Fight Climate Change With Your Undies
December 4, 2022 3:27 PM   Subscribe

Line drying - everybody's doing it!

Lots of good stuff in that article, but this was my favorite bit:
Those of us who hang dry clothes outside know that they smell incredible when brought indoors. Lie on sheets that have dried in the sun and it’s as if you’re lying on a bed of flowers. Scientists in Copenhagen recently published an article explaining why this happens. They did a study and found that only clothes that are dried and oxidized in the sun produced compounds like “methacrolein, which has a typical floral scent, pentanal whose smell is fruity, 2-hexenal which smells like almonds, nonanal and decanal which both produce fresh, citrusy aromas.” Thus, hanging your clothes outside literally brings the fresh scent of flowers, almonds, and citrus into your home, all provided free of charge by the rays of the sun.
via via right to dry
posted by aniola (75 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Those of us who hang dry clothes outside know that they smell incredible when brought indoors.

This is so true. (Well, except when your clothes get rained on and then get mildewy.) I don't love the way that air-dried clothes can get stiff rather than soft, though. I wonder if tumbling them in the dryer for a short while would help?

Right now we don't have a good set up for air drying outside, but by summer I hope to have that in place, so I appreciate this post.

There have been previous FPPs or comments here about places where local ordinances or HOA regulations make air drying, even in your backyard, illegal, which is so weird to me.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:40 PM on December 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

Drying inside in winter when we sometimes run humidifiers gives a double benefit of slightly humidifying our house.

Occasionally when the earth is damp here in the midatlantic, clothes dried outside sometimes end up smelling a little funky but it's totally worth it. When we were still doing cloth diapers, drying outside was really great at fading out stains.
posted by being_quiet at 3:50 PM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have a loft that collects heat with a ceiling fan. I pull a box fan up on drying days and let most clothes dry on a largeish rack. I recently added a retractable drying line to the inside of a closet up there with a hook across the room. Works great for shirts, just need to print off a gargoyle head or something to hide the hook.

Would never have done this if my dryer hadn’t, through it’s death, shown me that this was dead easy and an overnight process at worst.
posted by Slackermagee at 3:51 PM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

I grew up line drying clothes and didn't use a dryer until college. As soon as I had my own bedroom again, I went back to line drying on a rack next to my closet. (It didn't seem fair to subject a roommate to this when there were 2 or 3 of us sharing a 10x10 space.) Better for the environment, better for the fabric. I dry indoors to minimize the impact of sudden downpours, but it takes just a day or so. (Bonus, I never have to "fold" laundry, because I can just walk into the drying area and pull what I need off hangers/off the rack. It's like a second closet!)

Dip Flash, I haven't encountered stiffness per se, except for jeans. Maybe it has to do with hard water? I run the washer on the highest/extra spin mode, hang as soon as the washer is done, and snap the clothes as I pull them out of the basket to hang up.
posted by basalganglia at 3:52 PM on December 4, 2022

I vastly prefer to line dry clothes, party because I grew up with line-drying, partly because it's easier on my clothing and thus I have to shop less, and partly because I have an electric dryer and I'm not made of money. Clothes dried in the sun do feel cleaner to me; which I attribute to exposure to fresh air plus being blasted with UV radiation. In the winter, I have an antique wooden drying rack and I make my central heat do double duty to warm me and to dry my clothes (plus a teeny bit of home humidification). You do have to plan ahead, since it is not a quick drying method. My brain likes the deadline of having to get the laundry out on a sunny day, though; otherwise I might let the dirty laundry linger until I was really desperate.

Dip Flash, if you run your items through a dryer for, say, 10 min on no heat, they will soften noticeably. I will do that occasionally when I want to use an item right away; the fibers will also relax over time, in the closet or drawer.
posted by radiogreentea at 3:52 PM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

I grew up in NZ with an outside line (a fancy spinning one even) and everyone had one. Since moving to the US I have never lived in a house / neighborhood with clothes lines (various single family homes in California / Utah). And where I live now in Utah our HOA expressly prohibits outside clothes drying unless the line is not visible from any neighboring property…..which a fence would fix but guess what is also expressly prohibited… that's right… fences. To be be fair this is to facilitate Moose, Deer, and Elk thoroughfare and I suspect any clothes near ground level would end up on antlers…..
posted by inflatablekiwi at 4:24 PM on December 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

I've grown up in the US with dryers and that's what I know and use.

Nevertheless, the UV in the sunlight kills off mold in your clothes. You could do the same thing by over-drying your clothes so they get very hot, but that is not good for the fabric.

What I don't understand is how people line-dry clothes in the UK. How can you do that when it rains all the time (and is cloudy when it isn't raining)?

I have no excuses--I live in a sunny environment (heck, I literally live in Sunnyvale), and California has a 'Right to Dry' law.
posted by eye of newt at 4:29 PM on December 4, 2022

I also grew up with line drying partly because my mum brought a bunch of aluminum multi-clip hangers (like this) when we moved to the US. I fell out of the habit living in a small apartment and using a laundromat, but got back into the habit in the early days of the pandemic when everything was closed and I had to hand wash. Skipping the dryer even using a laundromat is actually more convenient in some ways (cheaper and don't have to compete with other users for dryer time)

There is definitely a lot of overlap with other climate change things in that this has elements of systemic issues too. Hostile HOAs were already mentioned, but other features of dense urban living get in the way too: I wish we could bring back old school laundry poles you sometimes see in the backyard areas of the city.
posted by okonomichiyaki at 4:32 PM on December 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

Clothes dried in the sun certainly have a delicious smell about them - I found out fairly recently that clothes air-dried in the shade don't have that same smell and now I know why - the sun is needed to create that smell!

