Using a clothesline to dry my clothes was not something I had ever done or wanted to do. Though I had watched my grandmother hang her clothes to dry on a metal antennae-looking contraption in the backyard, I thought of line drying as an old fashioned practice—an antiquated chore now made obsolete by the modern clothes dryer.
After traveling and living abroad, for the first time, I began to see how people in other countries laundered their clothes. My host mother in Costa Rica scrubbed each piece of clothing vigorously on a washboard in a bucket full of soapy water, then rinsed them and put them in a ringing machine that spun the excess water out of the clothes, before hanging them under awnings in the steamy tropical heat. The women I met in Japan washed their clothes in a clothes washer and then hung them to dry, pinning them into astonishingly neat rows on impossibly narrow balconies. The people I knew in Germany also used clothes washers, but often had foldable clothes drying racks that they hung their clothes on—taking them outside if the weather was good, or simply letting them dry inside by the radiator when the weather was rainy or cold (which it too often was—brrr!).
Different countries, different cultures, and slightly different methods on getting clothes clean—but, the people I encountered in Costa Rica, Japan, and Germany all air-dried their clothing just like my grandmother. Until I ventured out of the U.S., I always thought of a washing machine and its significant other, the clothes dryer, as basic household necessities; was I actually brainwashed into thinking that a clothes dryer was essential? According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 80% of Americans surveyed in 2006 thought of a clothes dryer as a necessity. Clearly, many other countries honor the practice of line drying clothes for a reason, in spite of the availability of modern clothes dryers. What do they know about the clothes dryer that Americans should know?
With the average American family doing about 400 loads of laundry a year (more than a load a day), the impact of our laundering habits can quickly multiply—in both positive and negative ways.
Take a look at this amazing graph produced by the Duke Center for Sustainability and Commerce:
|Source: "Energy & carbon impact from|
residential laundry in the United States."
A clothes dryer uses a hefty 71% of the electricity required in the laundry cycle. Wow—over two thirds of the electricity! From simply a personal cost perspective, I suddenly understood why so many people around the world use the tried and true method of line drying their laundry. All that guzzled electricity means higher electricity bills; electric dryers cost about $193 per year to run and gas dryers cost $120 a year to run. And the majority of that electricity comes from dirty coal-burning power plants, unless you have a renewable, clean electricity source. In fact, the average household would stop emitting 2,400 pounds of planet warming carbon dioxide into our atmosphere just by hanging laundry. Ahhhhh, it feels great to know that this simple practice will make the planet a more livable place for ourselves and all future generations.
Here are my top three reasons to use solar power to dry your clothes:
- Save money and natural resources.
Hanging up a simple clothes line and soaking up all that free solar energy saves mega watts of electricity which means saving your money and our planet.
- Extend the life of your clothes.
All that dryer lint did not just appear out of thin air. I never really realized that using the dryer damaged my clothing. I just thought it was picking up the fuzzy bits and cat hair from my clothes like a lint brush. But using the clothes dryer, especially on high heat, cracks and abrades the clothing fibers, causing them to snag, tear and shed their fibers as lint at a higher rate. Hanging your clothing to dry keeps them in good shape.
- It is fun! Seriously!
Maybe it is the inspiration of my Japanese friends, but I enjoy hanging my clothes to dry in neat, tidy rows. It is a chance to get outside, and enjoy the sunlight and fresh air, and focus on a simple, but satisfying task. When my husband offers to hang the laundry—I turn him down—seriously.
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