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How Dry I Am
October 27, 2009 6:01 AM   Subscribe

Your humble clothes dryer is under attack. "Dryers are said to use 10-15% of domestic energy output in the US." "Only 4% of the homes in Italy have dryers." Can't give up the convenience? Consider a condenser dryer. As usual, Doonesbury was way ahead of the curve.
posted by Xurando (235 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
When I was a kid, we had a gasoline-powered wringer-washer, until it tore itself apart. Now we just hang it up outside or downstairs by the stove.
It's a sad state of affairs when people aren't allowed to dry their own laundry on a line.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:03 AM on October 27, 2009


Better yet, just hang your wet clothes outside, or even inside. It only takes about 12 hours to get my clothes dry when I hang them up in my bathroom.

Get off my lawn!
posted by Eleutherios at 6:04 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


From the link:
All else being equal (i.e. not including household heating/cooling issues), condenser dryers are slightly less efficient than their vented counterparts, typically on the order of ~15%. The real design intent of condenser dryers isn't improved efficiency, but the simple fact that they don't require a vent duct.
Emphasis mine and yeah, great plan. HAMBURGER
posted by DU at 6:08 AM on October 27, 2009 [9 favorites]


Ironically, you probably could make a condensing dryer be more efficient than a normal one. Instead of venting the hot steam, use it to heat the incoming air.

Ah humanity, is there any variable you can't incorrectly optimize for?
posted by DU at 6:10 AM on October 27, 2009


10 years with no dryer, and the only thing I really miss is soft, fuzzy warm towels on a winter day. There is very, very little better than that. On the other hand, saving a bunch of money and only taking a little bit of extra time is kind of neat too. Even with fabric softener in the wash, though, clothes don't get as fluffy.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:20 AM on October 27, 2009


I guess I could start putting my clothes in the microwave on cold days...
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:22 AM on October 27, 2009


The sun and wind have been drying my family's clothes for 20+ years. I do miss the fluffiness of clothes dried in a tumbling dryer, but not much else.
posted by rmmcclay at 6:25 AM on October 27, 2009


"Like the majority of the 60 million people who now live in the country’s roughly 300,000 private communities, Ms. Saylor was forbidden to dry her laundry outside because many people viewed it as an eyesore"

--"Legislators in Colorado, Hawaii, Maine and Vermont have prohibited anti-clothesline rules, and similar action is being considered in several other states."--

""Rethinking Laundry in the 21st Century"" (!?)

America, you are a very weird country.
posted by peacay at 6:25 AM on October 27, 2009 [36 favorites]


Bring on the airing cupboard!

FWIW, I hang my laundry out most of the time. Unless it's raining, snowing, after dinner, or the humidity is over 80% -- when it takes two days for a pair of trousers to dry on the line and they needs to be rewashed as they've got bird poop on them.... (the birds like to hang out on the spider in the morning, so anything left out overnight is likely to get pooped on.)

It's not in the neighborhood covenant, and the last time the local busybody brought up banning clotheslines three different people jumped on her, even though I'm the only person in the neighborhood who consistently hangs out laundry. I just asked her if she was willing to pay for the gas to run the dryer. :)

Eleutherios -- hanging clothes inside is fine for one or two people, but when you try to do that with a family's worth of clothes, you quickly run out of space. (BT, DT.)
posted by jlkr at 6:26 AM on October 27, 2009


So, are gas powered dryers as big an issue, climate-wise, or are they just as bad? My home has a gas dryer, and it is cheaper, but I know cheap doesn't always equal green.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:26 AM on October 27, 2009


Hmm. Yeah. I guess we never used dryers when we lived in France. There was a big metal folding-out thing that you'd hang your clothes on while you were at work. Thing is, it kind of limits the amount of laundry you can do at once. I'm not convinced it would be energy efficient, because in order to use such a thing in urban America, you'd have to either do more frequent smaller loads of laundry (wasting the water on units where you can't adjust the load size) or retool existing laundry facilities.

There's also the cultural problem. Americans don't want laundry done in 12 hours. They want it done now. People feel like they don't have time for that (even though, of course, they do), and so such things just stress them out.

All the same, the folding out thingy was pretty cool. And yeah, go energy-efficiency. Maybe I'll try it just for kicks.
posted by jock@law at 6:28 AM on October 27, 2009


From the LaundryList link: 8) Clothes and linens smell better without adding possibly toxic chemicals to your body and the environment.

Um... what? What toxic chemicals does tumbling clothes in hot air add to my body? Oh, wait... This implies that everyone has bought into the myth that you have to put a "dryer sheet" in with your clothes while they dry? Feh. Extra products are extra products, and are not necessities.

I will rethink my dryer usage and will probably buy a drying rack this week (thanks!), but let's at least have some honesty about what is necessary when using a dryer, which is NOTHING BEYOND HOT AIR.
posted by hippybear at 6:28 AM on October 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


I like the efficiency of outdoor drying, but I love love love the way clothes feel after being tumble dried, and hate the stiffness (especially of socks and towels) of line-dried clothes. As long as utilities are this cheap, I'll be using my dryer.
posted by Forktine at 6:29 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


We have no space for such things in Brooklyn, so I take mine to the laundromat and have them do it. It would be really hard to transition to a method that doesn't involve getting my laundry back folded.
posted by snofoam at 6:37 AM on October 27, 2009


Outdoor lines are banned in my apartment block and everyone is provided with a dryer... insanity when we have blue sky, 10-15kt winds and low humidity on 90% of days (Perth). Happily it's warm enough that a clothes rack by the window gets dry in a couple of hours but it wouldn't be good with more than 2 people. Strata mgmt companies / HOAs suck.
posted by polyglot at 6:39 AM on October 27, 2009


Yeah, drying clothes on one of those expanding racks jock@law mentioned can be easy and painless but it can also be a giant pain in the ass. In the summer we open the windows and our shit dries in a few hours; in the winter the rack takes up all the space in our bathroom for days and we're pirouetting around it on the way to the toilet. Ironically lack of space is the primary reason we don't have a dryer in the first place. In a house with a basement it would be easier. It also depends on how much laundry you do. If you have more than one kid I'd imagine you'd probably want to keep your dryer. Here in Europe I think it's just not that common to have a dryer and people are used to using those racks, but if you can remember what life is like with a dryer you might have a hard time adjusting.
posted by creasy boy at 6:40 AM on October 27, 2009


In some places 'round the globe, folks use spinners to get most of the water out, then hang it dry. We have a front load washer that does a good job of spinning, then our gas dryer doesn't work as hard. I guess I should entertain more clothesline drying though, as New England weather permits.
posted by drowsy at 6:42 AM on October 27, 2009


You can use fabric softener in the wash (there's an ecological one made specifically for that purpose - I don't want to sound like an ad, so won't link to it, just search for "ecological fabric softener") to get similar softness. It made a huge difference for my line-dried clothes. I haven't used a drier since coming to Europe 12 years ago - even in Finland I line-dried my clothes (inside, though some dried clothes outside even in negative temperatures).
posted by fraula at 6:43 AM on October 27, 2009


Americans don't want laundry done in 12 hours. They want it done now.

I was actually just thinking about this. You don't really need the clothes dry until you are going to put them back on. If you have at least one other set of clothes (and towels, cloth napkins, etc) 12 hours is more than fast enough. The real problem is space and effort.

I'd be more than willing to hang dry, but not if I have to lug it outside and back in. Which is impossible during bad weather anyway. And with kids we do enough laundry per day that hanging indoors is not an option.
posted by DU at 6:43 AM on October 27, 2009


Last year when we lived in Florida, we line dried as much as possible. Even in January with 50 degree days, the gulf breeze and lack of humidity dried everything in ~2 hours. My girlfriend wasn't so gung-ho about it, but we still did it anyway.

In the warmer weather, one end of the line would be almost dry by the time you got to the other end.

MMmmm....and sun dried clothes smell soooooo good too.
posted by TomMelee at 6:43 AM on October 27, 2009


But on the other hand, while I like dryers, it's fucking insane to ban clotheslines and I'm shocked to have learned just now that people are seriously forbidden from drying clothes outside. Because they're eyesores? But you haven't banned billboards yet? What the fuck? While you're at it, ban Starbucks, that's a fucking eyesore.
posted by creasy boy at 6:43 AM on October 27, 2009 [30 favorites]


You don't really need the clothes dry until you are going to put them back on.

Oh and you don't need to dry them if you didn't wash them. Wear your clothes more than once before washing, if possible.
posted by DU at 6:44 AM on October 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


Go Maine. I have a spiffy new front loading washer that gets laundry pretty dry to begin with. Most stuff goes on the drying rack. It's near the furnace, and things dry pretty fast. If possible, some things go outside; sheets dried in the sun smell extra nice. Many clothes get a spin in the dryer for de-wrinkling. My electric bill stays fairly low. It's not very difficult.
posted by theora55 at 6:46 AM on October 27, 2009


It only takes about 12 hours to get my clothes dry when I hang them up in my bathroom.

Um. Sorry, no, that's unreasonable.

I'm running the fucking dryer right now just to spite you crazy people.
posted by grubi at 6:48 AM on October 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


if doonesbury is right, i want to be wrong. i wonder how much ink has been wasted printing doonesbury comics.
posted by Mach5 at 6:48 AM on October 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


You don't really need the clothes dry until you are going to put them back on.

So why not go all the way and only wash 'em twenty minutes before you go out in the morning?

Oh, right: that's nuts.
posted by grubi at 6:50 AM on October 27, 2009


This HAMBURGER thing is here to stay, isn't it. [NOT HAMBURGERist]
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:54 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


As usual, Doonesbury was way ahead of the curve.

You know, that reminds me of an old strip. Mark is sitting in the basement, in front of the washer, and his father comes down, asking why its been running continuously for hours. Mark replies that he's pre-fading a new pair of blue jeans. His father -- a conservative Republican -- takes him to task for the waste. Oh, and the reader is supposed to take Mark's side in this argument.

I really kind of hope someone rubs that strip in Trudeau's face.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 6:54 AM on October 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Ironically, you probably could make a condensing dryer be more efficient than a normal one. Instead of venting the hot steam, use it to heat the incoming air.

Why would this work better with a condensing drier than with a normal one? Ideally it would use outside air as the input, especially in colder regions. When it is cold the heat transfer efficiency would go up as it is a function of delta T and all that air being expelled needs to come from somewhere.
posted by caddis at 6:55 AM on October 27, 2009


You don't really need the clothes dry until you are going to put them back on.

So why not go all the way and only wash 'em twenty minutes before you go out in the morning?


Wha?
posted by DU at 6:56 AM on October 27, 2009


Well this post made me start to seriously consider line-drying, anyway.
posted by lunit at 6:57 AM on October 27, 2009


It only takes about 12 hours to get my clothes dry when I hang them up in my bathroom.

Um. Sorry, no, that's unreasonable.
You know, some of us do our laundry before we're down to our last pair of underwear. I can't remember the last time I used an article of clothing less than 12 hours after laundering it.

I'm actually surprised that Italy has only 3%-4% penetration of driers. I would have assumed that those combination compact washer/drier units would have penetrated pretty far into the country by now. At least, such things seemed fairly common in the rest of Europe.

Can someone who has experience with switching to line-drying tell me, in absolute dollar terms, how much they've saved by line-drying their clothes?
posted by deanc at 6:57 AM on October 27, 2009


I'll make all kinds of other really absurd energy saving sacrifices before I give up my dryer. I hate crusty line-dried clothes with a passion. The solution here, as I see it, is those washers that centrifugally dry clothing before you even get it to a dryer. Those cut drying time way down, to 25% or less what you'd need from a regular washer.

Everyone who likes line-drying, I wholly support your right to. But I hope I never have to.
posted by rusty at 6:58 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Dryers are said to use 10-15% of domestic energy output in the US."

HORSESHIT STATISTIC ALERT
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:58 AM on October 27, 2009 [12 favorites]


Ironically, you probably could make a condensing dryer be more efficient than a normal one. Instead of venting the hot steam, use it to heat the incoming air.

Why would this work better with a condensing drier than with a normal one?

Because a normal one doesn't condense. In order to extract heat from steam, you need to condense it. OK, you could just extract a tiny amount of energy--but the big payoff is in the heat of vaporization.
posted by DU at 6:58 AM on October 27, 2009


I think you must have different kind of air in America. Clothes dried outside on the line crust up? You're doing something wrong there.
posted by vbfg at 6:59 AM on October 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


There was an NPR story a few years ago about those big umbrella-action devices and how much Australians love them. Any Aussies up right now to give us the nickname you use?

Apparently most American neighborhoods that have sufficient land to benefit from a clothesline also have rules barring their use.
posted by jefficator at 6:59 AM on October 27, 2009


I live in the South, where humidity is routinely more than 70%. Line drying is not a good option here. Plus you'd be picking bugs out of your clothes for days.
posted by JDHarper at 6:59 AM on October 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oh yeah, you can totally take my dryer


FROM MY COLD, DEAD HANDS.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:05 AM on October 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


My husband refuses to use the dryer anymore (hang the clothes outside when it's nice, inside with a fan pointing at them when it's not).

I use the dryer only when I need to dry stuff quickly, when I want to do a lot of laundry in a short amount of time, TOWELS and when I just don't feel like wasting valuable time hanging eighteen thousand pairs of underwear.

(Plus, when hanging things, I invariably drop something on the floor, which is dirty and dusty and covered with sawdust. That something is always (a) mine, and (b) black.)
posted by Lucinda at 7:09 AM on October 27, 2009


Can someone who has experience with switching to line-drying tell me, in absolute dollar terms, how much they've saved by line-drying their clothes?

