hanging out laundry out of necessity; our dryer was on its last legs and would occasionally scorch our clothes. Even after we replaced that dryer with an Energy Star model, though, I continued to hang our clothes out on the line. Here’s why:
- The savings on our electric bill is massive, even with the new dryer.
- There is considerably less wear and tear on our clothing. You know the lint in your lint trap? That’s bits of your laundry flaking off.
- I just plain like it. I like being outside in the morning, with the sunlight filtering through the trees, the air smells fresh and new. I like to hear the birds twittering and watch the jays chase each other and to be scolded by the squirrels. When I bring the clothes in, at dusk, there is a lone bat that circles overhead, clicking and cheeping as he he swoops down catching bugs that are invisible to me. I like to feel like I am an accepted part of my environment. I like having this time to notice the world around me.
- I want to do my part to remove any stigma related to hanging out laundry. Our yard is highly visible to our well-travelled road and I figure, everyone driving past sees our clothes drying every blessed day; eventually they’ll think of it as normal behavior. I know some neighborhoods have covenants forbidding clotheslines. We had to get past our own mindset that our line was “ghetto” (my husband’s words). Why is this? Is it because drying your clothes out in the sunshine implies that you are “frugal”, or “old-fashioned”, or, God forbid, that you can’t afford a washing machine? When did frugal and old-fashioned become dirty words?
Last week I was actually approached by an acquaintance who lives in the neighborhood across the street from us. She had wanted, she said, to tell me that she admires us for taking the time every day to hang that laundry out. (And oh, my gosh, was I proud of this moment. )
She loves that crisp feeling to clothes and sheets dried in the sun, she said. She just doesn’t have time to do it herself.
Me, I’m not necessarily partial to the crispness ( I use baking soda in the wash as a softener), but I do appreciate the lack of static cling. As for time consumption, I savor that time outside, the all-too-infrequent “me and only me” time, and I often linger on the deck, just looking around.
But I have learned a few tricks to shorten “hangtime” when I’m in a hurry:
- Have a dedicated box for clothespins, and keep it in a laundry basket dedicated for hanging laundry. (In other words, this basket should be empty unless you’re taking laundry out or in.) Even better would be a bag for the clothespins that you can sling over your shoulder, so you don’t have to keep reaching down into a box. This is something I keep meaning to do and haven’t got around to doing; in the meantime, I wear things with deep pockets and throw all the pegs in there.
- Use hangers. I hang all our tops and skirts on hangers. This allows me to do at least half of the hanging inside, and then I just take all the hangers outside in one go. This makes life a lot easier on cold mornings. Also, I have the kids retrieve their own hangers from the line at night, and hang them directly in their own closets. That way the only folding I do is pants and linens.
- Hang small or potentially embarrassing items on a folding rack. Again, the bulk of this hanging can be done inside and then carried out in one go. At night I just pull the rack ( ours is a rack sold for dolls’ clothes!) inside and everyone claims their own.
- Keep an eye on the weather. If a day is going to be particularly warm or breezy, I know I can get two loads dried, or one load of heavy items (think comforters or flannel-lined jeans). (I am not averse to throwing heavy items in the dryer at the end of the day for a ten-minute tumble. Better to make sure the comforter is fully dry than to have to wash it again because the seams were still a bit damp and mildewed.) If I take advantage of a two-load day, I know I can skip a day if it rains- but if needed I’ll hang clothes from my kids’ bunk beds and from the shower curtain rods.
- Do it every day. I have three kids and a husband in construction. My three year old’s favorite game is “dig a hole with a stick”, followed closely by “stomp in mud puddles”. We generate a lot of laundry. By doing one load of laundry every day, no excuses, without fail, we don’t experience laundry back-ups. I think the reason a lot of people hate doing laundry is because they wait until they’re all out of socks or underwear, and then they’re stuck wasting an entire day on laundry.
- Don’t bother sorting dirty laundry. I used to wait until I had a full load of dirty clothes, or the bathroom hamper was full. Now I just mix together kids’ clothes, my clothes, towels, napkins, colors and whites. Since I wash everything on cold it doesn’t matter. (The exception here is the construction clothes- they get washed separately because they’re caked in dust, mud, and fiberglass.)
- Try putting a load in the wash before bed and hanging it first thing in the morning. This means you don’t have to wait for the washer to finish, and you’re less likely to forget about it entirely.
But don’t your clothes get pulled out of shape? And what about clothespin marks?
Well, the hangers take care of that problem for a lot of the laundry. Pants won’t pull out of shape as long as you use enough pegs to distribute the weight evenly. As for clothespin marks, I favor wooden clothespins over plastic for this very reason. Another way to eliminate marks and make heavier fabrics more secure is to fold the back of the waistband over the clothesline and pin at the seam.
Aren’t your clothes all wrinkly?
Give everything a good snap before hanging it, and gravity will take care of the rest.
What about wintertime?
Admittedly, we had a fairly forgiving winter this year, but as far as I can determine, clothes dry just as well in the cold. In fact, it’s a bit of fun, because when you hang out on a below-freezing day, your clothes releases steam fairly dramatically until the temperature equalizes. Everybody loves bringing in clothes that are frozen stiff. I would then toss the frozen clothes into the basket and sit them by the baseboards and go off and do other things. When when I came back to them, they’d be dry; that’s good enough for me.
The determining factors really seem to be sunshine, wind, and humidity. You’re much better off on a winter day with sunshine and a breeze, than on a hot day that’s humid and still. (But you’re still good if the sun is shining.)
This concludes the Elton family approach to laundry!