For reasons that don't matter, our clothesline is currently under a roof and, while this is great in the summer because we don't have to rush to get dried clothes in before the sun fades them (yes, really), it's not so great in the winter because no sun means clothes don't dry fully in a day and they tend to get a bit of a musty smell.
posted by dg at 4:43 PM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Just want to highlight why being_atlantic said above: drying your clothes inside in the winter can substitute for a humidifier. I live in an overheated NYC apartment, and laundry day is the best day for my skin and sinuses.
posted by minervous at 4:46 PM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Fun fact! Those overheated-by-boilers apartments get so hot because they were built to code that came out of the 1918 flu pandemic. They're designed to be able to heat the apartment with all the windows open (fresh air is good for not spreading disease, which is great when you're trying to not catch covid from someone you live with) on the coldest, windiest day of the year.
posted by aniola at 4:50 PM on December 4, 2022 [16 favorites]

According to this article, these states have "Right to Dry" laws:
New Mexico
North Carolina

Yes, inflatablekiwi, that includes Utah, but laws vary by state. In California, HOA's can only put in restrictions (out of sight) if it doesn't create an excessive cost burden (IANAL).
posted by eye of newt at 5:02 PM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

eyeofnewt, good question - the answer is, you can’t! I lived in London for 11 years, and even inside it took ages for clothes to dry, due to ambient damp. especially tricky for towels and jeans. eventually I gave up and just used the launderette’s “service wash/dry.” I returned to North America with chronic sinusitis and a wardrobe full of mildew-y smelling clothing (I didn’t notice the smell until I moved away because the whole country —or at least SE England — smells damp inside and out.) since then (2014) the UK has had some actual hot - very hot — and drier summers, so presumably line drying is more effective. but my experience was pretty icky. (my MA condo has hot water radiators and I easily line dry socks, underwear, fragile stuff and things I don’t want to shrink, but jeans and towels get the dryer.)
posted by mollymillions at 5:03 PM on December 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

i used to do this - miles out of town and we didn't have a dryer or any room for one - one does have to pay attention to the weather forecast

even in michigan, it's possible to do this year round unless it gets below 25F - and if it's really sunny, you might get away with an even colder day
posted by pyramid termite at 5:12 PM on December 4, 2022

ambient damp

Siberia, on the other hand, freeze-dries clothes:
Almost the entire world, even industrialized countries that can afford clothes dryers and the energy to power them, seems to recognize this. In country after country, warm climate alongside cold, citizens hang their clothes out to dry. In Siberia, people freeze their clothes dry and the ice sublimates (changes directly from solid to gas).
posted by aniola at 5:14 PM on December 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

I'm just hanging out here on this thread DAD JOKE THX BAI
posted by not_on_display at 5:21 PM on December 4, 2022 [12 favorites]

Also, in the winter if you run your dryer, not only is it using energy to dry, its probably sucking warm air out of your house and blowing it outside causing even more waste!

That said, we do 5-6 loads a week and use the dryer for at least 2 of them. The convenience and space constraints make it hard to avoid.
posted by being_quiet at 5:27 PM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

We moved into a house about a year and a half ago that had a clothesline in the backyard. I vaguely remember having an outdoor rack (the umbrella style!) growing up, but don't remember my parents using it. I decided to give line drying a go - and I absolutely love it. I find it really cathartic to methodically hang stuff up and then fold it straight away when I take it down. It removes that step of having the jumble of clean clothes in the basket that you then have to sort through and fold, so works really well for me.

I live in a place with quite cold winters and wasn't up to figuring out outdoor line drying last winter but I have been doing it a bit this year (it's not so cold yet though). Functionally, it's fine, but I have been struggling a bit with it because on the dry days it tends to be windy. I've had some sheets try to fly away and have to be re-washed, which is much less efficient.

I've just put up one of these retractable indoor clotheslines in our basement and am using it for the very first time right now, along with my standard indoor drying rack. Seems like it'll work out quite well. It was also really easy to install. Becoming a line dryer makes travelling to place without tumble dryers much easier because I'm already so used to that pattern of planning my wash days.
posted by urbanlenny at 5:28 PM on December 4, 2022

A few years ago, I switched to drying almost all my laundry in the basement. Shirts and pants go on hangers that are hung on a line that runs through the back half of the basement, while socks and underwear are put on a drying rack. I still use the dryer (and dryer balls) for big things, like sheets, but if my dryer were to ever conk out for good, I could adapt and, quite frankly, I probably wouldn't get a replacement. (Data point: Canadian, 1.5 person household, no kids or pets requiring lots of laundry).
posted by maudlin at 5:32 PM on December 4, 2022

Also, now that I have RTFA, the energy savings part of it for the US is absolutely astounding .

Every time we hang dry our clothes we keep the energy equivalent of three pounds of coal in the ground. For the average American family, that means keeping the equivalent of close to 1000 pounds of coal a year in the ground by hang drying.


