Are you trying to learn to save money and energy by line drying your clothes but are struggling to find a system that works for you? Do you homestead in an HOA where an outdoor clothesline is not allowed? How does line drying compare to using a dryer? Here comes the humble clothes drying rack and clothesline to the rescue!
Clothes Drying Racks to Dryers
Before we begin, I’m not going to lecture you on getting rid of your dryer – it’s your dryer, you do what you want to get through the laundry each week!
Having said that, however, if you’re interested in some energy efficient methods of drying your laundry, I’m happy to chat. Permanent clotheslines can be set up indoors or outside, with the most common place being outside. A seasonal or temporary clothesline can be hung inside using a piece of rope and some sturdy hooks – we’ve done that before! A clothes drying rack is meant to be moved around, indoors or outdoors, depending on where you need it. Clothes drying racks are particularly handy when the weather is wet and you need to do your hang drying inside. Clothes drying racks are also great for people who live in apartments, where they have little to no outdoor space in which to hang clothes. I have twenty acres to hang dry my clothes outside and I still use my clothes drying rack all the time, along with my clothesline for reasons explained below. Just bear in mind that, if you have space, a permanent clothesline is great for good weather; if you want to air dry in smaller spaces and still be able to do it indoors in poor weather, a clothes drying rack is an essential tool to have.
I’ve mentioned our line drying efforts a few times, including a comparison on clothespins – yes, I am that geeky about line drying. As I interviewed dozens of homesteaders of various sorts doing research for my upcoming book, The Do It Yourself Homestead, I discovered that I’m not the only one to geek out over line drying. It seems to be a universally pleasing way to cut back on energy consumption, and save some money by avoiding the use of a dryer. People across the board talk about how pleasant it can be to get everything hung, especially if there’s a light breeze and your children are frolicking in the distance.
(To learn more about The Do It Yourself Homestead, your homesteading guide book, be sure to sign up for our Book Circle (absolutely free!) to be the first to know about it’s release date and special offers for it’s launch. Simply click here.)
The actual amount of money and energy saved varies depending on several factors like: what brand of dryer you’re using, whether it’s electric or uses some other kind of fuel like gas, how often you run it, etc. An electric dryer can use 769 kwh of energy, according to Energy Star. That’s compared to 206 kwh used by your dishwasher, and 590 kwh used by your clothes washer. Bottom line, saving energy in any amount is great, but it’s typically less than a dollar per load in cash savings.
There are several factors to consider when using a dryer:
- The heat from a dryer can be hard on your clothes, especially over time
- A dryer sucks energy from the wall, even if it’s not in use
- A dryer sets stains with it’s heat
- A dryer can have a large initial cost, and then requires maintenance and power over time
- Forgotten clothes in a dryer will wrinkle
Trouble Shooting Clothes Drying Options
Let’s take these points one at a time and figure out what we can do about them. Some of us want to go cold-turkey and pull the plug on our dryer use completely and others of us would like some kind of in-between solution. No worries, we’ll figure this out.
Heat and Harshness
The dryer, to be warm enough to dry a load of laundry in a decent amount of time (usually an hour), can cause your clothes to run down quicker. Certain fabrics take a hit in the dryer harder than others and elastic banding is particularly vulnerable – be careful with your braziers, ladies. Line drying uses air and solar power to dry your clothing and, unless your rack or line is placed in the direct sun for hours and hours on end, can be gentler on your fabrics. My current stationary line is positioned to get morning sun and then be in shade by the intense heat of the late afternoon. The line at my old house was a set up I shared with my grapes that were, indeed, in full sun so I had to be sure I brought the clothes in promptly to avoid bleaching, especially during the summer. The sun’s ability to bleach can come in handy though – keep reading.
If you’d like the best of both worlds, line dry your clothes for the bulk of their drying period and then toss them in the dryer for the last few minutes to save at least some energy and money. If you suffer from seasonal pollen or dust allergies, a stint in the dryer can be just the thing to “shake out” your clothes. If you don’t like the stiffness of line-dried clothing, a few minutes in the dryer can soften up your fabrics. Be aware that, in the summer, using your dryer will increase the need for your air conditioner if your laundry room is in your house – that’s definitely a cost to be reckoned.
FYI, your lint trap catches a goodly amount of the fibers that come off your clothes in the dryer but don’t throw them away – make these instead.