When I get home from work I can check our gas/electric bills.
posted by Lucinda at 7:10 AM on October 27, 2009


You know, there's a lot of middle ground here. You could just machine dry the socks and underwear, which dry pretty quickly in a tumbler but take up a lot of space and time on a rack. And then drip dry towels, shirts and pants, which are likely to last longer that way and are easier to find space for. You'd probably win back most of the energy tumble drying wastes, with a minimum of the inconvenience.
posted by condour75 at 7:11 AM on October 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


FROM MY COLD, DEAD HANDS.
I'm a big fan of the dryer, but the truth is that when it comes to lowering my utility bills, I've found myself willing to do just about anything to save a few dollars every month. If that means switching to CFLs, I'll do that. When I realized how much money I saved turning off the power strip for my TV and stereo, I did that. I'm absolutely shameless when it comes to this stuff. I haven't abandoned the dryer, yet, but it is possible that I could be convinced if someone made the case in dollar terms.
posted by deanc at 7:11 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm from Italy and I now live in Massachusetts. You will pry my dryer from my cold, dead, hands.

You want to know why only 4% of Italian households have dryers? Because women are still disproportionately responsible for useless housework. In a world in which you have to come home during your lunch break to make sure you've cooked a meal for your family, or you will go to your mother's house, who will have cooked a meal for her family, wringing out clothes, hanging them outside to dry, and then ironing all of them is not seen as a waste of time. Just what you do.

Of course, when my cousins realize that I can have my laundry done and folded in less than two hours, that nothing needs to be ironed or hung up to dry, they definitely see the potential benefits of having a dryer. Hell, some of my cousins only recently got a washer. My mother, and we were well off, got her first washer less than 10 years ago. Washing clothes in the tub was just what women did. Of course, my mother had terrible arthritis in her wrists, but hey, saving energy would be totally worth it! After all, the man power necessary to do the job that appliance would have done faster and better is actually woman power and inherently more expendable.
posted by lydhre at 7:12 AM on October 27, 2009 [63 favorites]


I used to live in the southwest. Running a clothes dryer when it's 106 F out and near 0% humidity is pretty lame. Spit barely even makes it to the sidewalk before it evaporates. In such weather, clothes will dry very quickly on a line. However, now I live in the midwest, and its unclear how to avoid using a clothes dryer, even in the summer (frequent rains, high humidity, altogether different kinds of bugs and birds).

I wonder whether one could safely hack a "standard" air dryer to reuse some of the heat rather than venting everything directly outside.
posted by Maximian at 7:13 AM on October 27, 2009


"Dryers are said to use 10-15% of domestic energy output in the US."

HORSESHIT STATISTIC ALERT


Yeah, 10-15% is a bit overblown. The EnergyStar program says that the refrigerator, dishwasher, washer, and dryer together account for only about 13% of a typical home energy bill.
posted by jedicus at 7:14 AM on October 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


I wouldn't mind using an outside line to dry clothes occasionally but it freaking rains (or snows or sleets) here 150 days a year. I'd hate to come home from work and have to drag in a load of soaking wet clothes that have been out in a downpour all day.
posted by octothorpe at 7:16 AM on October 27, 2009


As someone who dealt with the laundrymat (nothing like getting your ass grabbed by some 70 year old man as you bend down to get the clothes out of the dryer) and a crappy neighbor upstairs using our dryer in the hall to dry her CAT PEE infested clothes (why wash them when you can just dry the cat pee out of them?), I like my washer and dryer in my own home and the warm, fuzzy goodness it produces. I'll give up something else.
posted by stormpooper at 7:17 AM on October 27, 2009


Personally, one of the things I love most about walking in old Lisbon is seeing all the clothes hanging out the window. It's beautiful.
It reminds me that it is a living neighborhood with real people not just some Disney-esque medieval reconstruction.
posted by vacapinta at 7:20 AM on October 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


I have a big ass LG dryer with an LCD screen and steam option that sings some kind of British army tune when the cycle is complete. It uses less energy than most 5 year old top loaders. I did buy a folding rack for various washcloths and things that I don't mind being stiff and flat, but I'll shoot anyone that tries to take my dryer.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:20 AM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


those big umbrella-action devices and how much Australians love them

I believe the Hill's Hoist is what you're after. It is a pretty nifty device - lower it with the crank until the line is within easy reach, hang clothes, then lift even bedsheets well clear of the ground. You can fit quite a lot of clothes into a relatively small space with it, too. And it's kind of amusing to watch it become a laundry merry-go-round in the breeze (inspiring generations of Australian children to take rides on it themselves).
posted by EvaDestruction at 7:24 AM on October 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


Bah. I'm old enough that when I was growing up we had no dishwasher, no microwave, and no dryer. A huge part of my mother's day was taken up with housework and that spilled over unto me. So lots of time pinning clothes to the line, taking them down, and then ironing them. Why, why did we iron pillowcases and kitchen towels?!

Today we have a line strung up in the laundry room for my husband's sports clothes. He doesn't subject his biking gear to the mean ole dryer. On the other hand, while I was used to using the same towel for a week thanks to the dry air of So Cal, the humidity of NC means a new towel every day. A towel that dries in the dryer.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:24 AM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


UrineSoakedRube: Oh, and the reader is supposed to take Mark's side in this argument.

Uh, not exactly. The irony goes a little farther in the average Doonesbury comic than you are granting. I mean, you don't have to love Trudeau's politics, but don't misrepresent him as simplistic.
posted by aught at 7:25 AM on October 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Of course, when my cousins realize that I can have my laundry done and folded in less than two hours, that nothing needs to be ironed or hung up to dry, they definitely see the potential benefits of having a dryer. Hell, some of my cousins only recently got a washer. My mother, and we were well off, got her first washer less than 10 years ago. Washing clothes in the tub was just what women did. Of course, my mother had terrible arthritis in her wrists, but hey, saving energy would be totally worth it! After all, the man power necessary to do the job that appliance would have done faster and better is actually woman power and inherently more expendable.
posted by lydhre at 3:12 PM


I agree with you on washers - which is not what this thread is about. Those took off like a storm among my family in Mexico.

But dryers? Line drying really isn't hard work. And with the small condenser dryers people are talking about here, you still have to iron the clothes.
posted by vacapinta at 7:25 AM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


When deciding whether or not to give up the dryer, my husband calculated the cost. He said:

"It's about 50 cents [a cycle], based on a 45-minute cycle time and 12 cents/kWh electricity cost."
posted by Lucinda at 7:25 AM on October 27, 2009


aught> Uh, not exactly. The irony goes a little farther in the average Doonesbury comic than you are granting. I mean, you don't have to love Trudeau's politics, but don't misrepresent him as simplistic.

Except I'm not talking about the average Doonesbury strip, I'm talking about that one. Mark's actions weren't treated ironically at all.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 7:28 AM on October 27, 2009


"It's about 50 cents [a cycle], based on a 45-minute cycle time and 12 cents/kWh electricity cost."

Thanks. Based on this, in my mind, once you start doing enough laundry to make the dollar savings significant, the time-saving advantage of the dryer starts to take over.
posted by deanc at 7:30 AM on October 27, 2009


$0.50 a cycle sounds about right. So perhaps $5.00 a month. Unless there are externalities such as "all clothes dryers are secretly powered by kitten rape" I'll keep on paying that.
posted by rusty at 7:31 AM on October 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


8) Clothes and linens smell better without adding possibly toxic chemicals to your body and the environment.

The problem with lists like these is that there's really only two reasons (money, environment), but then they have to stretch it to 8 or 10 and start making up stupid crap like this.

Besides, reason #8 is clearly "If you don't have a dryer then your cat can't climb in and vomit all over the dry clothes that you didn't take out because you only needed a pair of socks."
posted by electroboy at 7:33 AM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Alas, I too vastly prefer the dryer. I lived in Germany for 5 years, without a dryer. I, being Chief Domestic of my partnership, used a rack. We had space enough for that. But I tell you, when you can get jeans to stand up by themselves, leaning against the bed, you appreciate a dryer that much more!

Now, in Switzerland, we have a condenser dryer. It works mostly okay, but it is in fact inferior to a vented dryer. Don't buy in to any nonsense saying they are superior. The condenser is cooled to promote condensation of the exhaust. And lint collects all over it, so you have that much more a mess to clean up periodically.

As for those complaining about how much room is taken by shorts and socks, I say: nonsense. Shorts may be hung with 1 clothes pin, and they will dry, 'nice' and crunchy. Socks do use more room, but the racks have multiple levels, and socks allow for the maximum number of levels to be used. T-shirts are what took the most room on the rack.

Of course, sheets don't fit the rack. For bedding, we had a line to string across the living room. No big deal, they were done during the day, when the room wasn't used. But you do have to schedule laundry carefully, to allow for the amount space you have to hang things to dry. It was quite a pain, as far as I'm concerned. But then, we don't keep a car, and rent them rarely, depending almost entirely on public transportation.

My deepest sympathy to anyone with a family larger than 2, who has to depend on air-drying of laundry. It was difficult enough with only the two of us.
posted by Goofyy at 7:34 AM on October 27, 2009


Laundrymat or laundromat? I choose laundro.
posted by Xurando at 7:34 AM on October 27, 2009


At our place in Ottawa, I put clothes in the dryer for five minutes to take the wrinkles out, and then hang them to dry. My mom taught me to do that because there's no danger of things shrinking in the dryer and clothes last longer. Plus the wrinkles don't get set in by the dryer. Our washer/dryer is in the furnace room so things dry quickly. We installed some wire shelving and closet racks to have enough room to hang things. We're in a condo, so no option for line drying.

In the apartment we're renting in Beijing, there's no dryer, and the bedroom has racks in the bay window for hanging clothes to dry. The washer is small and we have two kids, so I basically do a small load of laundry every day. The clothes are a little more wrinkled than at home but it's not a big deal. It's kind of neat to be able to see everyone's laundry hanging in the windows of the apartment complexes around here.
posted by alicat at 7:35 AM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


"It's about 50 cents [a cycle]

So for the extra fifteen minutes (and it would probably be more than that) that it takes to line dry the clothes I am working for $2 and hour? No thanks.
posted by caddis at 7:36 AM on October 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


But dryers? Line drying really isn't hard work.

I'm thinking this is pretty subjective. Especially when it comes to people who do the bulk of the housework anyway vs. people who do less of it.

They're called "labour-saving devices" for a reason.
posted by Ouisch at 7:38 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Count me in the pile of HOA/COA people who can't line dry. (There was one discussion about line drying at my parents' house when the dryer crapped out at some point and it almost came down to blows between my parents. I remember my grandmother line drying things and almost getting killed by the clothesline that basically went invisible in the dark.)

I also just bought a shiny new washer/dryer set for my condo, since the one that it was constructed with was the original 1980s version that didn't really empty completely.
posted by sperose at 7:40 AM on October 27, 2009


On non-preview, someone said that condenser dryers require ironing. I don't find this to be the case, at all. The only things that need ironing in my house are office shirts, if they are mishandled. I only dry those mostly, then let them finish hanging on hangers, on the rack. And I will add, when I line dry the shirts, they come out with more wrinkles than from the dryer. Ironing is something I will only do out of desperation, or sewing projects. I'm not good at it, and fear burning the clothes. At least when I'm sewing, it's not "clothes" yet, just fabric (and therefore also, lots less complicated).
posted by Goofyy at 7:42 AM on October 27, 2009


My parents line dry until the clothes are just barely damp and then throw them in the dryer for 10 minutes. It's the best of both worlds: energy efficiency, soft jeans, and nothing needs ironing.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:45 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I live in a neighbourhood where drying clothes on the line is common, even in the depths of winter (not the snowy days obviously). I feel guilty about using my dryer but often it comes down to a time issue. When I was using cloth diapers I waited for a full load to wash and then there was no way I could wait 24-36 hours for them to dry on the line, and other times I knew I would have time to hang the clothes but wouldn't have time to take them down and put away for a day or two, whereas with the dryer the whole chore could be done in the hour I had available. But the line is great for bleaching out stains!
posted by saucysault at 7:47 AM on October 27, 2009


This post is terribly misleading. Dryers use 10% of energy output, so we conclude that they use too much energy? You use a dryer for maybe 30-45 minutes every load of laundry. A top of the line Whirlpool front loading Duet dryer uses 152 kWh of electricity a year. I contend that is not very much at all.

The question is not why dryers use 10%. The question is if dryers only use 10%, what the hell is using the other 90%?

Let's consider some hard data instead. In contrast to a dryer, a PS3 consumes over 1500 kWh a year, an Xbox 360 uses about 1200 kWh, and even the Wii uses 156 kWh per year if you leave them running all the time, which a lot of people do. A set-top box with a DVR uses anywhere from 200 kWh to 400 kWh of electricity per year, depending on the model.

The average cost for electricity in the US is about 12 cents per kWh. You want to save power and money? Ditch the unnecessary electronics, or at least kill the power when you aren't usinge them.

Yes, dryers use a lot of power. Considering that they magically remove all the water from your clothes in 30 minutes, they use surprisingly little power. Compare this to 2 kW to heat an oven to 350 for just one hour.

Major appliances in the US are insanely efficient. You know this because when you go to the store, the front of every product is emblazoned with the annual cost to power the thing. People make purchasing decisions based on that and product makers compete on that basis. There's no energy guide yellow sticker on the front of a PS3 or a Tivo, because if there was, no one would buy them.

Gas dryers aren't more efficient. First, they use electricity also. Second, you have to factor in the cost of the gas, which can and will fluctuate with oil and other resource prices. And consider that if you own a home, you'll pay more to insurance a home with gas service than one without.

All the statements about drying your clothes outside are silly. You dry your clothes outside and ditch the Whirlpool dryer I mentioned above, and you save $20 a year. Wow.

I assume if we are cutting back on our use of appliances that we've already cut the out the rest of the fat in our lives, like the text messaging, iphone apps, Starbucks coffees, cable and satellite TV, name-brand OTC painkillers (they all have identical generics), and any product with 'mocha' or 'frapp' in the name.

Because if you haven't, they you are cutting back on what is functionally a necessity to feed your appetite for luxuries, which is precisely the kind of thinking that got us in this economic mess.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:47 AM on October 27, 2009 [20 favorites]


Vacapinta,

so we're exchanging the energy expenditure of the dryer for the energy expenditure of the iron? Because I see no net benefit there, besides a huge waste of my time.