If America hang dried clothes at the same rate as Italy, or the United States of 50 years ago, our power savings could match the total amount of power currently produced by the tens of millions of solar panels in the United States and save us something like 1–3% of all electricity produced in our country.
posted by urbanlenny at 5:40 PM on December 4, 2022 [6 favorites]

The laundry room in my apartment building has a gloriously big section with at least a dozen long lines, many of which are located beneath heating pipes. I hang all my techie/cycling/wool garments down there, so my own apartment doesn't have to look like a laundry room. It feels like a super-swank amenity, and only occasionally are the lines clogged up by neighbors who hang all of their linens and socks and T-shirts at one time. (The co-op also doesn't try to make money off of the machines, so the wash and dry rates are incredibly affordable and have been raised only twice in the past 20 years. Also super clutch.)

Most of my clothes are dried in the enormous dryers, which are gas, and which I did not know up until quite recently. Gas dryers are amazing! It will dry my heavy king-sized duvet in less than an hour! So much better than whatever tiny "energy-efficient" dryer I was using occasionally at my MIL's condo during the pandemic.

And just to be clear, line drying outside is the way to go. IF you live in a house with some kind of outdoor space, and IF your neighborhood isn't ruled by some asinine HOA, and IF you have the time and inclination to do so.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:09 PM on December 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

I think in the US, we'd probably have more success getting people to switch from electric-resistance or gas-combustion dryers, which heat air and run it once through the clothes and then out through a vent, to condenser dryers, which work more like a dehumidifier. They have a refrigerant loop that takes the moisture out of the air, and require no dangerous lint-laden hot air vent. They either drain the water they extract into your washer's drain, or into a tank you empty periodically.

They use a fraction of the electricity that a resistance-coil dryer does, and require no change in user behavior.

They are, of course, more mechanically complex, but that's true of a lot of high-efficiency household appliances.

Since I have gotten one, it seems like a real low-hanging-fruit item for subsidization. The energy footprint of a traditional clothes dryer must be huge, but they tend to get replaced every decade or so. If you can influence that purchase decision and nudge someone towards a HE condenser model, you've probably just saved a vast amount of energy. And again, no behavior change required.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:18 PM on December 4, 2022 [11 favorites]

We used to line dry always when we lived in Texas, but after moving to a condo with a top-loader washing machine, I had to start using the dryer for half of the load that gets lint/fuzz stuck to the fabric. Sometimes doing a second rinse helps, but that wastes water; not loading the machine too full also helps, but only a bit. The leftover fuzz makes the clothes look even dirtier than before the wash, especially on dark clothes.

This has vexed me quite a bit and I still haven't found a good solution to this problem. Maybe it's something particular to the exact Samsung Aquajet top-loader model, because we've never had a noticeable fuzz problem before with other machines.
posted by of strange foe at 6:22 PM on December 4, 2022

Drying clothes in the sun is all fine and dandy unless you are a goth teen and your mom ruins half of your black wardrobe (and I mean literally half, a line bisecting the previously deep black into the pale sun-bleached grey)…
posted by mephisjo at 6:49 PM on December 4, 2022 [15 favorites]

My washer and dryer are in the bathroom adjacent to the furnace room, where I dry underwear, socks and and clothes on a rack. I try to wash jeans, towels, sheets and stuff on sunny days, so I can use the deck railing to dry things, but even towels and sheets can be dried on plastic hangers in a little room with a furnace if you're resourceful. A few items get a spin in the dryer to de-wrinkle. Jeans seem stiff, but once you put them on, they're fine.

Anything with elastic, esp. underwear, lasts several times longer because of not being dried with extra heat, so that's a financial and environmental benefit.

Even in cold Maine winters, things dry outside on sunny days. On very cold days, the clothes freeze, and the moisture sublimates, going directly from ice to water vapor. I dislike hanging out clothes in the cold; my hands get really cold, but otherwise it's not a horrid task and wasn't when I had a kid at home with laundry.
posted by theora55 at 7:13 PM on December 4, 2022

I grew up in Denver roughly (checks calendar) 50 years ago, and our house had clotheslines with t-shaped poles at either end. Four lines, two on either side of the t.
In the summer, I’d hang sheets, and by the time the last sheet was hung, the first one could be taken down (folded as you go), and the last sheet was dry by the end of that process. Reader, that is what is known as a “dry heat”.
I still miss it because sheets dried this way are smooth, with none of the weird wrinkles dryers induce (I only use 100% cotton sheets). In the PNW, where I live now, one can hang out clothes from roughly July-Oct, provided we aren’t having any “smoke” days.
I never did get the hang of the umbrella style drying lines.
posted by dbmcd at 7:15 PM on December 4, 2022 [5 favorites]

The square kind aren't for sheets, I believe. Not sure how they work either, we had the same setup as you, growing up; and I remember the fun of walking the white corridors between the dry sheets hanging, as the wind blew them against you.