If you’re a line drying purist, get used to the stiffness and learn to love it. I told you, I’m a geek about this line drying thing and I actually love the stiffness – even in my towels, which is so weird. As far as allergies go, we live in the country now and are surrounded by dust a pollen of every kind. I give each article of clothing a good shake before I bring it in, but with working and living on a farm there’s no escaping the allergies. We prefer to use natural methods , especially local honey and beeswax, to manage them instead.
From phantom load to the EPA, how much energy each appliance sucks from the wall when not in use is a very interesting bedtime story. Do your own homework but, suffice it to say, if you have appliances, it’s wise to unplug them when they’re not in use. This is true for your dryer, as well as your toaster, and absolutely anything with a charger attached to it like your cell phone or computer. The technology and the government regulation change so often that keeping on top of it all can get time consuming, so an easy solution is just to unplug when you’re not using an appliance. That’s not to say that you need to get rid of your dryer altogether, if you don’t want to – just be aware of how it functions, and read up on it’s energy use before you purchase, especially if you’re buying new.
Here’s some guidance on that by Energy Star – click here.
No matter how many times you tell your kids you’re not a laundress, and no matter how many times you show them how to use the stain remover, you inevitably end up with stains that make it through the wash. I don’t usually take the time to inspect every article of clothing if I’m just tossing it into the dryer, so I miss those sneaky stains and end up setting them in the heat of the dryer. You can dry everything 0n low heat to mitigate stain setting, of course. This will also cut down on the amount of abuse your clothes take from the dryer, because the high heat is what causes the fabrics to weaken over time. However, low heat takes a lot longer to dry a load. So much longer, in fact, that it’s more practical to simply line dry your clothes if low heat is what you want to use.
If you have stains that make it through the wash, they’re much easier to spot as you hang each article to dry and it’s a simple matter to use the sun to bleach them out. Use your clothes drying rack and pin the piece of clothing in place so that the stain is exposed to the sun as much as possible. Depending on the type of stain, the intensity of the suns rays (which varies according to time of year and your elevation) this can take anywhere from an hour to a few days. This method is only advised for white clothing, of course – the sun is as indiscriminate in it’s whitening as is chlorine bleach.
Forgetaboutit! Seriously, there’s no comparison here, especially over time. A simple clothes drying rack can run you about twenty dollars, with the better ones being anywhere from forty to a hundred-ish. There are more expensive versions, of course, especially if you’d like a sturdy one made from wood. There are some pretty fancy, schmancy line drying set ups you can purchase for several hundred dollars but you can also build your own for about thirty to sixty dollars. Here’s one gentleman’s video on how to do it, but there are LOTS of ideas online.
A commercial dryer, brand new, will be upwards of several hundred dollars to over a thousand. You can buy them used and save a lot of initial cash but you’ll always have upkeep to pay for, plus the energy to use it every week. Bottom line, the sun is free and line drying set ups are very affordable.
If I had back the many hours of my life that I have spent re-dampening and re-drying loads of laundry that I have forgotten, wrinkled and disheveled in the dryer, I’d probably have enough time to get rid of a few grey hairs. Apart from the texture and wear on our clothes, this is the part about using a dryer that I really dislike the most. Back when I used a dryer all the time I was constantly forgetting laundry for the same reason I forgot to feed my sourdough starter when it was in the fridge – out of sight, out of mind for me! I’m too busy to remember to check the dryer and, because they’re hidden away, I forget about the clothes. Amazingly, doing the laundry just isn’t that riveting for me.
With a clothesline, and especially a clothes drying rack, the laundry is right in front of me all day so I can’t forget it very often. I’m not going to lie, I have forgotten it overnight before but, when I do, the laundry doesn’t wrinkle while it waits for me. In fact, I hardly ever have to iron anything because I can hang the wet clothes to dry into a nicely crisp, flat position. The air-dried stiffness provides a starched look, too. Sometimes I’ll encounter particularly wrinkle-loving fabrics that will require a hot iron but certainly not as often as I used to, constantly forgetting my laundry in the dryer.
In the End
If you love your dryer and want to keep using it, just unplug between uses and go for a lower heat setting to save energy and cost. Maybe get a clothes drying rack and try hanging out your lingerie and other delicate items. If you’re interested in the whole line drying thing but aren’t sure about it yet, get a clothes drying rack and start using if for dishtowels while you start researching designs for a do-it-yourself clothesline. If you don’t want to mess with either of those, start throwing your wet jeans over obliging patio chairs or your grape trellising, like we did for a long time.
If you really start to dig it, invest in some really good clothespins because you’re crossing over now – may as well have the right equipment.
Try these clothespins for best results; they’re our favorites!