Line drying is a pain in the ass. Drying clothes outside in the wet and foggy winters of Northern Italy is pretty much impossible, which means you are limited to line drying inside, usually to the space above your bathtub. If you have one. Washers in Italy are defective, as far as I can tell, and have huge problems with their spin cycle not getting clothes dry enough. So you have to wring them out before you hang them up, and given your limited space you get to do a load of laundry every other day, with the off day spent ironing. Let's not even get into the bullshit of hanging sheets to dry in a small bathroom, and then having to iron those sheets because they will dry to the consistency of cardboard. Ironing sheets, let me let that sink in.

Add a couple of children to the mix, a full time job, and a partner who won't even clear the table, let alone load the dishwasher because you probably don't have one of those either, and dryers start sounding pretty damn exciting.
posted by lydhre at 7:47 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dryers "are said to use"? How about some facts?
posted by mattholomew at 7:49 AM on October 27, 2009


In general, condenser dryers are not more efficient than vented ones, although it is possible to buy ones that are. AEG make a tumble dryer that uses less energy than an ordinary vented dryer to dry the same load.

I presume it preheats the air with the waste heat from the condenser: why this isn't done as standard on all condensing dryers I've no idea: presumably the cost of the heat exchanger is something that can easily be cut & most people don't realise that over the lifetime of the dryer they'll pay more than the difference in price in electricity costs.

We have a vented dryer & it's always annoyed me to see all that lovely heat going out the window in the middle of winter (in the summer we line dry everything).
posted by pharm at 7:50 AM on October 27, 2009


Gas dryers aren't more efficient.

Indeed. We passed on buying a gas version of our dryer because it cost $100 more and required an additional $75 fitting assembly. It would take about 3 years to recoup the cost, plus there's no guarantee that if we moved the laundry room in the next house would have a gas connection.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:50 AM on October 27, 2009


I can't be the only person that doesn't want to line dry because I don't want my clothes stolen.
posted by asockpuppet at 7:50 AM on October 27, 2009


I live in a place with a perfect climate for line drying (the Arabian peninsula) so that's what I do. On the other hand, I actually have a servant who does my laundry, if I had to do it myself I think I would buy a dryer.
posted by atrazine at 7:51 AM on October 27, 2009


Money saving discussions inevitably decline into shaving off pennies instead of concentrating on pounds. I don't have a family, but if I did, and there were four of us, let's say I would have to do 4 loads of laundry a week. Saving 50 cents/load by air-drying, that saves me an extra $8/month or $96/yr. Or I could cancel cable TV and save at least $500/yr. Or turn off the power strip on my HDTV and stereo and save about $100/yr.

The math might work a bit differently for you if you're thinking about simply not buying a dryer at all, of course, but I'm ready to put this in the same category of "using rags in the kitchen instead of paper towels"-sort of "not-really-worthwhile" money-saving methods.
posted by deanc at 7:53 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, some of us do our laundry before we're down to our last pair of underwear.

yep, that's gotta be the only reason I insist on a dryer. I always run out of clean clothes.

OH WAIT. That's a dumb piece of logic you got there. Might want to get it looked at.
posted by grubi at 7:55 AM on October 27, 2009


Oops, I quoted the washer. The Whirlpool Duet dryer uses 950 kWh. Still less than the PS3 and xbox.

So ditching the dryer entirely saves you about $10/month.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:55 AM on October 27, 2009


You don't need a dryer if you don't use water to wash your clothes in the first place.

How do you wash your clothes without water? Use plastic beads instead.
posted by eye of newt at 7:55 AM on October 27, 2009


yep, that's gotta be the only reason I insist on a dryer. I always run out of clean clothes.

OH WAIT. That's a dumb piece of logic you got there. Might want to get it looked at.
You were specifically complaining about the 12 hours it would take to dry your clothes on a line, and that argument made absolutely no sense. If people needed their clothes the same day they cleaned them, then professional dry cleaners would not exist.
posted by deanc at 7:58 AM on October 27, 2009


Yeah, you can take my dryer from my COLD DEAD HANDS. I'm not terribly ept at remembering to do laundry, and doing three loads at a time on the weekend and being done with all three loads within 6 hours is made of WIN. Of all the American conveniences I missed most when I lived in Iceland, the dryer was just about tops on the list since three loads of laundry meant waiting THREE DAYS for everything to dry. And by that time - of course, I'd need to do MORE LAUNDRY. Never ending. (12 hours? Really? I've waited as long as 24 sometimes. Though Iceland isn't exactly a *DRY* climate.) And yeah, nothing beats a fluffy towel.

I'm down with energy efficient dryers, and I'd be happy with a clothes line in the summer as long as I still had a dryer when I needed it (my parents have this situation and it's the best - you CAN dry outside, but if it rains and you need to do laundry, you're not totally screwed).

Also: if you put a gun to my head and made me choose between having a dishwasher and a washing machine - even without the dryer, I'd pick the washing machine. Man oh man do I hate having to schlep my clothes to a laundromat. I also hate the drop-off pick-it-back-up-folded service. I've been doing my own laundry since I was 8 yrs old and damned if someone else is touching my underwear. The only person I've allowed to do my laundry is my partner's mother, and that's just because she's Portuguese and probably would have taken it as a personal affront if I insisted on washing my own underpants while I stayed in her house. It was a surprisingly tough concession to make.

You know, some of us do our laundry before we're down to our last pair of underwear. I can't remember the last time I used an article of clothing less than 12 hours after laundering it.

Yes, yes, YOU WIN.

Also: I'm with vacapinta on the laundry in Lisbon. It's awesome. (As is everything I saw in Lisbon. Holy hell is that ever a gorgeous place.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:58 AM on October 27, 2009


8) Clothes and linens smell better without adding possibly toxic chemicals to your body and the environment.

WTF are they talking about? Drying adds chemicals to the environment and my body?
posted by grubi at 7:59 AM on October 27, 2009


How do you wash your clothes without water? Use plastic beads instead.

Great, more little bits of plastic to get in the oceans.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:59 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, I actually have a servant who does my laundry, if I had to do it myself I think I would buy a dryer.

Whoa. I can't tell if you're joking or you live in an entirely different reality than mine, but either way, my head is spinning.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:59 AM on October 27, 2009


The average cost for electricity in the US is about 12 cents per kWh. You want to save power and money? Ditch the unnecessary electronics, or at least kill the power when you aren't usinge them.

I only pay around 7 cents per kWh. Wonder why electricity is so cheap here? I'm guessing that it's the abundance of coal in the area but I'm surprised that it's close to 1/2 of the national average.
posted by octothorpe at 8:02 AM on October 27, 2009


I wash two loads of laundry twice a month. I can afford the $2.00 and prefer to pay the $2.00 for speedy drying.

If people needed their clothes the same day they cleaned them, then professional dry cleaners would not exist.

Yeah, because no dry cleaners promise same-day service.
posted by grubi at 8:02 AM on October 27, 2009


I grew up with the Hill's Hoist in the backyard. As EvaDestruction says- it was a great kids toy. But really this all belongs to the past where women would spend a day doing the laundry. As Lydhre says, it takes a lot of time to hang out the families washing and then iron it- sun-dried clothes are kind of wrinkled. I think the time you save with a clothes dryer could be spent saving the environment in other ways.

Now I live in Manhattan where it's against my building's rules to even own a washing machine. (something to do with old tenement building plumbing I think).
posted by bhnyc at 8:03 AM on October 27, 2009


By the way, I did some research on this whole dryer thing last year, and it turns out there isn't really any such thing as an energy efficient dryer. They're all about that same.
posted by rusty at 8:06 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Overheard from a Texan man on the high-speed train between Ghent and Amsterdam (passing through one of the richest regions on the planet): "Look ma, look at that! Towels on a clothes line! You see it? I thank God that we were born in a country that has washer-dryers!".
posted by LVdB at 8:08 AM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


grubi, I really don't see why you're being so stubbornly obtuse, here. Most people do not use same-day dry cleaning services except when they have a last-minute emergency-- and even then, how long does it take to get your clothes back if you opt for the same-day service? 8-12 hours! For most people, the lag time between laundering an article of clothing and wearing it is not the 2 hours between washing and drying. Arguing that the additional time it takes to launder something out in the sun makes line-drying unacceptable just isn't a good argument. (caddis makes a better case for using a dryer)

I suppose you could say I'm "line-drying" my bath towel today after I got it wet when I dried myself off after showering this morning. The fact that it takes all day to dry is, somehow, not a big deal!
posted by deanc at 8:11 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


We both work full time and live in London which is known for it's cool, damp climate. We don't have a dryer and dry our clothes outside or, when it's very wet, inside. It works fine. When the carbon wars start, I'll be able to look my children in the eye and tell them I line dried.

Although on balance, it's more because tumble driers ruin my over-priced T-shirts.
posted by rhymer at 8:14 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't be the only person that doesn't want to line dry because I don't want my clothes stolen.

I said the same thing to my mom who dried her clothes on her neighbor's front lawn in Baltimore. Not exactly right in the bad side of town, but a few blocks away from it. But nobody stole her clothes - she kept doing it until she got a house, with a drier, last year.
posted by exhilaration at 8:20 AM on October 27, 2009


deanc:

Line-dry something in a rainy town (like mine). Tell me how that works out.
posted by grubi at 8:21 AM on October 27, 2009




It's kind of a non-choice for me, anyway. Where I live, it's below freezing 4 months of the year, super-humid another 2, and there's a shit-ton of pollen in the air for another 3 or so months. I'd reckon there's maybe 3 months out of the year where it's actually feasible to put clothes outside, and then you're still chancing rain.

Then, of course, there's the fact that I live in an apartment and even if there was a clothesline in the alley, I wouldn't trust the neighbors not to be jerks.

Hanging inside is a no-go, because it takes nearly the full day for my shower towel to dry. Hanging a bunch of laundry inside would turn the apartment into even more of a swamp, and we'd just waste the "saved energy" running the dehumidifier that already has to run on occasion.

Line-drying makes sense in dry, sunny places, but the East Coast of the US, not so much.
posted by explosion at 8:22 AM on October 27, 2009


I do most of the laundry in my household and I split drying between the machine and air-drying. We have a little foldy rack, and we have this cool period chair-rail moulding that's about 5' from the floor, a nice deep tray which allows for hanging lots of shirts and pants in the general vicinity of a radiator. I machine dry socks, undies, cloth napkins, towels, sheets and such.

Air-drying is easier on your clothes (assuming they aren't being faded in the bright sun) which is why I would dry my work-type clothes this way.

This thread hasn't convinced me to stop using a dryer -- but it has convinced me to unplug the TV, Xbox, AppleTV, DVD player mish mash that counts as our entertainment center during the day.
posted by device55 at 8:23 AM on October 27, 2009


Wait... you people OWN WASHERS?
Talk about luxury... I have to haul my clothing to the nearest laundromat.

I use their driers, and will continue to. I'm no where near physically strong enough to haul my biweekly laundry around while it is wet. Dry clothes are heavy enough. Not to mention that I don't have anyplace inside to hang stuff. (outside? not an option. if it's not so cold my clothes will freeze than they'll get stolen.)

In the winter it's even worse... sometimes you have to change more than once since the snow has drenched your clothes to the knees. Makes me wish I had a dryer at home so I could pop my jeans in there for a bit and put them back on instead of putting on a whole other pair.

But hey, I don't have a car, so I suppose I'm allotted a bit of extra energy to burn.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:24 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I refuse to line-dry because it aids and abets that rogue scientist Banner, and all I wind up at the end of the day are torn purple pants and a lot of awkward questions from SHIELD.
posted by Shepherd at 8:28 AM on October 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


I wonder whether one could safely hack a "standard" air dryer to reuse some of the heat rather than venting everything directly outside.

An air-to-air heat exchanger on the exhaust line would do this. A commercial application can be seen here. I don't know whether it would be cost-effective on a smaller scale.

A simpler and less costly, but less efficient (in terms of % heat recovered) is suggested in this thread. Put simply, it uses modified aluminum ducting as a heat sink. When the hot air passes through the duct, it heats up and radiates some of that heat into the interior of the house.

There's another discussion on dryer heat recovery this forum and some alternatives explored in this mini-article.
posted by nTeleKy at 8:29 AM on October 27, 2009


rusty: "By the way, I did some research on this whole dryer thing last year, and it turns out there isn't really any such thing as an energy efficient dryer. They're all about that same."

The ratings on the dryers available at John Lewis in the UK disagree. You're right that the majority use close to 4kWh / drying cycle (argh, what an annoying unit of energy. I guess it's because that's what electricity is charged by in the UK) but the AEG one I talked about upthread uses 2.4kWh / drying cycle. There's a Siemens one which uses less than 2kWh / cycle. So you can save half the running cost of an ordinary dryer by buying one of those. They cost more (surprise!) so it may not be worth it depending on how much you use your dryer.
posted by pharm at 8:29 AM on October 27, 2009


I only pay around 7 cents per kWh. Wonder why electricity is so cheap here? I'm guessing that it's the abundance of coal in the area but I'm surprised that it's close to 1/2 of the national average.
posted by octothorpe at 11:02 AM on October 27


The cost of electricity varies greatly throughout the US. What is more interesting than the state to state comparison is how heavily discounted electricity rates are for industrial and commercial purposes.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:30 AM on October 27, 2009


Here in greener-than-thou Seattle, I make a point of line-drying all my laundry whenever possible. My shorts should be dry by next August.
posted by Aquaman at 8:31 AM on October 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Whoa. I can't tell if you're joking or you live in an entirely different reality than mine, but either way, my head is spinning.

Well, technically my parents do and I drop my laundry off to be done at their place.

The point is that labour saving devices like dryers have to be evaluated against the labour saved. It's ok to say that saving $40 a year makes sense by itself. But what if that costs you an extra 10 hours of work a year (assume two loads a week, and 6 minutes per load). That may or may not be worth it. In this part of the world labour is really cheap, so it does actually make sense to hire people to do tasks like line-drying clothes, in the US for many people it probably does not.
posted by atrazine at 8:31 AM on October 27, 2009


Metafilter: Are you happy with your wash?

For those who get stiff clothes while line drying: use vinegar in the rinse and not a lot of soap to begin with. After a while, even my scratchy socks were doing well drying on the line.