No lines outside were available but when I was poor I usually saved the dryer's $1 by taking my wet laundry upstairs and hanging it up all around my apartment.
posted by Rash at 8:41 PM on December 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

"Drying clothes in the sun is all fine and dandy unless you are a goth teen and your mom ruins half of your black wardrobe (and I mean literally half, a line bisecting the previously deep black into the pale sun-bleached grey)…"

That's why I line dry stuff turned inside out.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 8:43 PM on December 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

The only thing my household & many others have moved to is switching to those collapsible laundry racks with wheel coasters, adapting to the weather (daily rain showers halfway through the day) & eventual slackening of the wire line. Realising there are stepladder/laundry rack 2-in-1s is a fun addition to our vertically challenged household too. (eta: great option for those with space issues or are renting)

on those sturdier racks you can also hang your shirts & trousers from clothes hangers (with pegs so the damp fabric won't stretch so much), so you both maximize space & have it dry in shape. There are also those spiral hangers for bed linens & other large rectangles. Very handy.
posted by cendawanita at 9:04 PM on December 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

eye of newt, I had SUCH an argument a while ago with a bunch of UK people who swore that line drying indoors did not make their housing wet and used no additional heating energy. (This is nutty because of the physics of water.) After a while they mentioned that they all had retrofitted energy-recovery ventilators that also managed humidity.

Which sound like a GREAT idea for the PNW, but evidently aren’t standard enough to pay off for domestic space. Or our power is cheap? Can’t tell.
posted by clew at 9:07 PM on December 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

Woah that spiral hanger is COOL
posted by aniola at 9:50 PM on December 4, 2022

"Drying clothes in the sun is all fine and dandy unless you are a goth teen and your mom ruins half of your black wardrobe (and I mean literally half, a line bisecting the previously deep black into the pale sun-bleached grey)…"

That's why I line dry stuff turned inside out.

The damage is done. The sun has won.
posted by mephisjo at 10:07 PM on December 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

It's summer here which means laundry happiness.

Winter is awful- unless you are super organised and hang things out at the crack of dawn (reader, with two small children, I am definitely not that organised) you have to depressingly lug half dry clothing back inside and clutter the living space with racks.

Summer means laundry can be completed in a day rather than weeks.

We recently got solar panels so we can use our dryer for free if we need to.
posted by freethefeet at 10:46 PM on December 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

It's funny to see this, as I just splurged for a pulley maid airer, so that spouse and I can supplement our foldable rack with something we can pull up to the ceiling. (We can't rely on outdoor drying thanks to weather and allergies.)

Our old dryer broke recently and we're dragging our feet on repairing it. I suddenly realized that if we could solve our "there's no good place to put this huge rack" problem, it would make air drying much easier, and if we could make it easier then we would barely need to a dryer at all. I'm super excited to be able to pull the laundry up and out of the way. (Plus it's a touch warmer up there!)
posted by marlys at 10:58 PM on December 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

Line drying in the UK - the UK has the benefit of being an Island surrounded by the sea and with wind going across coastal areas and quite some way inland. If you think sun dries clothes quickly - wind is absolutely amazing. You don't need sun if you have a good breeze. Even the occasional shower makes no difference - look at it as a 2nd rinse and let the breeze do its thing.

What makes it difficult is if the outside air is really damp for days on end. Typically, that only happens in winter. So in winter, you do need a really fine, ideally breezy day to make much progress with drying things outside.

But even in winter, on damp days - you can absolutely dry things on racks inside. Even in winter, it doesn't take more than 24 hrs to dry most things. My family in the UK only heat their house during the morning hrs and again from late afternoon onwards and their laundry dries just fine in winter.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:03 AM on December 5, 2022 [5 favorites]

Pro tip I just learned if you use cloth napkins:

For some reason the condensing dryers here in Europe crinkle up every kind of napkin I put in them to the point where it’s a major chore to fold them. I was admiring a friend’s napkins the other day, “Do you iron and starch these??” And she told me her secret. Hang them along the first crease you make when folding them and (if you dry indoors with no clips).

The condensing dryers are interesting. The water goes into a reservoir that you dump between loads, same as the lint trap. Since it’s essentially distilled water I dump it on my plants and they like it a lot more than the tap. I do worry about microplastics, though.

(I live in an apartment with no yard in the Netherlands, which has the same grey rainy weather as the UK, so I’m selective about what I hang around the house to dry, usually cotton and towels go in the dryer.)
posted by antinomia at 1:24 AM on December 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

These hanging racks also used to be popular in the UK, hanging in the higher ceilinged rooms, typically the utility room if you have one, perhaps the kitchen (but that is not ideal). Nowadays i think most UK people hang out when they can in the summer, use the tumble drier for the rest of the year, maybe with hanging stuff up on racks or heated racks for the rest of the year.
posted by biffa at 1:52 AM on December 5, 2022

What I don't understand is how people line-dry clothes in the UK. How can you do that when it rains all the time (and is cloudy when it isn't raining)?

It's a lot easier if you have a garden! We have a rotary clothes line, and can easily line dry from spring to mid autumn. Cloudy days are fine, you're still getting UV and a breeze etc, it just takes a little longer. You just have to keep an eye on the weather forecast to spot a couple of hours you can put it out, and be willing to bring it back in in the event of a shower. Summer gives gloriously lovely laundry!

