Posted on SEPTEMBER 9, 2009:
HANG ME OUT TO DRY
Back-to-basics laundry approach saves money and time
By Natasha Ball
When my clothes dryer went to the big laundry room in the sky early this
summer, my first reaction was to cry.
Second, I turned on my computer and opened Maytag.com. I'd just spent
nearly five years with a dryer (circa 1968), and I soon found all the
fancy features now available on this humble household appliance.
In fact, clothes dryers didn't need to be humble at all. Some models
come with that hip, brushed aluminum finish, for crying out loud. I
wanted to plunder our kid's college savings account and put one of those
bad boys in my living room. Why relegate it to the same place where I
store my old paint cans, rakes and sundry combustibles? It would have
been the prettiest thing I'd ever owned. I was ready to welcome it as a
full-rights member of the family.
Enter my ever-frugal, always-sensible husband.
"Um, honey? I don't see why we need to spend $1,200 on a new electric
dryer when we could find an outdoor clothes dryer at a garage sale for
next to nothing."
My response: Blink, blink. Me, hanging clothes to dry, outside? Where
birds could poop and bugs could mate on my freshly laundered "I Heart
Tulsa" shirt? Where the neighbors could look over the fence and see our
clothes without us in them and think we're some sort of European expats?
"Um, honey. You did not marry the kind of girl who stands outside all
day to hang your ten-year-old underwear and golf socks for all the world
to see. Now, tell me the password to our savings account so I can pay
the Maytag man."
Oops. I always lose those "discussions" in which I bring up my husband's
A few weeks later, after making sure our homeowners' association
wouldn't have a conniption over our new lifestyle choice, hubs was in
the back yard filling a hole with cement. He had installed my
brand-spanking-new carousel line dryer. Our compromise was that I at
least get a pretty, new line dryer, not some stranger's seasoned one the
very next day. The cost: $51.48, including shipping, enough clothes pins
to hang a load of laundry and a cute, hanging cotton pouch to put them
So, our adventures in line drying had saved us about $1,100 so far.
Now that a few billing cycles have passed since our switch to dry out
laundry granny style, we've begun to notice that we've reaped savings on
our utility bills, too.
Our electricity usage as shown on our 2008 July/August bill was 2,028
kilowatt hours (kWh for short). This year it had decreased 25 percent to
1,521 kWh. That irons out to a year-over-year savings of $104.80 (even
though the price of our kWh, which is configured according to the market
and individual usage, at that time last year was four cents more than it
was this year. This puts our adjusted savings at less than half the
amount of the savings we actually realized).
So, there are financial savings to be had by choosing to hang laundry to
dry rather than tossing it in the dryer. Then, come the other benefits.
On a sunny day in Oklahoma, a full load of lightweight, wet laundry can
be dry in 10 minutes flat. And though hanging laundry in the summer
makes for one sweaty C-Dawg, it's actually been a nice, peaceful way to
spend increments of about seven minutes outside, away from all that
beckons from inside my dwelling.
Plus, line-dried laundry smells good. I can't describe exactly how, but
it's along the lines of a cotton field with notes of a newborn baby's
head. Seriously, it's that good and sweet-smelling. Plus, there's
nothing quite like crispness of line-dried bed sheets at the end of a
long day. Not only will you sleep like a baby, but you'll smell (kind
of) like one, too.
After being convinced that I'd discovered the greatest thing since
sliced bread, I hopped on Facebook to gauge my friends' responses to my
self-induction into the culture of line drying.
I used the word "culture" up there because that's fully what I mean. Get
a load of the Web sites out there on line drying -- LaundryList.org,
LineDryIt.com, Right2Dry.org and LineDry.com are my favorites to catch a
glimpse of this growing subculture.
Just as the level of Web space occupied by line drying surprised me, so
did the responses to what I thought was a measly little status update
about how laundry set out to dry on a sunny day could beat the speed of
an electric or gas dryer without breaking a sweat.
My buds left a total of 25 comments -- more comments than I had ever
gotten on any other Facebook status update, needless to say. They
chattered about everything from the pros and cons of the different types
of line dryers out there, where to find traditional t-post dryers in
Tulsa, how to prevent crunchy towels and how to use in-the-sun line
drying as a stain fighter.
The first comment: "So, Mom was right? Dang." At the end of the day,
don't we find that she almost always was? Maybe not about lead paint or
putting babies to sleep on their bellies or mayonnaise hair treatments,
My favorite comment of all: "Hanging stuff up? Like, on a line dryer?
You mean, how my mom used to do?"
That second one wasn't from Facebook, actually. That was Stan Whiteford
over in communications at AEP/PSO during a phone interview last week.
After coming to terms with what I'd said about the size of the impact of
my status update on my little corner of Facebook, he pointed out that
not only does conservation happen in terms of dollars and cents when
power users choose to line dry, but also when it comes to the
"There are money savings from not using an electricity- or gas-powered
dryer, sure, but heating and cooling the home makes up the largest of
the home energy bill," Whiteford said. "What you'll save from having to
take out of your pocketbook by line drying will pale in comparison to
what could be saved from both your wallet and your carbon footprint by
keeping the thermostat down this winter.
"And then there's this: When you don't use an indoor dryer, you're not
putting the heat that machine generates and that needs to be cooled back
down into your house. You'll use less air conditioning that way, so
there are some additional savings, both financial and environmental, to
be had there."
Before skipping down the street to the line dryer store, check with your
homeowner's association to make sure the stuffy people next door won't
have any ground to stand on when they pipe up at the next meeting about
how unsightly your clean laundry looks from their "outdoor living
Next, hit the line drying sites I mentioned above for tips on how to
best line dry your duds. The pointy shoulder look achieved by hanging
t-shirts and collared shirts on the line by the shoulder seams doesn't
look good on anybody.