For ironing vs not ironing: hang dry on hangers. This lets you get more on the line, they're already hung up to be put away, and very nearly wrinkle free. Make sure they're plastic or coated though.
posted by lysdexic at 8:32 AM on October 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


hang dry on hangers. This lets you get more on the line, they're already hung up to be put away, and very nearly wrinkle free. Make sure they're plastic or coated though.

Just not wire hangers, whatever you do.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:34 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I never use a dryer. I have one of those little fold-out things and jerry rig some hockey sticks and dry inside. My clothes are never crusty, or stiff as a board, or any of the other complaints upthread. And the clothes last longer. And they are often dry overnight.

>(caddis makes a better case for using a dryer)
It is a better argument. But the way I look at it is not that I am earning 2$ per hour for doing it but that I am saving fifty cents for doing it. What was I doing otherwise? Just sitting around earning zero dollars per hour. I was not taking time away from my paying job to do this. And fifty cents per load is thirty dollars per year. Nothing to write home about (although I am writing to you about it) but nothing to sneeze at either.

On preview, thanks for the tips lysdexic.
posted by philfromhavelock at 8:34 AM on October 27, 2009


What was I doing otherwise? Just sitting around earning zero dollars per hour.

So then you'll do my laundry as well?
posted by electroboy at 8:37 AM on October 27, 2009


I own a gas dryer, I remember my grandmother drying clothes on a rotary clothesline. My question is this: are there any potential energy savings from taking my clothes down the street to the cleaner where they will drop it into a large commercial washer and dryer and charge me my the pound?
posted by cgk at 8:38 AM on October 27, 2009


On the other hand, I actually have a servant who does my laundry, if I had to do it myself I think I would buy a dryer.

Whoa. I can't tell if you're joking or you live in an entirely different reality than mine, but either way, my head is spinning.


Unless you consider your dryer sort of a specialized electro-mechanical servant. We're finally living in the future!

When I had to go to the laundromat I invariably had to use dryers because I would put off going until I had a huge load of clothes and only so much room inside to hang them (no place to hang them outside).

Now I have a yard and a washer and dryer and I don't do so much laundry at once so it is easy to hang stuff outside weather permitting, but the dryer is still useful in many situations.
posted by mikepop at 8:39 AM on October 27, 2009


We live in the American Southwest. Summer temperatures are . . . well, how hot is it directly on the surface of the sun? It's about that hot here in July and August. Clothes--even jeans--dry in six to eight hours on a summer day, if that.

We've lived in apartment complexes with rules prohibiting clotheslines. We were always able to get around these rules because we never lived on the ground floor. We hung retractable, spool-style clotheslines across our balcony at waist height, so they were hidden from view by the balcony's exterior wall. We could dry everything except bed linens that way.

I do love tumble-dryers for form-fitting tops though. Line-drying them makes them kind of baggy.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 8:46 AM on October 27, 2009


I dry my laundry using the hot air arising from Doonesbury's cartoons.
posted by HyperBlue at 8:49 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


@Grubi : 8) Clothes and linens smell better without adding possibly toxic chemicals to your body and the environment.

WTF are they talking about? Drying adds chemicals to the environment and my body?


Only (mod the usual by-products of energy usage) if you use dryer sheets to further "soften" and "freshen" your tumble dried laundry. (And, of course, everybody does, right? After all, we've bought into the advertising.) Those things are chemical constructs, and completely unnecessary. How adding artifical scents to my laundry is 'freshening' it is beyond me. (The best way to avoid static? Don't overdry.)
posted by jlkr at 8:51 AM on October 27, 2009


Can someone who has experience with switching to line-drying tell me, in absolute dollar terms, how much they've saved by line-drying their clothes?

For the last 9 years or so, I've used a drying rack in my apartment for non-bedding/non-towel items. Assuming at least one load of laundry a week at $1 a tumble in the building's drier, multiplied by 52 weeks, multiplied by 9 years, I've saved at least almost $500, not counting energy costs, which I wouldn't be subject to anyway (Presumably, the energy cost to the building is equal to or less than $1/load.) We're moving to a building with in-suite washer/dryer, but I don't see us tossing the racks out anytime soon. I like the crispiness of air-dried socks.

I assume if we are cutting back on our use of appliances that we've already cut the out the rest of the fat in our lives, like the text messaging, iphone apps, Starbucks coffees, cable and satellite TV, name-brand OTC painkillers (they all have identical generics), and any product with 'mocha' or 'frapp' in the name.

I don't use any of those things. Yes, I am a freaking saint. I'm also cheap, coffee gives me a stomachache, and no one phones me anyway.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:52 AM on October 27, 2009


I think a lot about our impact on the planet. I relentlessly recycle, compost, have never owned a car, etc.

But this whole drier thing is simply stupid. Energy is in fact a renewable resource. A lot of the electricity delivered to your home is from hydro, and more will be renewable in future. Things like driers (which take a long time and are rarely urgent) respond well to congestion pricing. And most electricity is in fact used by industry anyway - our energy cost isn't visible in our driers but hidden in our endless packaged and manufactured goods.

Resource depletion is what's going to kill us! We should be doing things to cut down on our fossil fuel consumption. We shouldn't be creating stupid one-use objects like yoghurt containers out of oil. Low-water washers! Water shortages are already part of our lives and will only increase. We're going to run out of all sorts of ultra-useful, semi-rare elements in the next few decades, some within the next 10 years or so, and how will we make all our gadgets if we don't have e.g. tantalum for the capacitors?

I don't even own a washer or drier, but heck, clean clothes are a pretty basic human pleasure. Get rid of your cars first I think.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:56 AM on October 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


I have a one bedroom apartment and I still manage to dry my clothes inside on a rack or by hanging shirts in the bathroom. It's not so much about saving energy as it is the fact that the dryers in my building suck, I don't want to pay quarters for something that doesn't work, and because it's a lot easier on my shirts and pants to hang them rather than the clothes torture that is a dryer.

That said, socks, underwear and towels go on the dryer because I too don't like the crusty feeling.

But what I don't get is how people can't manage to do what they want for themselves without turning it into a war. It doesn't seem that hard to me. And I don't like nor do I consider myself good at laundry, nor do I spend more than an hour or so a month doing laundry.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:58 AM on October 27, 2009


I remember hanging up clothes outdoors as a kid. How heavy the wet clothes were, bird droppings and insects in the summer, snow and ice in the winter, having your laundry plans disrupted because of rain in the forecast, clean clothes that got dirty again because the wind knocked them off the line or blew dust from nearby farms onto them, high humidity keeping your clothes from getting dry, grass cuttings and leaves and pollen blown into your clothes by the winds, and just all of the time spent to do this chore....

Yeah, there's a reason the tumble clothes dryer was invented. My mother was ecstatic when she finally saved up enough money to buy a dryer.

I'm all about going green, but the article seems to blow by some genuine issues. Do they not understand that hanging up your clothes is a very time-consuming task if you've got a family? That in most households, both adults work during the day? That we're not free to suddenly leave work to go home and bring in the laundry because it's started to rain? That air pollution makes line-drying a less attractive option than it was in my mother's generation? That not everyone has the room in their homes to indoor-line-dry clothes?

If you're in a climate that supports line-drying, or have a small enough family, or have a house with enough room to line-dry indoors, then more power to you. But the tumble dryer offers so much convenience, reverting to line-drying will be a hard, hard sell for those of us who've been-there-done-that already.
posted by magstheaxe at 9:00 AM on October 27, 2009


Shepherd> I refuse to line-dry because it aids and abets that rogue scientist Banner, and all I wind up at the end of the day are torn purple pants and a lot of awkward questions from SHIELD.

I used to feel really bad for Bill Bixby on that show. Not because a normal, happy life was denied to him because he had a condition which forced him to be on the run and turned him into a rage-filled green monster whenever he got angry.

No, it was because every time he turned into the Hulk, his clothes would be ruined and he would have to get a new shirt and pants. This made me feel absolutely terrible, and to this day, I hate throwing away my old clothes.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 9:09 AM on October 27, 2009


UrineSoakedRube, could you post a link to the cartoon?
posted by theora55 at 9:13 AM on October 27, 2009


Huh. Lots of militantly pro-dryer people here. Didn't really see that one coming.

Socks, towels, and endless little baby bum-wiper cloths? Hell yes, bring on the dryer.

Jeans, pants, shirts, sweaters, bike gear, etc.? People put those in the dryer? What, are you crazy? Your clothes will last about twice as long if you don't, and they'll look a whole lot better too. I hang dry all my undies as well--the dryer really shortens the life span of all that elasticized fabric. The fact that I'm only saving $0.50 per load is kind of irrelevant. It's more about preserving my clothes, and considering the overall impact of where that cheap electricity is coming from.
posted by Go Banana at 9:17 AM on October 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


Anecdotally: the laundromat I wash at gives unlimited free drying as long as you wash your clothes there. It's hard to believe it costs very much to run these dryers. Either that, or I'm getting reamed on the ($2.00) charge for washing. As a result of free drying, people seem to dry there clothes for an hour or more.
posted by c*r at 9:19 AM on October 27, 2009


Y'know, if you can't give up your dryer, but you really want it to use less energy, get a better washer. An energy star washer will get enough water out of the clothes that your dryer will have very little work to do.

Also, a gas dryer means significantly lower emissions - and while the cost savings might take a while to make a difference now, someday the US will have a carbon price too.
posted by nickmark at 9:22 AM on October 27, 2009


I think you must have different kind of air in America. Clothes dried outside on the line crust up? You're doing something wrong there

I live in Los Angeles, and all those wildfires you heard about have been put out. I washed my car on Sunday afternoon, in my driveway. When I came out Monday morning to drive it, there was a layer of crust on it, just the normal everyday typical pollution of the area. So yes, we have "different kind of air" 'round some of these parts.
posted by davejay at 9:25 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would really like to see a comparison to energy use if I switched from doing laundry once per week, about 4-5 loads in both washer and dryer, to doing several loads every day so that I could line dry. There's just nowhere I'm going to be able to hang up all my (and my husbands) laundry at once.

Plus there's the issue of months where it rains every day and the rest of the time when we have 90+% humidity.

Oh, and the spiders and squirrels and dear and raccoons and stray cats and such that would probably take an interest in the clothes.

Yeah, you're not getting my dryer. But I would be happy to buy a more efficient one if someone would engineer it.
posted by threeturtles at 9:26 AM on October 27, 2009


I've been drying my clothes (and my wife and daughter's clothes) in the sun, on my little veranda in Tokyo, for the last 14 years. Too bad New York City apartments don't have verandas. God , I'm so glad to have been out of laundromats all these years. The clothes last longer, too, less wear and tear.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:28 AM on October 27, 2009


We have 200' of clothesline in our backyard which handles the bulk of our washing. It's off our 2nd story balcony so there isn't any risk of being clotheslined by the lines and it would need a pretty brave thief to make off with anything. About the only time we don't hang clothes to dry is when it's actually raining; when the temperature is hovering around the dew point; or when it drops down below -10. Jeans are the only things that come out kind of stiff but a couple minutes wearing takes care of that.

In my opinion nothing smells as great as sun dried sheets fresh off the line.

For those who report stiff and crusty clothes from drying you might be using too much soap. Generally speaking the amounts recommended on the box are vastly more than you need unless you have moderately hard water.

Ontario passed a ban on regulations forbidding clotheslines in yards last year and I hope BC follows soon. Of all the normal things often classified as an "eyesore" and subsequentally banned from single family homes clotheslines have to be the craziest and most mundane.

Pastabagel writes "I assume if we are cutting back on our use of appliances that we've already cut the out the rest of the fat in our lives, like the text messaging, iphone apps, Starbucks coffees, cable and satellite TV, name-brand OTC painkillers (they all have identical generics), and any product with 'mocha' or 'frapp' in the name."

I already don't consume any of that stuff though admittedly not over any kind of environmental concerns. I did buy some brand name Methocarbamol this month but only because blisters were on sale for less than even bottle style generics.

magstheaxe writes "That air pollution makes line-drying a less attractive option than it was in my mother's generation?"

Air pollution in most urban and suburban areas is less, in some cases much less than it was 30 years ago. Especially for the particulates that would make line dried clothes dirty. Heck before the Clean Air Act acid rain was a serious concern in some places if your clothes were caught out in it.
posted by Mitheral at 9:29 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Energy is in fact a renewable resource.

Mostly not, at the moment.

A lot of the electricity delivered to your home is from hydro, and more will be renewable in future.

About 6.5% of electricity is from hydro in the US. It would seem to make more sense to help this go further by minimising energy use first.

Things like driers (which take a long time and are rarely urgent) respond well to congestion pricing.

Congestion pricing may save money but you shouldn't assume it will save on environmental impact.

And most electricity is in fact used by industry anyway

Not true in the US, industry has used less electricity than the residential sector in every one of the last 15 years. Industry even uses less than the commercial sector now.

- our energy cost isn't visible in our driers but hidden in our endless packaged and manufactured goods.

like driers?
posted by biffa at 9:32 AM on October 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


What I've learned from this thread is that your favorite clothes drying method sucks.
posted by electroboy at 9:33 AM on October 27, 2009


When I was growing up pegging out clothes or bringing them in took maybe ten minutes, and this was for a household of seven people. But then, we did it together kicking the basket along the path as we worked down the line. It was only a little chore, and it's a valuable memory for me which I wouldn't swap. Drying clothes indoors was also easy if it was wet - just a normal part of domestic life to have drying clothes around you as you played - turning them over after an hour or two, or folding them and putting some more up if they were dry. A kind of rhythm, I suppose, the house was a machine for getting things done.

I see things like driers and dishwashers as luxuries. They save a little bit of work for a lot of cost, and remove a part of life that might have a value in itself. I don't enjoy the work, even when it's just for one person, but it's no bind on my life. Stacking pots on the drainer so they don't topple, or looking to the clouds and saying "it's threatening" when deciding to put the washing out: life's made of little things like that. What are you saving time for? It's there to be spent.
posted by Sova at 9:39 AM on October 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


theora55> UrineSoakedRube, could you post a link to the cartoon?