During the winter when it's just too cold and damp most days, we do have an inside clothes horse for smaller stuff (underwear) but shirts, jumpers and sheets have to go in the tumble drier or they take days. The problem is mainly humidity - given the house is well insulated, we're pushing 65% humidity normally, even with trickle vents and opening the windows to air out every couple of days. Adding indoor drying to the mix pushes us up past 70%, the air starts to get musty, and really increases the risk of mould given we've also had to turn the heating down to 18/19degC due to cost. The laundry room and bathroom both have a fan vent, or it'd be even worse. Our tumble drier is a cheap condenser. I'd love to switch to a more efficient heat pump design given the cost of leccy these days, but they're £600ish so switching out a working drier doesn't really make financial sense.

One option is using a de-humidifier with a clothes horse, as a more efficient option than a drier. We used to do that it our old flat as we didn't have a garden or space for a drier in the pokey kitchen, but controlling mould under the windows was a massive ongoing issue. I think we are going to have get one though anyway (the old one died of old age)
posted by Absolutely No You-Know-What at 2:50 AM on December 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

As others have said, it's perfectly possible to line dry clothes in the UK.

As others have not yet mentioned, the single biggest benefit of line drying is hard, scratchy towels which are the best sort of towel. I have no idea why people like soft towels. The invigorating rasp of a fresh, scratchy towel is one of life's great pleasures.
posted by dowcrag at 3:36 AM on December 5, 2022 [8 favorites]

I have friends who line dry all of their clothes washing every Sunday inside their 2 bedroom apartment. I get the benefit, but I don't have time for that.
posted by SoberHighland at 4:22 AM on December 5, 2022

I'm an American who has lived in Japan for many years. In Japan people use dryers...sparingly. And the thing about Japanese dryers is that they kind of suck. You can get a dedicated dryer, but most people have a combo washer/dryer to save space. Washes fine but the drying part leaves something to be desired. A full load of clothes--about half of what a typical American dryer can do--can take an hour and still come out a bit damp.

It's the norm to hang clothes to dry, unless you live in a high-rise without a balcony, in which case you can afford to machine dry all your clothes anyway. But most people in Japan hang their laundry. It saves money and is better for the environment. But. Two big downsides that are undeniable. One, Japan has at least one if not two rainy seasons, and it can be rainy and wet for days and days. Laundry has to be dried inside, which can take some finagling and can ultimately increase the humidity in your house/apartment, increasing the possibility of mold in those nooks and crannies.

The second downside is time. There is no way I know of that can get those clothes properly hung without an investment in time. 10 minutes is about average, which isn't all that much but compared with the 17 seconds it takes to just chuck something in a dryer, it's a huge difference. It's kind of a nice mental break most of the time but sometimes--especially rainy days--I just think screw it and chuck it into the dryer.
posted by zardoz at 4:31 AM on December 5, 2022 [4 favorites]

What I don't understand is how people line-dry clothes in the UK. How can you do that when it rains all the time (and is cloudy when it isn't raining)?

I live in a flat and just put my clothes on a drying rack... and they dry? The room they're in isn't heated but it's reasonably well-ventilated, I live in a new build with double-glazing so it's not particularly damp inside, and it all seems to work fine without my clothes going stiff or smelling of mildew.

I do generally give each load an extra 'fast spin' at the end of the wash cycle, which means they come out a long way to dry already.
posted by penguin pie at 5:30 AM on December 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

I spent several summers living in the tiny spot of temperate rainforest in the Southern Appalachians. You can live without air conditioning there, which is great, but towels do not dry between showers let alone line drying after washing. Everything I owned smelled like mildew by the end of each summer.

Even here in Georgia, our humidity is so high in summer that you simply can't reliably line dry towels or jeans without mildew. Plus we often get daily thunderstorms so line drying outdoors is difficult, and I would also be worried about the extra moisture inside my house from line drying everything indoors. If I have to run a dehumidifier, does that make up for the energy saved by rack-drying? We rack-dry a lot of things, but towels and jeans will keep going in the dryer.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:42 AM on December 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

Also, now that I have RTFA, the energy savings part of it for the US is absolutely astounding .

When we got solar a few years ago, the new meters allowed us to watch via app our power usage. When the dryer is in use, it absolutely SPIKES. Since we live in the desert, line drying is a great option. I dry on the line as long as I have the time to wait and as long as the weather isn’t bad. Almost all of my clothes are synthetics and that means they not only dry quickly, but they don’t get stuff the same way cotton does. (Cotton works better with a short ride in the dryer after the line.) We have a pack of rescue pooches, with varying issues, and so we have a lot of blankets for them. Drying those blankets on the line gets rid of alllll sorts of funks and smells.
posted by azpenguin at 5:46 AM on December 5, 2022

Dryers use around 2 kilowatts of power and some models even more, so these are huge energy household energy hogs. Especially when the sun and fresh air can do the work for free.
posted by drstrangelove at 6:31 AM on December 5, 2022

Yes, inflatablekiwi, that includes Utah, but laws vary by state.

They certainly do. Basically the law in Utah best I can tell, is that there is no individual “right to dry”, but that the land use authority (let’s say County planning board) MAY (my emphasis) decide to not approve or renew a land use / subdivision etc if it contains restrictions against use of solar power or clotheslines or other renewable energy devices.

So less an individual’s “right to dry” and more a discretionary ability for a local land use authority to decide if clotheslines are something they want, and even then HOAs can still put in limits that make it impractical….and sucks if you live in a neighborhood approved prior to this law. And the way the law reads it may be I’d have to erect the clothesline on the building and the law may not cover stand-alone clotheslines detached from buildings. In short - legislators really don’t want clotheslines it seems….

