Use Your Clothesline: A Radical Act?

img_20190621_113721429It is summer and even though it has been unusually rainy here, I’ve been trying to time my washing to the weather so I can get my laundry hung outside. I know this may be a luxury for me because I work from home, and for some, shoehorning laundry into a busy weekend isn’t always possible. But if it is at all feasible for you, I highly recommend investing the time and (human) energy into using a clothesline.

Top Reasons to Use a Clothesline

  1. Good for the Environment: Most homes use electric driers, with natural gas a runner up. In either case, running a 3000 W appliance is emitting carbon, either at the power plant or out the exhaust vent. Think of running 50 60-W lightbulbs for an hour every time you “do a load.” That’s a lot of power! Wisconsin creates about 1.4 lb CO2/kWh, so each hour-long run of the drier generates 4.2 lb CO2!
  2. Good for your Budget: An average home uses almost 1,000 kWh/year to power their driers (source). That is more power than an average home uses in a month — or to put it another way — that is almost a tenth of one’s home energy use (source). To save that much energy, you’d have to switch 100 60-W lightbulbs to 10-W LEDs if you’re running them an average of 3 hr/day. With electricity costing an average of $0.12, that saves $120 over the year.
  3. Better than Bleach: “Sun bleaching” is a term because UV radiation whitens clothing, fabric, or pretty much anything it touches (this has been especially useful for us with cloth diapers). Hanging out your white clothes will lighten them without bleach. UV radiation will also degrade clothing over time, so best not to let the dark clothes out longer than they need to be. Even with the UV radiation, line-drying is gentler to clothing than the high temperatures and stress of the tumble drier.
  4. Freshness without Chemicals: Fabric softeners and detergents advertise “meadow fresh” and other outdoorsy fragrances borne of chemicals. Why not get the real thing from hanging your clothes out?
  5. Enjoy the Time Outside: Instead of being stuck in a laundry room, get to spend some time outside while hanging up laundry. Even in the winter, drying inside can add some much-needed humidity to your dry winter home.

A friend linked me this article from the Wall Street Journal: “Who Knew a Clothes Line Could Be So Controversial?” (h/t M. Lamoureux St-Hilaire). I hate to say it, but check your local ordinances to see if laundry lines are allowed. If you live where they are discouraged, stage a colorful, eco-friendly protest! Clotheslines used to be a sign of the lower socioeconomic classes, but now they should be seen as a badge of green pride (not to mention the fact that classes today are dependent on a fossil-fuel-driven economic system and the more affluent one is, the greater one’s emissions tend to be, but that’s a subject for a later post).


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