One, the strip is decades old now. I remember it was a Sunday strip and was reprinted in one of the old treasuries, but there's no way I could find it even if I had access to the archives.

Two, it doesn't seem like there is free access to the complete Doonesbury archives anymore. But if you can point me to one, I'll take a look. Then again, it would be just as easy for anyone else to find it as for me to do so.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 9:42 AM on October 27, 2009


Thing is, this and other small things could make a sizable difference in energy and CO2 levels.
It seems like there are many options that would not significantly change our lifestyles but would make big differences. changing how we dry stuff is one of those.

Yeah, I'm in the camp that thinks the 10-15% of energy consumption stat is likely bogus, but dryers, especially electric dryers do use a lot of energy. Even if, you just dried the underwear/socks and drip dry the heavy stuff that is a pretty significant difference.
posted by edgeways at 9:44 AM on October 27, 2009


Line-dry something in a rainy town (like mine). Tell me how that works out.

It works out pretty well. Drying rack in the living room next to the radiator = dry clothes overnight.

Are you trying to be the Glenn Beck of Opinions About Drying Clothes or something? You sound a little unhinged about it.
posted by cmonkey at 9:46 AM on October 27, 2009


Are you trying to be the Glenn Beck of Opinions About Drying Clothes or something?

Jesus Christ. Don't do that. It's like Godwinning or something.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:48 AM on October 27, 2009


UrineSoakedRube: "Except I'm not talking about the average Doonesbury strip, I'm talking about that one. Mark's actions weren't treated ironically at all."

I've always thought that Mark was being ridiculous in that strip. Many of the strips with him and his father are amusing because they're both so convinced that their own extreme positions are the only rational ones.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:53 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


We used to line dry our clothes on a backyard line not visible to neighbors during the summer in Massachusetts when I was a kid, and the completely fresh, somehow sun drenched smell that resulted was a joy. There is also something wonderful about using clothespins on a sunny day to hang damp clean clothes and sheets outdoors. These days all our drying is done inside in the dryer or on (wire!) hangers in the laundry room. For those concerned about dryer sheets, we like dryer balls -- we have used just two for years and have never felt the need to replace them.
posted by bearwife at 9:54 AM on October 27, 2009


Growing up, we always hung clothes out to dry (or, you know, get more wet, depending on the weather) in the summer, and used the drier only in the winter. It worked well enough when we had a clothes line that ran across the better part of a quarter acre.

But here, in the city, in my tiny apartment? I don't have the space to leave stuff hanging up for the better part of a day, waiting for it to dry. And given the volume of clothing I go through, I'd end up having something hanging up pretty much continuously.

I do miss the crispness of outdoor line-dried sheets, though. Indoor drying is, sadly, not quite the same.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:55 AM on October 27, 2009


The Doonesbury cartoon mentioned:

"Mark, just how much laundry have you got to do? You've been down here for two hours."

"I'm washing my new jeans, Dad. It takes quite a few washes to fade them properly."

"Fade them properly? What do you want to do that for? Why do you take a perfectly decent pair of trousers and ruin them before you put them on? I just don't understand it! What is this destructive impulse that people your age have? You know, you kids do the same thing to your blue jeans that you've done to the whole fabric of our national life!"

"What?!"

"Don't laugh, that's a darn good analogy!"

(from Doonesbury Chronicles, which means it was from somewhere in 1970-1975.)
posted by Zed at 9:56 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


It works out pretty well. Drying rack in the living room next to the radiator = dry clothes overnight.

I don't have a radiator. Ten-to-one most folks don't.

Are you trying to be the Glenn Beck of Opinions About Drying Clothes or something? You sound a little unhinged about it.

First, fuck you for that first part. Second, no, I don't. It's already shown several times that the power consumption stats first quoted were bullshit. On top of that, it's pissing me off that there are folks insisting that LINE DRY IS FINE and that there's something wrong with me and how I do my laundry if I don't agree.

Yes, waiting 12 hours for dry clothes is unreasonable. If I get up at 9 on a Saturday to do my laundry, put in a loads at 10, that means I will not have my laundry cleaned, dried, folded and put away until sometime around 11 PM. Contrary to popular belief, not everybody in MeFiLand has all the time in the world to wait around for dry clothes. It's much more convenient for me to drop 'em in the dryer.

Overnight radiator? God, no. My laundry doesn't technically get done until the next day. Two loads taking 24 hours to clean, dry, fold, and put away is unreasonable. I'm pissed because some folks don't like dryers and they're using this opportunity (and dubious reasoning) to push their point of view (which is entirely subjective and doesn't transfer well to everyone else). Notice I haven't once said "You line-dry? You're an idiot! You're doing it wrong! Use a dryer!" I said that 12 hour dry times are unreasonable. If you're willing to wait, kudos. I'm not and I'm not wrong because of it.
posted by grubi at 9:57 AM on October 27, 2009


Thing is, this and other small things could make a sizable difference in energy and CO2 levels. It seems like there are many options that would not significantly change our lifestyles but would make big differences. changing how we dry stuff is one of those.

But it is missing the forest for the trees. People who live in suburbs shouldn't be encourage to dry their clothes out in their yards, they should be encouraged not to live in suburbs. How do you think my energy usage as a city dweller who lives in multi-family housing and walks a lot of places but uses a dryer compares to a suburbanite who air dries but drives everywhere and lives in a single family detached home?

The answer isn't for me to start air drying, it's for them to move.
posted by Justinian at 10:00 AM on October 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


What I've learned from this thread is that your favorite clothes drying method sucks.

How careless of you to have missed my comment!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:03 AM on October 27, 2009


If you live in a northern climate where it's below freezing in the winter (and thus impossible to line-dry outside), and you run a humidifier to stop chapped skin and dry sinuses, then you're a perfect candidate for line-drying inside! We hang our laundry in the basement next to the furnace, and it dries in about one day while helping to re-humidify the air after it's been heated from -20C outside to +20C inside. Doubly simple - eliminate two pieces of equipment at once.
posted by anthill at 10:04 AM on October 27, 2009


Thing is, this and other small things could make a sizable difference in energy and CO2 levels.... Yeah, I'm in the camp that thinks the 10-15% of energy consumption stat is likely bogus, but dryers, especially electric dryers do use a lot of energy. Even if, you just dried the underwear/socks and drip dry the heavy stuff that is a pretty significant difference.
Price CO2 emissions to account for their external costs, and maybe drip-drying will be more worthwhile. Or maybe I'll decide that using a dryer is still a good use of energy and CO2, and I'll consider some other method of reducing energy and CO2 use (like maybe using less heat).

I get the impression that when it comes to reducing energy consumption and CO2 emissions, you have to be cutting things pretty close to the bone already before the choice to stop using a dryer becomes a relevant one.

We really need to separate lifestyle changes that contribute directly to lessening our energy consumption and the bottom line of our electricity bills from lifestyle changes that are promoted as merely "virtuous." And even in the case of virtue, it may be that there are plenty of other more virtuous lifestyle changes one can make before we decide to stop using the dryer.
Yes, waiting 12 hours for dry clothes is unreasonable. If I get up at 9 on a Saturday to do my laundry, put in a loads at 10, that means I will not have my laundry cleaned, dried, folded and put away until sometime around 11 PM.
You do realize that once you put your clothes out to dry that you can do something else during that time, right? You can even sleep! Or go to work! Or run errands! It's even true for using a dryer: you don't have to sit in front of the dryer and stare at the revolving clothes for an hour.
posted by deanc at 10:06 AM on October 27, 2009


Here is my problem with line drying. I have two pairs of jeans. One pair is comfortable, one pair is not. If I air dried my pants, I would have to wear the uncomfortable pair for at least a day while waiting for the comfortable jeans to dry.

If I ever get a second pair of comfortable jeans, I will consider switching to line drying.
posted by mmmbacon at 10:08 AM on October 27, 2009


The answer isn't for me to start air drying, it's for them to move.

Good luck with that. If we're going start tossing out broad idealistic solutions why not say that instead of buying dryers people should invest in solar power car technology? Those kinds of sweeping "people should" statements really are kind of a misdirection when speaking here.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:09 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've seen lots of comments about how hard this is for working families. You're forgetting that those kids are free labor. My co-worker has never owned a dryer, even with two teenaged boys heavily into sports and hunting/fishing. She hangs in the morning, they take clothes in after school. Pretty simple.

I'm trying to do it more, there's constant wind in my yard, so things dry fast and I think that stops the stiffness. Plus, right now my dryer is making scary noises, the more I line dry, the longer it will be before I have to spend $400-600 on a replacement. Not sure I can make it through a winter though. Brrrrrr
posted by saffry at 10:14 AM on October 27, 2009


Thing is, this and other small things could make a sizable difference in energy and CO2 levels.

I've always asserted that the time and effort we, as a society, spend on encouraging people to look at the "little things" is better spent tackling the big things, and moreover, the push to focus on the little things actively diverts time/effort away from the big things, and distracts society as a whole from things that really matter. Focusing on the little things is a net loss. To whit:

Even if, you just dried the underwear/socks and drip dry the heavy stuff that is a pretty significant difference.

Define "significant."

I submit that underwear/socks account for about 5 percent of your clothing, measured in square feet of fabric. And for the sake of argument, let's assume that all clothing gets equally dirty at equal rates.

Next, the heavy stuff. What is that -- towels and sheets? I submit that most people wash these about once a month. Let's say your net saving is 3 loads a month.

So ... fuzzy math, fuzzy math ... you've saved the gas/electricity required to run the dryer about 3 times a month, where normally you run two loads a week (8 loads a month). You will have saved .88 cents a month in gas and electricity for a typical dryer that has a lifespan of 18 years.

.88 cents a month?

You'll save more than that each year just by keeping your car tires inflated properly. You'll drive safer, too.

Now, where's my FPP about getting your car tuned up every 15,000 miles?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:14 AM on October 27, 2009


push their point of view (which is entirely subjective

Taking the (more accurate) Department of Energy figures, it's not entirely subjective that 1 out of 20 units of electricity generated in this country is used to dry clothes. It's also not subjective that 40-80% of the fossil fuel energy used to generate electricity is wasted as heat. Electricity is the highest exergy (most engineering-y useful) of all forms of energy. Electricity can do almost everything - from running computers, to spinning motors, to melting steel at 6500C. Using it to heat your home or dry your clothes at 20 to 40 C is very wasteful, thermodynamic-wise.

By contrast, sun and ambient air have low exergy, meaning it's very hard to harness their energy to do anything useful. The complexity and inefficiency of solar cells and the size of Stirling engines are testament to that. The fact that air and sun can fairly effectively dry clothes is objectively a great opportunity for efficient home design.

The economic utility each person puts on machine dryers is up to them. If you love the feel of a hot, fluffy towel fresh from the dryer (and honestly, who doesn't), then good for you. Pay $0.50 for each load, be happy. But the point of view that line drying is a low-carbon and energy-efficient way to dry clothes is not subjective.
posted by anthill at 10:15 AM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry - that should be 1 in 20 electricity units in the residential sector. my bad.
posted by anthill at 10:17 AM on October 27, 2009


I live in the South, where humidity is routinely more than 70%. Line drying is not a good option here. Plus you'd be picking bugs out of your clothes for days.
posted by JDHarper at 8:59 AM on October 27


This is why we dry our clothes by hanging them indoors. You need a shower you're not using for seven or eight hours, or a big closet. It's actually way less work hanging the clothes to dry that you would be hanging up anyway.

I dry them in the dryer for seven minutes, which fluffs all the wrinkles out so I don't have to iron, and then when the buzzer goes I immediately hang them up (or they'll get wrinkled again, and my goal is to avoid ironing which I hate). Since I had to hang them up anyway, hanging them to dry is not extra work.

Socks, underwear, towels and jeans get dried all the way because they don't dry overnight and I don't want to deal with mildewed towels or with setting them out on a drying rack for more than overnight.
posted by joannemerriam at 10:22 AM on October 27, 2009


I've thought more about laundry while reading this thread than I have in my entire life.

(Oh, and I hang-dry when it's possible, because I like the smell/feel and because it makes the clothes last longer. I don't really like buying clothes.)
posted by box at 10:28 AM on October 27, 2009


Embracing our use of conveniences is why the US far and away leads other nations in using gobs of energy. And, yes, this is causing global climate change and acid rain. Energy is cheap, so who cares if I wash every item of clothing every time I wear it? I'll just throw it in the washer & dryer. I'll just buy more clothes when these wear out or get 1 minute behind current fashions.

Either better, more renewable sources of energy will get created, or energy prices will rise. If it's the former, and we can have cheap energy without global climate change, that would be spiffy. I'll keep using the drying rack, so my favorite clothes last longer, I save a little money, and my sheets smell nice and you can use your dyer as much as you want. Should my life reach a point where crunchy socks become a problem, I will be grateful that that's my biggest concern. If energy prices rise, line drying will become more attractive.
posted by theora55 at 10:30 AM on October 27, 2009


You know, that reminds me of an old strip. Mark is sitting in the basement, in front of the washer, and his father comes down, asking why its been running continuously for hours. Mark replies that he's pre-fading a new pair of blue jeans. His father -- a conservative Republican -- takes him to task for the waste. Oh, and the reader is supposed to take Mark's side in this argument.

I really kind of hope someone rubs that strip in Trudeau's face.


Yeah, because learning something and changing your mind should always be mocked and discouraged. Cool.

HOAs suck

Bears repeating.

Are you trying to be the Glenn Beck of Opinions About Drying Clothes or something? You sound a little unhinged about it.

It usually happens when someone tries vainly to justify something that is seemingly unjustifiable to others. See: meat eaters.

Yet I agree with the godwinning comment.

It seems like there are many options that would not significantly change our lifestyles but would make big differences. changing how we dry stuff is one of those.

Yes.

I'll give up something else.