Utah code link to 17-27a-610. Restrictions for solar and other energy devices.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 7:23 AM on December 5, 2022

A typical American clothes dryer, such as this one (MSRP $670, actual retail more like $350), requires a 240V split-phase 30A circuit, and contains a 5.4 kW resistive heating element. Although it doesn't run the heater at maximum all the time (it's about a 50% duty cycle), it does take a fair amount of juice.

But electricity in the US is cheap. I pay about 15c/kWh on the East Coast, but in some parts of the country (particularly Idaho, Wyoming, and the PNW), rates can be closer to 10c/kWh. Assuming a 60-minute dry cycle at 50% power, it'd be about 2.7 kWh or $0.40 per load for me.

If the difference in time spent between line-drying and using the machine is about 10 minutes per load (which seems reasonable, maybe a bit on the low side, but maybe I'm just not practiced at it), you only need to value your leisure time at around $2.40/hour to make using the machine worthwhile. (And yeah, there's also the amortized cost of the machine itself, but the energy usage dominates unless you're a single person with a fancy machine.)

Certainly, if you don't mind line-drying clothes -- if you find the act of doing it relaxing or whatever -- go nuts. It's certainly a great energy savings. But let's not pretend that it's really a win for the average person. Electric clothes dryers exist and are popular because of the labor savings they provide. But the general suggestion that everyone should line-dry rather than use a machine is basically asking people to value their time (in most of the US) at vastly less than minimum wage. There are a lot of things I could do, both leisure and work-related, that are more worthwhile than that.

Glancing quickly at electricity rates, the only place in the US where it makes sense, in terms of opportunity costs, to line-dry clothes (using the guideline of 2.7 kWh for 10 minutes of savings) is Hawaii, which has very expensive electricity (and, although it doesn't factor into the financials, I'd argue it's also a pretty pleasant place to be outside, as opposed to, say, Fargo in February).

Time will tell how long my condenser dryer lasts, but given its low power consumption compared to a traditional resistive-coil dryer, messing with clotheslines probably makes even less sense, assuming you can afford the upfront capital expense of the machine itself. IMO, that's a place where I think you can make a good argument for government intervention: help people afford the upfront investment in a labor and energy-saving device.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:49 AM on December 5, 2022 [5 favorites]

Dryers use around 2 kilowatts of power and some models even more, so these are huge energy household energy hogs. Especially when the sun and fresh air can do the work for free.

Partly depends on the dryer type. Vented dryers heat up the clothes (electric coil for domestic ones), then vents the hot, moist air outside the house via exhaust hose. Condenser dryers run the hot moist air through a condenser to separate out the water, and then usually dumps the warm, slightly moist air back out into the room and pulls in cool air to repeat.

The advantage is it doesn't need a direct external vent or even a drain as they can dump the water into a box, and is a bit more efficient than a vented dryer.

A heat pump dryer takes a condenser dryer to the next level, and has a largely closed loop of air that is heated and passed across the clothes, then the water is extracted, and reheated to go again. They usually take a bit longer to dry clothes as the heat is usually only 50degC instead of 70-80degC, but they are much more efficient in comparison as heat is recycled.

Looking at my local appliance vendor, an average A+++ rated heat pump dryer is ~180 kWh/annum (0.8 kWh for a partial load), condenser around 550 kWh/annum, and vented 630 kWh/annum or more.

But definitely, anything other than a heat pump dryer is likely the most energy hungry appliance in a UK house, bar the central heating. (I've no idea how much aircon costs to run for USians, but I bet it's a lot)

FWIW, electricity is currently 34p/kWh for me, or 42 US cents, and running the dryer is over £1 a cycle with my condenser dryer, so uh, I've been looking at it a lot lately!
posted by Absolutely No You-Know-What at 8:04 AM on December 5, 2022

I don't really get the labour savings with using a dryer. It seems really marginal, compared to just putting the clothes on the clothes horse. We potentially have the space for either a tumble dryer or a dishwasher in our kitchen, and the dishwasher would definitely win as a labour saving device. A dryer seems kind of as useful as a microwave but 4 times size and 6 times the price.
posted by plonkee at 8:15 AM on December 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

Clothes in Europe are also much more likely to be unsuitable for tumble dryers. A friend just installed one, triumphantly dried a load, then realised all his shirts were now mid-forearm sleeves. Upon investigation, his entire wardrobe of fast-fashion to fairly good clothes contains just two t-shirts where the dryer symbol isn't prominently crossed out.

(I suspect he also used a high-heat programme, since I've occasionally tumble-dried clothes while travelling, but the increase in wear and tear when I was stuck using a dryer for three months was Big.)
posted by I claim sanctuary at 8:21 AM on December 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

My significant other likes hang drying so much, earlier this year she bought a painting depicting a bedsheet drying on a line. So yeah, we don't use our dryer much...
posted by piyushnz at 8:39 AM on December 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

I must admit one thing I like about our dryer is, as the owner now of a dog who sheds a lot of hair, the dryer does a great job of things coming out hair free. The dryer filter is normally covered after each cycle with dog hair but it only takes a few seconds to clean each cycle. I guess clothes horse plus lint brush is the alternative - or just get more used to more dog hair on clothes? Not a great reason for not using a clothesline (or more likely an indoor clothes horse) I know
posted by inflatablekiwi at 9:00 AM on December 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

I don't really get the labour savings with using a dryer.

