Saturday, May 9, 2009

Save Money & Save Your Clothes: Line Drying

For as long as I can remember, my mom always had clotheslines. Not that we didn't have a dryer; we moved a few times into newly constructed homes, with their own dedicated laundry rooms. Even so, as soon as we were settled into a new house, Dad would be downstairs in the basement, screwing in hooks, and stringing lines, per Mom's request. My parents worked very hard their whole lives, and they like to be frugal. Why pay to run the dryer, when you can dry for free? Even now that my parents have retired, and now living in a lovely new condo, complete with a "No-laundry-drying-on-your-balcony" HOA policy, my parents still devised a way to air dry their clothes "in compliance" ;)

It's funny how many of the things we do to save money, are also things we can do to be a little greener. Line drying does cut out the cost of running your dryer and using dryer sheets. But over the years, I've found line drying also gives your clothes much more life. The colors stay truer, silk screens don't crack and peel, and stretchy fabrics and elastics hold their shape. While we do dry some of our clothes in the dryer (sturdy cottons, towels, sheets), the rest of the clothes get dried indoors in our sun room, with the help of two powder-coated drying racks. The one above is my favorite, from IKEA. Powder-coated metal is really the only way to go, when it comes to racks. I've gone through cheap plastic and wooden racks before; getting maybe a year's worth out of each. Not exactly eco-friendly. One of the wood racks I had also leached yellowish stains on light fabrics. You get what you pay for.

Even with the shades drawn, our sun room gets incredibly hot. In the peak of a Floridian summer, I've had clothes dry in less than two hours... in the late evening. (That's HOT!) Usually though, half a day is plenty of time, as long as the items aren't over-crowded on the rack (that's why we have two). I also stagger my wash days, so I'm not washing everything that needs to be hung on the same day. The little one's cloth diapers and cloth training pants also dry on the racks, and they're ready within a day's time as well.

While drying on a rack can leave clothes a bit "crunchy", here's a great tip from Kate at Living The Frugal Life - she puts her line-dried clothes in the dryer on the "air fluff" cycle for five to ten minutes, to pull off pet hair, and to soften up the clothes. She also has a great tip: reuse the same dryer sheet a few extra times before throwing it out (I also use mine one more time to wipe up lint off the dryer and other surfaces before tossing). Have a look also at Kate's space-saving way of setting up her laundry room with clothes lines, and making the most of wire shelving. Smart lady! :)

Kate calculates that she saves $0.75 a load by line drying. For our family, we typically have 9 loads a week (training pants, princess' wardrobe, light clothes, dark clothes (X2), towels, sheets, blankets, mats & rugs). You can see how quickly that adds up for us, by hanging at least half of those nine loads. We've saved on using electricity, we're using less disposable dryer sheets, and our clothes will last us longer. It's a perfect marriage of being frugal and being green.

Happy laundering :)

Update 08/28/11:

We're now making our own homemade laundry soap, too!  Now that's extra frugal!  Click the picture to go to the recipe:

Drying rack photo courtesy of


  1. This is an excellent post. There are other simple things that almost anyone can do to be more green and conserve energy, like installing a Programmable Thermostat that can adjust the temperature automatically for times when it is not needed, or installing a ceiling fan like I found from Fanimation Fans, or cleaning or replacing their Furnace Filter or Humidifier Filters with something like Aprilaire Furnace Filters that are more energy efficient. Just some ideas that might help the cause.

  2. Excellent suggestions, Aaron. Thank you very much!

    We live in an older home down here in the Florida Keys, and have to use window air conditioner units. The ceiling fans (and also a floor-style tower fan) make a big difference, in distributing the cool air throughout the house.

    Also, our pets have a hatch to get out to the yard, but first they have to go through the sun room. I keep the sun room door partially open as a result. To keep all the cold air from escaping, I have a curtain rod and a full-length sheer curtain across the doorway. No need to buy expensive fabric weights to keep the curtain from blowing around - just use some pennies :)

    Thanks again Aaron! Stop by again soon!