Such as ...
posted by mrgrimm at 10:31 AM on October 27, 2009


I don't eat red meat so you dryer haters can suck it. I also get my electricity from a retail provider that buys credits from windmill generator aggregators, so after you finish sucking me once you can start again later.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:32 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Here is my problem with line drying. I have two pairs of jeans. One pair is comfortable, one pair is not. If I air dried my pants, I would have to wear the uncomfortable pair for at least a day while waiting for the comfortable jeans to dry. "If I ever get a second pair of comfortable jeans, I will consider switching to line drying."

If you switched to line drying you could afford two pairs of new jeans every year. Or six from CostCo.

"Now, where's my FPP about getting your car tuned up every 15,000 miles?"

Was it deleted? Otherwise I'm guessing you haven't wrote and submitted it so it's still floating around in your brain. But here's some posts on using renewables to drive instead of dino juice or using ultra efficient cars or just saving energy with paint choice.
posted by Mitheral at 10:33 AM on October 27, 2009


If you live in a northern climate where it's below freezing in the winter (and thus impossible to line-dry outside)

It isn't, actually, thanks to the water-cycle miracle of sublimation! How do you think the pioneers dried their clothes? It was either hang them outside, regardless of the weather, or turn Doukhobor .
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:34 AM on October 27, 2009


People seem to be amazed that a process as mundane as drying clothes could require such a large amount of energy. Remember you are forcing water trapped in the tiny gaps between fibers from a liquid state to a vaporous state, and that takes a lot of energy.
posted by nowoutside at 10:35 AM on October 27, 2009


I'm a level 5 eco-washer, btw. I wash everything on cold with a Wonder Wash, line-dry in my neighbor's yurt, and iron with sun-heated rocks.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:36 AM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


It was either hang them outside, regardless of the weather, or turn Doukhobor .

Fascinating.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:40 AM on October 27, 2009


"It isn't, actually, thanks to the water-cycle miracle of sublimation! How do you think the pioneers dried their clothes? It was either hang them outside, regardless of the weather, or turn Doukhobor ."

Yes, freezing temperatures aren't a serious impediment to drying clothes. Down below -10 or so it starts being too uncomfortable to hang the clothes but even then they'll still dry. I've considered a time or two a little shed at the end of my clothes line with those plastic strips they have in commercial walk ins to allow me to hang the clothes out of the wind while still allowing the clothes to get out while on the line.
posted by Mitheral at 10:44 AM on October 27, 2009


If you amortize the cost of buying and maintaining the dryer it's more expensive. We take a hybrid approach: since we have clothes that can't dry with heat, those and things that dry quickly anyway (t-shirts, undies, etc) go on the racks and things that dry slowly (jeans, towels) go in the dryer. Cuts the dryer usage in about half. Even in our cool apartment, they're typically dry the next day. I don't understand why that's a problem for anyone; it's not like we wait around staring angrily at them for NOT BEING DRY YET!!!
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:48 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Forgive me if someone has already made this point above, I don't have the time to read through all of the posts. It could be that we change and wash and dry our clothes entirely too often. When I was a kid in France back in the 1950s my classmates typically owned two outfits, one that they wore to school all week and the other for Sundays. They wore smocks over their clothes and these were, presumably, cleaned more often than their other clothes.

Unless you do heavy dirty physical work there is no good reason other than consumerism-driven fashion to wash clothes as often as Americans do. I'm all for clean underwear every day, but other stuff I try to wear a few times before I wash it.
posted by mareli at 10:50 AM on October 27, 2009


It could be that we change and wash and dry our clothes entirely too often. When I was a kid in France back in the 1950s my classmates typically owned two outfits, one that they wore to school all week and the other for Sundays.

When I was an exchange student in Germany in the mid-80s, one of the things I quickly noticed (and adopted) was that students would often wear the same outfit to school 3-5 days in a row, with nobody batting an eye. The trend at the time was sweaters with polo-style shirts under them, and I'm not even certain that the polo shirts were changed every day.

Now that I'm back in the US, I've sort of adopted a middle ground, where I try to change the parts next to my skin regularly (and even those not every day depending what item) and wear the jeans and flannel shirts 3-4 days before they go in for washing. Fresh clothing worn for one day and then washed is wasteful in SO many ways. If the clothes don't stink or haven't been exposed to dust (which is basically sandpaper for clothing fibers), then they don't need to be washed.
posted by hippybear at 11:02 AM on October 27, 2009


People seem to be amazed that a process as mundane as drying clothes could require such a large amount of energy.

I'm amazed that talking about drying clothes requires such a large amount of energy.
posted by electroboy at 11:03 AM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


My deepest sympathy to anyone with a family larger than 2, who has to depend on air-drying of laundry.

Actually, it worked pretty much OK for us over summer with a baby. I made breakfast, my wife hung the laundry (which needed doing anyway). We survived, and the clothes smell way nicer from the line than from the dryer.

It's winter and spring that are the problem, since there's generally too much rain to use the line more than once a week. Then we're back to the dryer and the power bills.

What did save money on that front was getting a dryer that switches itself off when the clothes are dry, instead of the crufty old one that ran for however long the program told it to, and mostly over-dried.

Considering that Google use, what is it, a cup of coffee worth of power per search, I suspect that running the dryer isn't even close to our biggest expense.
posted by rodgerd at 11:23 AM on October 27, 2009


I use a clothesline every summer but using one in the winter just isn't feasible around here.
I do use an indoor drying rack for clothes that I don't need in the next couple of days.

Next house is getting those shelves above the water heater.
and a clothesline that's not under plum trees
posted by madajb at 11:26 AM on October 27, 2009


What is that -- towels and sheets? I submit that most people wash these about once a month.

What? Once a month?


I'm doing it wrong!


Again!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:30 AM on October 27, 2009


Am I the only person who's specifically reading this thread instead of doing their laundry?

Because that is exactly what I'm doing.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:31 AM on October 27, 2009


Anyone have a breakdown on what fraction of the energy used in an electric dryer is from, (A) tumbling the clothes, (B) blowing air, and (C) heating the air? I would guess the heat might dominate, in which case, it seems to me like a tumble-dryer on low heat might be the best of both worlds. Sure, it's slower than blasting your clothes with hot air, but it's faster than line drying and doesn't require any additional work/concern for outdoor weather.

In fact, the same motor can be used for (A) and (B) [anyone know if it generally is??], thus reducing the inefficiencies, and whatever inefficiency there is will provide some amount of heat (C).
posted by JMOZ at 11:33 AM on October 27, 2009


It works out pretty well. Drying rack in the living room next to the radiator = dry clothes overnight.

Hang-drying clothes inside during winter still uses energy. No matter how you do it, it still takes however many joules per gram to evaporate the water in your clothes.

If you're doing this outside, or inside with the windows open, then you're extracting that energy from the environment.

But inside with the windows closed in winter, you're not extracting the energy from the environment. You're adding it with a heater.

Whether it makes financial or energy sense to do this depends on whether your central heater is a more efficient clothes-dryer than your clothes dryer is (NOT SNARKIST), and whatever efficiency you gain is not the cost of drying clothes in the clothes dryer but only the difference between the costs of drying clothes with a clothes dryer versus drying them with a central heating system.

Thermodynamics: it's the law.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:35 AM on October 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Your clothes will last about twice as long if you don't, and they'll look a whole lot better too.

This is a very good reason to forgo toasting your clothes on a regular basis. Also, as to drying and wrinkles, an excellent solution to this is a handheld steamer. While it does consume 600 watts, that is far less than any electric dryer and permits both superior and gentler wrinkle removing. Your t-shirts might like getting softened up in a dryer but your dress shirts sure don't.
posted by well_balanced at 11:37 AM on October 27, 2009


an excellent solution to this is a handheld steamer.

Handheld steamers are for suitcases since they only give about 10 minutes of steaming and then you have to let them cool off before refilling. A good home steamer like some of the suggestions linked from that page with a hanger is much better, even though it costs twice as much. And yeah, 600 watts is half of what most irons use so you're getting a better deal all around than ironing, and you don't have to monkey with a surfboard.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:42 AM on October 27, 2009


I line-dry in the warm months, and use the gas dryer in the cold months. Have to clean the dryer lint filter every laundry day that I use the machine. It seems like a lot of lint. Apparently, all my laundry is giving up that much of its fuzzy substance every time it goes through the dryer.

My clotheslines are in the shade, under the deck. Clothes still dry, but don't get sun-faded. They do seem stiff, though.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:46 AM on October 27, 2009


"You do realize that once you put your clothes out to dry that you can do something else during that time, right? You can even sleep! Or go to work! Or run errands!"

It's great that you live in a place where lowlifes won't steal anything that isn't nailed down. Can I have your house?
posted by Aquaman at 11:47 AM on October 27, 2009


Am I the only person who's specifically reading this thread instead of doing their laundry?

Actually, I've done three loads while reading this thread, one is still in the wash, towel are now in the dryer and the sheets are on the line.

I win this thread!
posted by saucysault at 11:52 AM on October 27, 2009


Considering that Google use, what is it, a cup of coffee worth of power per search

I thought most of Google was housed in giant bunkers next to hydroelectric dams on the Columbia river. It's not greenhouse gasses, it's the sexually frustrated fishies that'll get ya there, but it's a lot better than burning coal!
posted by hippybear at 12:03 PM on October 27, 2009


Am I the only person who's specifically reading this thread instead of doing their laundry?

I'm reading this thread instead of doing work.

So there.
posted by grubi at 12:03 PM on October 27, 2009


ha, I beat your saucysault. All three loads went on the line, half are already dry. Not sure the quilt and comforter will make it though, it's just starting to sprinkle. This is the fun of spending the day home with a sick child who managed to go through through two sets of sheets last night.
posted by saffry at 12:04 PM on October 27, 2009


What is that -- towels and sheets? I submit that most people wash these about once a month.

HA. HAHAHAHAHA.

I have a partner who showers twice a day. He's like a very well-groomed poodle. Anyhow, he uses ALL AVAILABLE TOWELS all the time. Two dry towels every time he showers means he blows through four towels a day. Now, these can of course be re-used, but the showers from the previous night are still damp in the morning and so on.

It's either do two loads of towels per week, or live with towels that have become their own ecosystem.

As for kids being free labor: Yeah, this is why my mom taught me how to do my own laundry as soon as I was tall enough to reach the machine. She was totally sick of doing it for me. Little did she know she was going to make me kind of neurotic about doing it myself. Too bad about people with babies though. Babies are terrible at remembering to put in a dryer sheet.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:17 PM on October 27, 2009


Would we ever do things differently if we couldn't criticize each other for our choices?
posted by clockzero at 12:27 PM on October 27, 2009


Man, I really like watching everyone think so hard about doing laundry. And for the record, this thread upped my guilt about not having switched out the drying rack to the point where I finally folded everything and put it away.

I've thought about laundry a lot lately. When I was growing up, we went to the laundromat and helped my mom do a week's worth of laundry every single Saturday afternoon. It wasn't until college - when I had to full-on confront my tendencies toward perfectionism and procrastination - that I realized I was just like my father. For seven or eight years, the family owned a washer and dryer. It was sitting in a storage container with my mother's office supplies, waiting to be hooked up in the house. For years, my mom lugged us and all of our clothes to the laundromat, every week, while a washer and dryer sat waiting. That taught me about choosing battles, and about sacrifice on behalf of those you love.

I moved to New York and lugged my laundry a couple of blocks away to wash it all at the neighborhood laundromat. I was always surrounded by women and children, which should have taught me something about feminism, but I'm a little thick.

Once I just hauled everything in and paid for the wash-and-fold, which was handled by a woman who was having a pretty hard time in life. I felt so weird about it that I waited a week to pick it up, and then she and I had a long conversation about her brother, who had died of a heart attack after returning to work when his doctor told him he wasn't up to it. He had people to support, though, and he went back to building houses. The woman hadn't really been able to eat for a week or so. I brought her some soup and told her I'd understand if she didn't want to have anything to do with it. When I brought my clothes home, they were all folded so precisely that I almost didn't want to wear them. That taught me about hanging on for dear life.

Then I moved to Lebanon, where no one has a dryer. Indoor drying racks are all over the place, and they're really pretty nice (o ye complainers about bad weather). Most buildings have clotheslines on the roof, too. Ours has clotheslines attached to every balcony, and man, there is no more extreme drying method than attempting to dangle wet sheets over neighbors who are calmly drinking coffee in the courtyard four floors below. When I first got here, I thought it was slightly insane. Now I see how nice it can be to have those few calm moments, standing in the breeze, clothespins in your teeth. The man with the produce cart comes down the alley, yelling "Come on, potatoes!" and the women in their housedresses lower buckets with small change.

So now I'm seeing what a thing it can be, those moments of peace. When you have a distinct job to do, and you know how to do it. When the sun is shining, and the air is thick with the Mediterranean wet, and you know at just what angle to hang this shirt, these pants, so that they will come out fresh and neat.
posted by lauranesson at 12:39 PM on October 27, 2009 [12 favorites]


Oh dear. The transition to the post-hydrocarbon world of hard physical labour is going to come as SUCH a shock to some people. If the prospect of hanging your washing out on a sunny afternoon is traumatic, I can't imagine what the prospect of growing your winter supplies is going to do to you....
posted by falcon at 12:43 PM on October 27, 2009


I like line drying my clothes, and I would say that I have line dried at least 50-75% of what I was for the last several years. I definitely love a fluffy towel as much as the next person, so I have about one dryer load every 1-1.5 weeks that consists of towels and sweatshirts. Most everything else goes on the drying rack. I have also line dried exclusively indoors throughout this time, most of it being in my (smallish) bedroom in a shared apartment.