Things might differ between common US and UK appliances and homes. For me in the US, here is my workflow for drying our clothes in the dryer:

1) Scoop entire armloads of damp clothes out of the washer and dump them right into the dryer next to it
2) Add fabric softener and push button
3) When it buzzes, go back to the basement and fold dry clothes.

I don't see how that isn't a substantial time savings over setting up a bunch of racks, putting everything individually out on racks in neat and smooth ways, monitoring them the whole time they're drying to make sure Evie doesn't eat or ruin them, folding them, and then putting the racks away.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 9:02 AM on December 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

I know laundry robots have come up a few times in Metafilter threads over the years. Current state of play? They still fold laundry way slower than you.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 9:20 AM on December 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

Depending on circumstances it's possible to avoid setting up/storing racks. I installed a couple of retractable Gorilla clotheslines in suitable spots. Using hangers for shirts and pants you can fit quite a bit of stuff on a room length of line.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:22 AM on December 5, 2022

I like line-drying ok, but I find it to be really rough on clothes - I have seen plenty of colors become sun-bleached, and my swimsuits (which is the clothing I line-dry the most) definitely can't survive more than a year or two without serious fading.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:22 AM on December 5, 2022

Honestly, I don't think I would bother drying a swimsuit outside. I would hang it from my shower-head if it were wet or from the towel bar in my bathroom if it were just damp.

I use drying racks for a fair amount of my laundry, but I use the dryer for things like sheets and towels. Part of this is that I like to do all of my laundry on the same day, and there isn't room on my drying racks for all of my laundry. I don't have an outdoor clothesline, although I've thought about putting one up. It seems like a whole added complication to worry about the weather, but I might be able to make it work during the summer, when I can work from home.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:28 AM on December 5, 2022

I grew up with a mother and grandmother who thought line drying was a sign of low class. WTF, I don't know.

So anyway, ever since moving in with my now-husband, we line dry until it's too cold (MN) and use the dryer only in winter. Hanging clothes outside is my favorite chore. I think hanging clothes inside in our dungeon like basement wouldn't work unless absolutely necessary. The lint is used to make firestarters, along with our leftover candle stubs and egg cartons. (We burn candles all winter long to make life cozy.)
posted by RedEmma at 10:54 AM on December 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

I too grew up helping my mom hang laundry to dry. I remember breaking sheets that had frozen solid. I think we brought them in and she ironed them dry.
posted by charlesminus at 11:46 AM on December 5, 2022

I think part of the reason I also fell in love with line drying is that we had been living in an apartment building with a shared laundry room for about a year and a half before moving into our house. In that laundry room the dryers were $2 a load but only one of them worked anywhere near halfway decent.

If I was so unlucky as to not nab the good dryer, I would have to hang our stuff to dry at least some of the way anyway - really not representing any time savings in terms of labour - but in our 500sqft apartment where both of us worked from home and with no drying rack because it was a very, very temporary living space for us.

The dryer that DID work absolutely cooked the hell out of our laundry. With that clear association between using a dryer costing money and often not really doing the job very well, it was quite an argument for me for air drying anyway. Why not if I have to take the step of hanging stuff up to dry or finish drying either way?

In terms of labour time, I think most people have stuff that they have to (or at least are supposed to) hang to dry and just hanging everything saves the time it takes to ensure that stuff doesn't go into the dryer, since nothing does. For my household's clothes, it's not an insignificant amount of time, plus the peace-of-mind to know I haven't missed anything. There are ways to address that in terms of laundry sorting and garment bags but I'm not attentive enough to always remember.
posted by urbanlenny at 11:54 AM on December 5, 2022

Hanging the laundry was my least favorite chore when I was growing up. We hardly ever used the dryer. Today, in our Minnesota home, we mostly use a natural gas dryer, but we have a lot of clothes that we choose to hang, and I still, to this day, hate hanging it all. We are a bike commuting, electric car owning, composting, solar panel family, and this is the one thing that I really resist.

So if you had tips on how to get on board with hanging clothes in the basement, I guess I'm open. We have enough laundry lines hung up for about a load of laundry, but you aren't doing a second unless it's going in the dryer. I lack the executive function to not get my clothes rained on/ frozen solid/infested by squirrels, so outside is a no go.
posted by advicepig at 2:14 PM on December 5, 2022

We indoor line dry about half of our clothing, the stuff that can't go in the dryer or is in danger of shrinking. I cannot wear clothing that has been line-dried outdoors, thanks to being allergic to pretty much every living thing on the planet. Give me an article of clothing that has been dried outside in the spring, summer, or fall and my eyes will swell shut, my lungs will protest loudly, and I will sneeze for hours and hours. This is the same reason that if I go outdoors during those seasons, when I come home I have to change my clothes immediately and take a shower. The pollen must go.

And no, we don't open our windows when it's nice outside. Sometimes it sucks to be me.
posted by cooker girl at 3:01 PM on December 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

I've noticed that a greater portion of the clothes at home have the "don't use the dryer" mark on them so I hang them by one of the windows upstairs. There isn't enough space to hang all the laundry but some diversion is happening. In the summer time I'll take more things outside to dry but probably not as much as I should.

