Get Out and Hang Out (Your Laundry)

May 29, 2012

Credit: Margaret Boyles
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I don’t own a clothes dryer, which means using sturdy indoor and outdoor drying equipment.

The year the wooden posts holding up our old outside clothesline finally collapsed, I ordered one I found online featuring steel posts and crossbeams and a lifetime guarantee.

Because it was a gift for the man of the house, I had the product delivered to my office, so I could keep it as a surprise.

It arrived one day when I was out of the office, appearing to be nothing but a couple of long, beefy steel poles taped together (the cross pieces were tucked inside the support poles, and customers provide their own clothes lines).

Because of my reputation as the office exercise fanatic, my colleagues assumed I’d ordered a stripping pole, since “pole dancing” was one of the hot new exercise trends that year.

We all had quite a laugh when I let them in on the true purpose of the poles. I hauled them home in our ancient pickup, and the gift was well received. We set the support poles into 18 inches of cement, and years later our laundry still swings brightly on sunny days year ‘round.

Are you planning to hang out this summer? If not, why not?

Let me give a few of my top reasons for hanging the family laundry outside:

  • You’ll lower your gas or electric bill. Project Laundry List estimates the average household could save 10 to 20 percent percent on utility bills by hanging the wash. 
  • You’ll lower your risk of a home fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association, clothes dryers or washing machines cause about 4 percent of house fires. In 2006, these appliances caused 15 civilian deaths, 360 injuries, and $194 in direct property damage.*
  • Hanging laundry gets you outside. Being outside in bright light can alleviate depression, improve immunity, increase social relationships, and more
  • Line-drying prolongs the life of your clothing. The roiling and tumbling of damp laundry takes its toll on the fibers in clothing and bedding.
  • Sunlight is a good bleach and disinfectant. Line-drying also helps remove stains without adding chemical agents to your wash. The downside: Fading. To prevent bright colors from fading, turn the items inside out, or hang them on bars in the shade.
  • You can’t beat the smell of line-dried laundry. Ah! Plunging my nose into a pile of sun-dried clothes releases a cascade of feel-good endorphins. (Yankee Candle tries to replicate the scent in their Clean Cotton line.)
  • Rough, air-dried towels make the best exfoliants. (Did you know you can actually buy “exfoliating towels”?) Saves time and money, since you can multi-task—exfoliate all over while you dry off—and forget about buying exfoliating scrubs and scrubbers.

If my reasons aren’t enough to change your mind, check out this moving slideshow of Clotheslines Across America. Poetry in motion! Add your own image if you can.

 

*Thanks to alert reader, Peter Rukavina, for correcting the error in my original reporting of the fire danger.

 

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Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.

Comments

How do you keep the smell of

By Brandy Pinkerton

How do you keep the smell of animals off your clothes? I'm ready to attempt this but we have a small backyard that has goats & a donkey on the other side of the fence. I don't wanna smell like them when I'm subbing at school.

I started hanging our clothes

By Nanfaerue

I started hanging our clothes out to help cut the cost on the electric bill. That was 3 years ago and I still hang the laundry out. I agree with every word you said. There are so many reasons to do it. People here in the north think I'm crazy to still do it in the snow. But heck I don't even know if my dryer still works. lol

I have never owned a dryer

By Christine - Bronx NY

I have never owned a dryer and for the short time I did use one I shrunk everything.....I love hanging clothes outside and do so every weekend almost all year - otherwise I have laundry lines in the boiler room.....I love it..

Great memories. Love the

By Margie Orr

Great memories. Love the picture with the prop pole. Mother had an old Maytag wringer washer when I was little. Monday was always wash day.

Takes me back to summers at

By Gaia Psychology

Takes me back to summers at my grandmother's farm. She washed her laundry in an old ringer-style washing machine and dried all of her laundry on the outdoor clothesline. My job was to hand her the wooden clothespins...Wonderful memories!

You are "preaching to the

By Maff

You are "preaching to the choir". Here in MS in the summer especially. I air dry all year long. Thought that was the only way to do it!

I, too, hang my clothes

By Mrs. D

I, too, hang my clothes outside, inside by the woodstove in inclement weather. I agree with all of the above. The 2 biggest users of propane at my house were the dryer and the heater!

The "clothesline" photos

By Felice

The "clothesline" photos brought back many memories of hanging clothes to dry when I was growing up in Rhode Island. Of course, my mom made sure that our clotheslines were works of art (all shirts together, etc.). I once saw an exhibition of Joel Meyerowitz photos which included some photos taken of some towels drying in a strong Cape Cod breeze -- so real you could hear those towels flapping!

I have severe seasonal

By Lifesart

I have severe seasonal allergies and I find that if I dry my clothes, towels and bed sheets outside, they can aggravate my lungs and sinuses. :(

It would be useful if you

By Kamia

It would be useful if you told us where you got the poles that lasted so long, because I haven't found anything like that ready-made. Thanks

Here's a link to the

By Margaret Boyles

Here's a link to the clothesline we ordered, Kamia: http://bit.ly/LeYzZ2.

I like that the manufacturer is a small, family-owned business in a small, rural Maine town.

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