Why I like to line dry:
-Less wear on clothes, especially t-shirts and other cotton items (this is why I started, in fact, because the apartment coin-op dryer kept making holes in my shirts)
-I find my jeans last much longer with line-drying (especially since they always put that stretch crap in ladies' jeans nowadays) but I will give them a dryer dry once and a while if they are getting stretched out.
-Hanging wet stuff up means it is already on a hanger, and once dry I can put it directly in the closet. I am laundry lazy and won't immediately put dryer-dried clothes away, instead leaving t-shirts and such in a pile in the laundry basket. So it isn't like it takes any more than a few extra seconds to move the dry clothes, already hung, into the closet.
-I already have to line dry a lot of semi-delicate items such as sweaters, wool socks or nice dress shirts, so it is just as easy to line dry most everything else.
-Bathroom is ok for line drying, but I find hangers hook on to the trim around a door frame of the closet or bedroom and are a little more out of the way.
-In the winter, I love line drying in the house because it is like an instant laundry-scented humidifier!
-Sure, it probably saves a little money, especially when I still used coin-op apt laundry. Then it would save me at least $6-8 per month. Line drying would be tough if you had to walk to a laundromat that was not very near your apartment, however.
-Imaginary Al Gore pats you on the head and tells you you're doing a good job. Gold star!
posted by sararah at 12:43 PM on October 27, 2009


Burhanistan: ... so after you finish sucking me once you can start again later.

That's a very inefficient drying method.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:46 PM on October 27, 2009


Sometimes it's just not practical - I live in 380 square feet. I will hang the dark colored stuff on one of the arms of my wall leaning bike rack - but everything else goes in one of the driers in the laundry room - which is fortunately in my wing of the building.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 12:47 PM on October 27, 2009


I often feel like the odd man out because I'm one of those seemingly rare people who doesn't not mind doing housework—I enjoy it, and find it to be meditative and restful, a perfect time to be contemplative. Doing the dishes, polishing silver, cleaning the toilet, to name a few activities, just feels good to me, and make me wonder why everyone seems so driven to divide their lives into strict have-to-do and want-to-do categories. When I was a kid, chores were dreaded unpleasantries, forced labor handed down from authoritarian parents, but when I grew up, I had to surrender that resentment or I'd be unhappy much of the time, living on my own.

I think, sometimes, that I've spent too much time thinking about laundry, writing on my blog over the last eight years, but it's just one of those activities that's flat-out pleasant for me. I run a load of laundry in my washer, then carry it out to the yard (or into my front room, when I'm using the drying rack because it's rainy). I've traditionally preferred long lines, but am currently using a "tree" dryer that triples the line I have at my disposal. I pull out my shirts, give them a hearty shake, smooth them out, and hang them upside-down (no points on the shoulders that way), and pin them to the lines. Shake out my socks, underwear, and towels (a big part of the secret to having them not dry all stiff), pin 'em up. Same thing with jeans, chinos, whatever.

While I'm doing it, I think about things that have been on my mind, I listen to the sound of traffic and birds singing, and I am moving around, breathing fresh air, and doing the work that needs to be done to be an adult human being in the society in which I live. I just really don't understand why people are so angry or frustrated by activities like this, and why they're so desperate to "save time," by buying expensive machines that require energy, money, repairs, and sadly-frequent replacement when you can just as easily just tie a rope out there and let the world give you the energy for free.

It takes me about 10-15 minutes to hang out a week's worth of laundry for myself, and another ten to take it down. If I used a dryer, I'd save that 20-25 minutes, but the thing is, it wasn't wasted time. I spent it on my own, alone with my thoughts and senses, doing productive work. Should I mourn the time I could have spent watching TV or playing Wii or sitting around, idly drifting through the internet? The in-between time, when my clothes are drying, is time when I can be doing other things, so it isn't wasted, either.

My clothes last forever these days, and t-shirts finally go to the rag box because of a long-term accumulation of antiperspirant wax, not because they've faded or developed those little pinholes that eventually open up into ragged pink spots where your stomach's showing through (if you have a pink stomach, that is). My "carbon footprint," to use a particularly silly phrase, is smaller and I'm happier. I'm a taoist, and I find that there's flow in simple work that you don't get in other activities, so it's a form of contemplative practice for me, as well.

"Well, that's fine for you…" starts the usual rejoinder, and it's true that one size does not fit all, but I'm pretty happy, too, and I find the roots of a lot of that in the activities for which I've cultivated some affection. I wasn't born to be a laundry freak, or a polishing maniac, or a genetic tile-scrubber—I had to make the conscious choice to find the joy in things that don't seem all that fun, and I have, to my benefit.

Dryers have their uses. When I've got to wash out a huge, fluffy comforter, I go to the laundromat and use the giant washing machine and a nice big dryer. When the dog's made a cozy bed in the laundry pile and left my black shirts peppered with tan hairs, a dryer does a nice job at returning them to appropriate blackness. For day-to-day usage, your mileage may indeed vary, but I don't get the dependence, or the level of outrage at having to dry oneself with a towel that's not as soft as a big puffy cloud (only a problem for the first dry—once you've used it once, it's exactly the same as a dryer-dried towel). Life isn't fair, easy, or clear, most of the time, and yet that doesn't make life bad.

To me, in the end, it's just another example of a complex system replacing a simpler system without producing a benefit to balance the cost, like electric car windows or automatic chemical sprayers to clean your showers. The labor-saving quickly disappears in the rising standards of what's acceptable. Did the vacuum cleaner ever save labor, or did it just make us feel like we had to clean twice as often? Does a washing machine save as much labor as wearing an undershirt and wearing a shirt several times before it needs to be washed and ironed again?
posted by sonascope at 1:18 PM on October 27, 2009 [6 favorites]


You know, some of us do our laundry before we're down to our last pair of underwear.

Must be nice to have so much free time that you don't mind working during your free time.

Some of us have shit to do.

Unless you do heavy dirty physical work there is no good reason other than consumerism-driven fashion to wash clothes as often as Americans do.

100% agreed. Particularly clothing like pants/skirts that aren't exposed to odorous parts of the human body (well, unless you're egregiously flatulent). Anyone washing their jeans more often than once every two wearings has something pathologically wrong with them.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:19 PM on October 27, 2009


We've all learned a valuable lesson here.

The world consists of a great variety of people, living in a great variety of circumstances. As such, people can carry out a simple task, like drying clothes, in myriad ways, tailored to their particular needs.

The best part is, no matter how they do it, that person is going to think it is the best and only way, and will gladly tell everyone who disagrees that they're a total fucking moron.

Group hug, anyone?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:48 PM on October 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Good one ROU_Xenophobe, you're spot on - line-drying inside is still better if the machine dryer vents to the outside (which most do...), if the house replaces the air through leaks (instead of a heat exchanger), and of course if your skin likes humidified air in the winter anyway.
posted by anthill at 1:49 PM on October 27, 2009


Being in the totally opposite position (American living in Italy), I am laughing my ass off at lydhre, who's nailed the majority of reasons why only 4% of Italy has driers.

I'm wondering how much research the author did on that particular fact; I've researched getting a drier here as it's a complete pain in the ass to wait 2-3 days in winter for my clothes to dry next to the radiator. Some other reasons might include:
  • Italy's utilities are some of the most expensive utilities in the EU (all of 'em: gas, water, electric)
  • I have yet to see a gas drier on offer for a household in stores. I'd guess that would be because you'd have to
    • reconfigure your gas line hookups (assuming you have one and don't use a propane tank)
    • probably punch another hole in the building wall for a new vent (don't forget to get permission from your combative building's association first)
    • and do all the assorted paperwork & associated costs, seals & permits for the above
  • The most efficient condenser driers (rated A, I've never seen one with the higher A+ rating) run around €900-€1000
  • The all-in-one washer-driers have a bad rep of continuously breaking and in general being fragile, expensive pieces of shit
  • And all of this assumes you have space for it in your flat.
That 80% of American have driers isn't really a surprise considering the rental market's competitiveness on amenities; here, the owner doesn't even have to supply you with a kitchen, let alone a washer. Bit of an apples to oranges comparison, really.
posted by romakimmy at 1:50 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Interesting how our environment and our tools reflect the limits of human thought. We find resolving disputes unpleasant and costly, so we get urban sprawl, single-use zoning and HOAs. It's effortful to predict and schedule, so we run out of underwear and need lightning-fast laundry drying. Our short-term memory is unreliable, so we need cups at every coffee shop and grocery bags at every supermarket. We build routines to help us learn and work more effectively, but the weather always changes...

I'm looking forward to the spiritual and cultural challenges that climate change transition will bring. Don't think for a minute that magic technology will fix everything without you noticing.
posted by anthill at 2:03 PM on October 27, 2009


UrineSoakedRube> I really kind of hope someone rubs that strip in Trudeau's face.

mrgrimm> Yeah, because learning something and changing your mind should always be mocked and discouraged. Cool.

Tell you what, if anyone provides any evidence that Trudeau actually did change his mind and realizes that the message in the old strip was wrong, instead of either ignoring the old strip or pretending there is no conflict in their messages, I'll go ahead and retract my statement. Cool?
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 2:06 PM on October 27, 2009


Living in an apartment, there's not much chance of air-drying clothes, so those of us who choose that small footprint are stuck with dryers. However, it occurs to me that a heat-pump dryer could be more efficient than an electric one, with the added benefit of pumping out cool air (assuming you live in a hot place). Actually, depending on how you vented it, it could provide either cool air or warm moist air into your living space, depending on the season.

I see from Wikipedia that there are heat pump dryers available that use a closed cycle to dry clothes, like a condenser dryer, but they still should exhaust cool air, since the heat input comes from ambient air.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:22 PM on October 27, 2009


DU: Ironically, you probably could make a condensing dryer be more efficient than a normal one. Instead of venting the hot steam, use it to heat the incoming air.
At least one model of closed cycle heat pump clothes dryer apparently exists, and the maker claims it uses about half the energy of a conventional machine. But it's really expensive: around US$3K.
posted by Western Infidels at 2:34 PM on October 27, 2009


Some of us have shit to do.

Yeah, you must be totally flat-out with cool sexy stuff to do like... umm... Metafilter.
posted by rodgerd at 2:50 PM on October 27, 2009


I suspect none of you guys who enjoy the smell of laundry dried outdoors are Manhattan residents. My backyard smells like cat pee and diner exhaust and schwag, which does not make for especially delicious sheets, towels, and panties.
posted by elizardbits at 3:11 PM on October 27, 2009


I suspect none of you guys who enjoy the smell of laundry dried outdoors are Manhattan residents.

True, my experience with outdoor drying has been in Vermont. I wouldn't dry my stuff outside in my current place as I live above a Chinese restaurant and I don't need to have sweet dreams of MSG every time I put my head on the pillowcase.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:21 PM on October 27, 2009


I have 5 loads of laundry sitting around my house in baskets if any of you 'laundry is fun' people would like to come and do some folding. I'll warn you in advance, though, that they were all dried in a dryer, except lingerie and hand-knit sweaters.

That does lead me to remember the other advantage of line dried clothing -- other than when you're desperately trying to get them in before the rain soaks them through, the act of taking something off a line and the act of folding it are basically the same, so I never had the giant piles of unfolded clothes problem.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:40 PM on October 27, 2009


I love the idea of an indoor clothes rack, but... I have cats. I just don't see that going well.
posted by ErikaB at 4:41 PM on October 27, 2009



I grew up with a Mom that ran all clothes through hot water, the hotter the better. Then ran them through the dryer til crispy. Sometime around 13 or 14 I fell in love with cotton and that was the end of my mum doing my laundry. She wouldn't change and her method would shrink everything.

Zip forward to now (25 years later) and I wash clothes in cold; then nearly everything is hung in some fashion - outside or inside. Clothes last forever if you don't use the dryer.
On the occasion I end up using the dryer for towels, I wait to use it until the power grid is off-peak. If you compare the rates for peak and off-peak, it's dramatic.

I second the vote for the smell of sheets and towels coming off the line from drying in the sun.
posted by fluffycreature at 5:26 PM on October 27, 2009


Die-hard dryer users - how on earth do you keep your delicate clothes in wearable condition if you're roasting them every week? Do you really put things like lacy underwear, cashmere sweaters or dress shirts in the dryer? Or do you just dry-clean everything that isn't a T-shirt or sweat pants? Really, I'm curious - I use the dryer at the laundromat if we get an unusual run of rainy days, but I definitely consider it a second-best option and I don't like what it does to my clothes.

Someone mentioned Hills Hoists - those rotary washing lines that look like big umbrellas. They are quintessentially Australian, but they're actually becoming less common here as more people move to apartments and large backyards get subdivided. I make do with a piece of rope strung between two fences - if we had a hills hoist it would make the garden completely unusable. I do have good memories of swinging round on one as a child, though.

I'm surprised no-one has mentioned Singapore-style laundry poles. The poles slot into sockets on the outside of the buildings, and you use special laundry poll pegs to attach your clothes. You don't even need a balcony - most polls are placed below the kitchen window. There is a knack to using them safely, but it's not difficult to learn. If building rules were changed, even apartment-dwelling New Yorkers could air-dry their clothes.
posted by embrangled at 6:32 PM on October 27, 2009


In Japan clothes dryers are pretty much a luxury/status item, though they are gaining in popularity due to the washer/dryer drum combo machines out now. So most Japanese--and people in Japan--hang up clothes on a rack outside. It's a real pain in the ass during the rainy season, when you have to hang up clothes inside somewhere and sometimes it's still too damp and it actually gets mildewy and you have to wash it all over again. But that's pretty rare.

I had a dryer at a house I rented here in Tokyo but never used it once in a year and a half. It just feels like an extravagance after hanging up clothes for years. Same with a dishwasher, IHMO an even more unnecessary appliance. Just take the extra 5 minutes and grab a sponge to clean those plates. Electricity in Japan is quite expensive compared to the U.S., so it's just not worth it.

But the lack of ovens in Japan, well, that is a serious drawback to living here.
posted by zardoz at 6:55 PM on October 27, 2009


Do you really put things like lacy underwear, cashmere sweaters or dress shirts in the dryer?

That would imply that I own lacy underwear, cashmere sweaters and dress shirts.
posted by Lucinda at 7:04 PM on October 27, 2009


I'm an American who's lived in Taiwan for 6 years and have gotten along without a clothes dryer all that time just fine.

What I don't understand is the claim that takes significantly more amount of time to line dry your clothes rather than toss them in the dryer. My process for hanging clothes is this:

- When the wash cycle is almost done, gather up all my hangers (for shirts and pants) and plastic contraption with a few dozen clothespins (for socks and undies).
- When the cycle is finished, hang wet clothes on hangers or plastic contraption. Hang clothes out outside. This line is covered directly overhead so if it were to rain, I don't have to bring them inside, but there's enough clearance that it gets plenty of sunlight in the early to late morning.
- When clothes are dry, take the clothes on hangers and directly hang them up in my closet. Fold undies and socks and toss them in my drawer.