One issue with hanging clothes outside to dry is that I'm around to wash the clothes and hang them but not around to collect and fold them, unless it's dry-fit stuff that dries up almost instantly, so that would become a chore my wife would have to do and her plate is full enough as-is. With the dryer the worst-case scenario is that I'm not able to collect and fold the clothes after they're done she just leaves the clothes there and I'll deal with them the next day. We've got some high ceilings at home and I've told my wife that I could run some lines across to hang clothes inside but she wasn't on board.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:07 PM on December 5, 2022

The pollen must go.

Take note, anyone who lives in a city and is in a position to consider planting a pollen tree instead of a fruit tree. There are people who are allergic to pollen! AND there are people who would gladly harvest fruit/nuts/etc off your tree every year!
posted by aniola at 4:15 PM on December 5, 2022

Line-dried clothes outside when I didn't have a dryer. If I didn't take the clothes in right away, stinkbugs would lay eggs on them. Now, if there's stuff I need to line dry, I let it dry inside my house. Never again, man.
posted by pelvicsorcery at 5:43 PM on December 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

I don't see how that isn't a substantial time savings over...

It adds a bit of labour compared to your use of dryer but not that much. The workflow in my house is pull clothes out of washing machine into basket. Walk to clothes horse and/or radiators. Drape over radiators and/or clothes horse. Leave until dry.

Theoretically we then put things away, although in practice that doesn't happen as quickly as it might. The clothes horse is nearly always up already, but would take a couple of minute to unfold if it wasn't. Line drying outdoors takes a bit longer as you need to actually peg all the laundry out (and this was often my chore as a kid), but indoors not so much.

If we had more space in the house, we'd probably get a tumble dryer. Since we don't, we manage without. The biggest drawback to drying indoors is how long it takes clothes to dry if it's neither summer nor cold enough for the heating to be on.
posted by plonkee at 5:53 PM on December 5, 2022

I don't understand why there isn't a stacking washer-dryer combo with the wash on top so that when it's done, it can just open a hatch and let the laundry fall into the dryer so it can auto-start. I get that there are combo wash-dry machines but I also understand that they are very bad at the drying part. So, use two and let them work together. Someone call samsung and tell them to get on it.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:35 AM on December 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Condenser dryers use more energy and their only real benefit is that they can be placed anywhere with no need to worry about routing a duct outside. So, it's hardly "low hanging fruit."
posted by drstrangelove at 3:33 AM on December 6, 2022

anyone who lives in a city and is in a position to consider planting a pollen tree instead of a fruit tree. There are people who are allergic to pollen!

Sorry, but while there are few trees that produce little or no pollen, most fruit trees do produce mass amounts of pollen, so they would not help you. I also assume you meant a flowering tree vs a fruit tree, because pollen is how flowers reproduce, generally.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:57 AM on December 6, 2022

I'm surprised to find we have 84 sunny days per year here but it's awfully hard to coordinate one's laundry with those.

Anyhow if I were to dry my clothes outdoors (which, I can't, as I have no outdoor space) they would come in smelling of carnitas and cigarettes from my neighboring restaurant and my downstairs neighbors, which is ... suboptimal. Plus, the rats would steal the socks. So onto the rack in the spare room they go. But this means sheets and towels still need drying, as the racks are simply not big enough.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:57 AM on December 6, 2022

I'm not good with my plant vocabulary. Here's something explaining what I meant:
when dioecious males are planted independently of dioecious females, as often the case in urban areas, their pollen is unchecked by any capture by female flowers.
full article at "How urban planners' preference for male trees has made your hay fever worse"
posted by aniola at 8:17 AM on December 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

Thank you for helping me clarify about the tree thing.
posted by aniola at 8:18 AM on December 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

This post is well timed!

Chez nous some things go in the dryer for convenience, but we hang anything even slightly vulnerable (stretchy or athletic clothes, anything with elastic) on one of those overhead pulley racks on the back porch ceiling. They don't get rained on up there, but when it's damp outside, things can take a long time to dry.

We've had a rainy stretch here and some of our clothes are still a bit damp after two days aloft, so just this morning we were discussing installing another overhead rack in the laundry room, and comparing British vs imported-to-US sources.
posted by tangerine at 10:37 AM on December 6, 2022

Decorative way to hang-dry small clothes (socks/underwear/bras/whatnot) - Get a scrap bike wheel from your local bike shop for free, and hang it up somewhere.
posted by aniola at 11:53 AM on December 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

I have been line drying since 2015. My apartment came with clotheslines. Then, the people in the other side of this duplex, used to live in my apartment, and my back porch has the hookups. I noticed my neighbor going off to the laundromat to wash, then bringing it all home to dry, on the line. I offered them the use of my machine, he (a math teacher,) declined saying he liked to do it all at once. In about two weeks, he realized that laundry once a week was coming in somewhere around $80 a month. He came back and, took me up on my offer. Once a week they wash and line dry, no gasoline, no wear and tear, nice crispy clothes. Sometimes we need to finish up the heavy stuff indoors this time of year, OK. I remember hanging clothes on the line as a child. Homey process. In August in this hot town, clothes line dry in the time the next load has finished washing. Oh lovely sun. I dried on the line yesterday.
posted by Oyéah at 1:55 PM on December 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

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