How does that take any longer than tossing a huge wad of wet clothes into a dryer, and then sorting, folding and hanging this ball of static-y clothes afterward? I've got to put them on hangers, anyhow, and it doesn't really matter whether I do this out of the washer or out of the dryer.

For those of you complaining about needing the clothes RIGHT NOW, how about trying the novel idea of not waiting until you're down to your very last pair of undies before doing some laundry.
posted by alidarbac at 7:57 PM on October 27, 2009


> Anyone washing their jeans more often than once every two wearings has something pathologically wrong with them

There are people who wash jeans after only 2 wearings? o_O
posted by Decimask at 8:37 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually wait. That seems to explain why washers & dryers are advertised based on how many jeans they can hold...
posted by Decimask at 8:38 PM on October 27, 2009


It seems that many people who say they can't line-dry their clothes give the following reasons: they live in a small apartment, the air is too humid, or it keeps raining. Which is kinda ironic because in Singapore, nearly everybody line-dries their clothes, especially those living in HDB flats (which are pretty small apartments by US standards). And I think few places are more humid than over here, plus we get a lot of rain, being in a tropical climate. Clothes do take longer to dry, like maybe 1-2 days. When I was in Pittsburgh it usually took at most 12 hours.

Of course, this is largely because dryers are hardly ever seen sold here, and people have never ever used them. I wouldn't be surprised if many Singaporeans start switching to dryers if and when they marketed more. But if an entire country of people can line-dry their clothes despite a lack of space, high humidity and frequent rain, I think you probably can too.
posted by destrius at 8:41 PM on October 27, 2009


alidarbac: - When the wash cycle is almost done, gather up all my hangers (for shirts and pants) and plastic contraption with a few dozen clothespins (for socks and undies).
- When the cycle is finished, hang wet clothes on hangers or plastic contraption. Hang clothes out outside. This line is covered directly overhead so if it were to rain, I don't have to bring them inside, but there's enough clearance that it gets plenty of sunlight in the early to late morning.
- When clothes are dry, take the clothes on hangers and directly hang them up in my closet. Fold undies and socks and toss them in my drawer.

How does that take any longer than tossing a huge wad of wet clothes into a dryer, and then sorting, folding and hanging this ball of static-y clothes afterward?


Well, according to your plan, I would have to:

A. Carry all of my wet clothes upstairs and outside, about 3-4 loads a week, which is otherwise totally unnecessary.
B. Hang wet clothes, which is harder than hanging dry clothes and takes longer (particularly for jeans.)
C. Hang things I would never hang up, like my pants, socks, and underwear. Now they just get shoveled into a drawer - time cost, about 1 min/load. Pants get folded, but I'd have to do that either way.
D. Carry a bunch of clothes on hangers downstairs, which is harder than carrying clothes in hampers.
E. Do my laundry during the day, which takes time away which I could do things outside. I do a lot of laundry during the more useless hours at night.

Yeah, it's not a lot of work. But financially, you are going to lose the equation. Even if it took me only an hour more per month (and it would almost certainly take more), I'd be better off working the additional hour and paying the electricity. Hell, most people do less laundry than I do and make a lot more money, so for them the equation flips at half an hour a month or less.

And I tend to agree with others above - ecologically, your effort is better spent elsewhere. It's a more complex argument there though.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:46 PM on October 27, 2009


I've changed to LED light bulbs, they are very nice. I'll run the AC a little higher (temp) in the Summer, sure. Not have a dryer? No way in hell! But the models here are very much geared to Eco already. Comes with hose for the bath, so you can use that water for the washing etc. Not that we use the bath the same way Japanese do though..
posted by lundman at 11:00 PM on October 27, 2009


Maybe a towel warmer (sometimes made from the hot water piping which serves the bathroom) would get used towels dry for reuse. Others are electric (similar to heaters) but probably use much less eletricity than a clothes dryer.

Is anyone here British and has a warming cupboard?
posted by bad grammar at 11:54 PM on October 27, 2009


Lucinda - your flickr feed does show some exquisite knitting. Does that go in the dryer?

That's kind of... stalkery.
posted by rodgerd at 1:26 AM on October 28, 2009


I ended up having a busy evening (yet made time to be on mefi); my sheets on the line were rained on, the towels still aren't dry and the clothes in the washer are getting mildewy.

I lose this thread.
posted by saucysault at 1:58 AM on October 28, 2009


I'm another one who lives in a place (Greece) where almost nobody uses a dryer... When I first moved here from the U.S., I couldn't wrap my head around it, and was determined to buck the trend and get a dryer. High electricity costs, high prices for dryers (because they are seen as a luxury item, I guess), and limited space (I haven't lived in a single place that had an area in the kitchen or bathroom that would fit a washer and dryer together - just placing the washing machine has been a challenge!) soon disabused me of that notion.

Contrary to my expectations, it turned out that it doesn't bother me at all, and I actually prefer it - but note that we are a two-person household in a sunny, arid climate. In winter, I dry on a rack inside (we've always lived in pretty small apartments, but the rack is about five feet long when fully extended, and only about a foot wide, and I've always found room for it, plus it folds up and stores easily behind a door), and the clothes dry overnight. I actually fold my damp sheets, and flip them once (or not even, if I forget about it), and they dry fine and are mostly pre-folded once dry. The only slight problem is blankets and bedspreads, which take up the whole rack, so they get one day to themselves if they are drying inside. With a dryer, if I don't grab the clothes out the minute it stops, they wrinkle... so line drying actually suits my terrible procrastination/absent-mindedness better, and it only takes five or 10 minutes to hang clothes.

I would say that regarding the arguments about whether eschewing dryers in places like the U.S. is actually all that eco-friendly, it might be interesting to imagine what the difference would be for the big picture if all the people in places worldwide that don't use dryers began using them.
posted by taz at 4:15 AM on October 28, 2009


Lucinda - your flickr feed does show some exquisite knitting. Does that go in the dryer?

No, that gets delicate washed in the machine and then hung on the line. But that is about fifteen pairs of socks, which I do maybe once a month tops. I'm willing to do it for that, but not for underwear, and jeans, and khakis, and t-shirts, and the like, which makes up the other 99.99% of my clothing.
posted by Lucinda at 4:42 AM on October 28, 2009


Die-hard dryer users - how on earth do you keep your delicate clothes in wearable condition if you're roasting them every week? Do you really put things like lacy underwear, cashmere sweaters or dress shirts in the dryer?

I don't have dress shirts or cashmere sweaters. I do have some delicates, but I work with kids, so for me - everything HAS to be able to go through the wash. Sometimes I go through more than one set of clothes in a day. (I think we can all agree that if you have someone else's poo on your pants, they have to go through the wash STAT.) But no, my good sweaters and any of my bras are air-dried on a little drying rack in my bedroom.

My partner has a few dress shirts and such and those go to the dry cleaners when needed since neither of us really has time for a lot of ironing. Mostly the two of us are wearing jeans and tshirts, all stuff that does just fine in the dryer.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:11 AM on October 28, 2009


Same with a dishwasher, IHMO an even more unnecessary appliance. Just take the extra 5 minutes and grab a sponge to clean those plates.

I'm with you there. The dishwasher is totally unnecessary when you only have two adults who do a minimal amount of real cooking. As long as you RINSE the food off the dishes immediately, washing them doesn't take more than 15 minutes, whereas the dishwasher takes up to 45.

With kids though, I totally see the benefit. Especially kids who are still bottlefeeding. Lots and lots of bottles to wash.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:13 AM on October 28, 2009


Lucinda, 15 pairs of socks make up .01 percent of your total clothing collection? That's a lot of clothes. You wash 15,000 articles of clothing every month? No wonder you use a dryer!
posted by TomMelee at 5:25 AM on October 28, 2009


washing them doesn't take more than 15 minutes, whereas the dishwasher takes up to 45.

*sigh*

Everyone seems to have my life figured out for me.
posted by grubi at 5:36 AM on October 28, 2009


Hating on a dishwasher seems silly. A dishwasher does a better job than you can on "normal" grime, unless you have no sense of pain or wear heavily insulated gloves, and will generally use less water to wash and rinse the same amount of dishes.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:28 AM on October 28, 2009


Lucinda, 15 pairs of socks make up .01 percent of your total clothing collection? That's a lot of clothes. You wash 15,000 articles of clothing every month? No wonder you use a dryer!

Oh, for Pete's sake.
posted by Lucinda at 6:36 AM on October 28, 2009


I'm going to stuff you smarmy dryer haters in my awesome fire engine red dryer and tumble your asses bloody. How about we go over all of your consumption and household practices over the typical month? I doubt everything you do, buy, partake in, etc is ABSOLUTE GREEN and has no room for improvement or conservation.

Also, eat me.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:38 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah I don't own a car, so I'll just continue doing laundry any damn way I want, thanks.
posted by Ouisch at 6:54 AM on October 28, 2009


Simply in financial terms, I'm more than willing to pay $0.50 per load for the convenience of using the dryer. (And I'll guess that my cost is considerably less than that, because electricity here is cheap, and I have an efficient washer that spins out a lot of water.)

I've lived for many years with line drying, and even with hand-washing. It works, sure, but it's a system that is more time-intensive than using a dryer. Assuming a typical modern couple, where both work outside the home, line drying means leaving clothes on the line all day (hoping for no rain), or doing it on the weekends -- but what if instead you wanted to go hiking this weekend?

The point isn't that line drying is undoable -- I've done it, millions and millions of people do it -- but that the convenience of a dryer is a not-insignificant part of the balancing act of modern life. As long as the cost remains this low, it's going to remain part of life, too.
posted by Forktine at 7:00 AM on October 28, 2009


This must be the brand of silver buckshot circular firing squads use.
posted by anthill at 7:02 AM on October 28, 2009


Do you really put things like lacy underwear, cashmere sweaters or dress shirts in the dryer?

Dress shirts go to the cleaners, since they do them for $1/shirt. Considering it takes me about 10 minutes to iron a shirt to my satisfaction, and it's still a vastly inferior job to the one they do, there's no contest. Cashmere sweaters get worn several times before cleaning, so the $3 they charge isn't quite as steep. I don't own any lacy underwear personally, but my wife hangs them up. Or puts them in the dryer. She's not consistent.

She also doesn't separate lights and darks. I didn't find that out until after we got married. Horrifying.
posted by electroboy at 7:12 AM on October 28, 2009


Lucinda, 15 pairs of socks make up .01 percent of your total clothing collection? That's a lot of clothes. You wash 15,000 articles of clothing every month? No wonder you use a dryer!

TomMelee, it's even worse than you think - you should be counting each sock individually, so that is 30 socks and even they wouldn't find much use in your comment if you made them all into sock puppets and gave them MeFi accounts yourself
posted by mikepop at 7:14 AM on October 28, 2009


My refrigerator uses more electricity than my dryer every month. Should I stop keeping my food cool? TELL ME, GREENPEOPLE!
posted by grubi at 7:39 AM on October 28, 2009


exaggeration goes both ways, but yea it was a joke. 99.9% of the time the sun can dry my clothes through the window too.
posted by TomMelee at 7:43 AM on October 28, 2009


My lear jet uses less fuel and energy per month than the average African nation. Should I stop flying to Monte Carlo for the weekends? TELL ME, GREENPEOPLE!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:47 AM on October 28, 2009


My lear jet is cleaner than yours!
posted by grubi at 8:42 AM on October 28, 2009


I have a hybrid learjet, with a leaf painted on the side.
posted by anthill at 8:54 AM on October 28, 2009


Mine's made of bamboo and runs on snake dung.
posted by grubi at 9:41 AM on October 28, 2009


Die-hard dryer users - how on earth do you keep your delicate clothes in wearable condition if you're roasting them every week? Do you really put things like lacy underwear, cashmere sweaters or dress shirts in the dryer?

Anyone who uses a dryer regularly learned very early on what can and cannot be run through it, probably in their late teenage years, and probably with some amount of tears being shed over ruined clothing. But it's a matter of simple self-education (a good portion of which can be done online these days) as to what may or may not be dried, at what temp it should be tumbled at, and whether it should be dried to a crisp in the heat or removed while in a slightly damp state in order to avoid frying.

For the record, I own several pullover-type sweaters which I rarely, if ever, actually wash, because they are worn nearly always with one if not two layers under them and don't get stinky. They just need to be hung in the sun briefly (which I can do on hangers without a clothesline) to freshen up. When they do need washing, I do that by hand, in the sink, using wool-care detergent and cold water, and then roll them in towels to get the moisture out of them and stretch them flat to dry. My tuxedo is dry clean only, but I have worn it exactly once in the past 20 years.

Everything else I own (and I do mean everything) can be washered and dryered just fine. I planned my life that way. Having clothing that can be ruined in the wash is just far too prissy for me. If it requires special care, I just don't buy it.
posted by hippybear at 10:33 AM on October 28, 2009


Dermatologist's orders to me when I was trying to get rid of a persistent staph infection: wash ALL my clothes after one wearing, by either dry cleaning, or in hot water and more or less bake them in the dryer. At this point I think I've finally gotten rid of it so I'm looking forward to going back to a more normal once a week laundry cycle, but yeah, you can pry my dryer from my COLD DEAD HANDS.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:23 AM on October 30, 2009


Obama is coming to take your dryer from your cold dead hands!
posted by anthill at 7:25 PM on October 30, 2009


contrast that with nixon who liked to bank a fire in the fireplace in the summer and when it made things too warm he just cranked the AC
posted by caddis at 11:44 PM on October 30, 2009


contrast that with nixon who liked to bank a fire in the fireplace in the summer and when it made things too warm he just cranked the AC

I have to admit that my family (as in my parents, not actually me) has done that, but only on Christmas. When you have to turn on the AC to enjoy a fire on Christmas day, you're in Texas.
posted by threeturtles at 2:43 PM on November 3, 2009


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