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Just Hanging — Clothes

by Shelly Kneupper Tucker on March 8, 2010©

Do y’all remember hanging out clothes when you were a little kid? That was one of the chores I learned to do as soon as I was tall enough to reach the clothes line. If I close my eyes, I can smell the damp freshness of the linen sheets (yes, we had real linens) and hear the sound of them snapping in a Texas breeze. As a memory, it is very sweet, but hanging clothes on the line was hard work! Carrying a laundry basket filled with damp clothes is a workout, indeed.

Once my Momma could afford an electric dryer, she never hung out clothes again. Right about now, she is rolling in her grave — after all, she spent most of her life wishing that she had a clothes dryer. Here I have a perfectly good dryer and use a clothesline instead. Yes, it’s true. In my attempts to be kind to Mother Earth and to be gentle to my wallet, I turned last summer to that archaic method of drying clothes: the clothes line or the drying racks.

bloomers on a line

If my bloomers looked as good as these, I would proudly hang them on my clothesline outside. Instead, I hide my granny drawers freshly laundered underwear in my garage on drying racks.

Y’all should thank me for that.

You realize, of course, that every time we use our clothes dryers, we are consuming electricity (or natural gas). How much? See for yourself. Michael Bluejay, AKA “Mr. Electricity,” has a handy energy calculator tool that will give you a rough estimate of the amount of electricity that various appliances use. I used it to calculate what we used with our clothes dryer.

I figured that Mr. Tucker and I run about three loads of laundry a week for two people. That’s about 12 loads a month. We have an older dryer and it takes about an hour to fully dry a load of towels. According to that calculator, at 12 cents a kilowatt, I’m only spending $76 per year to dry clothes. Now, a savings of $6.36 for a month might not seem like much — but that will buy me a mocha and a muffin! God knows that I need my mocha!

However, that calculator didn’t take into account that sometimes I have been known to forget I have a load of clothes in the dryer and later discover that I let my husband’s work clothes get wrinkled. My husband’s work clothes are dress slacks and buttoned down shirts! Wrinkled is not good. Since ironing is a skill that I’m trying to forget that I have, I usually popped a damp towel in with the clothes and ran them a little longer.

On top of that, the calculator doesn’t factor how hard the air conditioner has to work to dissipate the heat that using the dryer generated. And, it doesn’t calculate the effect of that energy usage on the environment. At Project Laundry List, the site suggests that if every American household hung out their laundry to dry, the savings would be enough to be able to close several power plants. Think of the greenhouse gasses that would not be generated!

Other than my small attempt to shrink my environmental footprint and my desire to be frugal, here are the top three reasons that I am drying my clothes the old fashioned way:

  1. It doesn’t take any longer. Yes, that’s what I said. I hang my shirts and slacks on plastic coat hangers (do not use metal since it might rust) straight from the washing machine and place them on the clothes rack to dry. The rack is portable, so I can roll it outside to use solar power to dry them or let them dry inside. I was going to have to hang them up anyway.
  2. I like the smell of laundry that has been dried in the sun (and some folks say that the ultra-violet light kills viruses and bacteria).
  3. My clothes last longer. That lint that you find in the dryer trap is being beaten out of your clothes!

I’m not even going to mention that the exercise of hanging the clothes is good for me.

Perhaps you live in an area that has a Homeowner’s Association and you can’t hang the clothes on a line? No worries. I found wooden laundry racks at The Container Store costing from $10-$30 that will hold an entire load of towels. I bought them last summer, and I figure they have already paid for themselves. This winter, when my house was full of static electricity, I dried clothes right in the bedroom to help add humidity to the house. No more zaps for me!

I imagine I will still backslide and use my dryer occasionally, just because of the convenience. I know some of you will decide that drying clothes on the line is not worth the trouble. If you must use a dryer, remember these things to help be more energy efficient:

  1. Clean the lint trap after every use. Not only do you help your dryer run more efficiently, you reduce the risk of a fire hazard.
  2. Dry a full load at a time, but don’t overload the dryer. It will take longer to dry, and the clothes will get more wrinkled.
  3. Wash and dry clothes in an “off peak” time (early morning or late at night)
  4. If you are lucky enough that your dryer has a moisture sensor, use it!
  5. Listen for that timer on your dryer, and take out the clothes immediately so you don’t have the wrinkles.
  6. Or, run around nekkid. Nudists don’t have to worry about these issues, do they?

Remember what Benjamin Franklin said:

“We must hang together…
else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.”

Come and “hang out” with me. Do you hang your clothes, or will you never (never ever) give up your dryer?

{ 13 comments }

Michael Bluejay March 8, 2010 at 1:52 am

My calculator doesn’t give the figures you cited. So many people were misquoting the figures for clothes washing and drying that I took those calculations completely out of the calculator, and set it up so that if you choose Clothes Dryer or Washing Machine, you get a dialog box with the price per load (35¢ for drying), with the option to go to the clothes dryer or washer page for more info.

How did you get $76 per year to dry clothes using my calculator?

Shelly Kneupper Tucker March 8, 2010 at 7:22 am

I’m sorry, Michael. I confess I used your site about a year ago, and it seemed different then. I should have checked again before I posted. You now have a dropdown that says:

Cost per load for electric is about $0.35 ($140/yr.) whether you use gas or electric.

When you click to the page it quotes “$0.36 per load (assumes 45 minutes per load)”. I’m not a math whiz, but let me see if I can do this:

I do approximately 144 loads of laundry per year. At 36¢ per load, that’s $51.84 (or at 35¢ per load, it’s $50.04). EXCEPT that I have a dryer that is over twenty years old (and not energy efficient at all), and each load takes an hour … that’s another 36 hours a year … or another $12.60 or $12.96 (depending on which price per load). So, if it’s 35¢ per load, I pay $62.64 … if its 36¢ per load, I pay $64.80 according to your rate of 11¢/kWh. However on our bill, I pay 12¢/kWh and I’m not smart enough to do the math, but I seem to remember that your site let me plug that in back then. Perhaps I also added the extra 15 minutes that I dry the clothes when I forget to remove them on time? That gets it pretty close to $76, doesn’t it?

Anyway, thanks for calling me on it and for putting together an informative website.

Robin from Israel March 8, 2010 at 2:06 am

Here in Israel most people still hang out most of their laundry. Laundry lines are standard issue out apartment windows too, no backyard needed.

I do dry towels (I want them soft and fluffy) and stuff like socks and underwear and small kids’ clothes in the dryer because it’s too much of a pain otherwise, but most of Jay’s and my clothes get hung out. We have a hot, sunny climate, why not use it?
.-= Robin from Israel´s last blog ..Bottom of a Basket =-.

Shelly Kneupper Tucker March 8, 2010 at 7:41 am

I’ve seen some of the pictures you have posted of the laundry lines :lol: I miss drying the towel, but confess that I have gotten used to them not being fluffy. Yep, use that solar energy.

Michael Bluejay March 8, 2010 at 2:26 pm

The $0.35 per load given in the calculator is the average of the $0.36 for electric and $0.34 for gas. I can’t know which the reader has, which is why I take them to the page so they can see the cost of electric vs. gas themselves.

If you’re using electric which costs $0.34 for 11¢/kWh, but you’re actually paying 12¢/kWh, then your actual cost is $0.34 x 12/11 = $0.37.

Since my table assumes 45 minutes per load, if you’re actually drying for 60 minutes per load, then your cost is $0.37 x 60/45 = $0.49.

144 loads a year x $0.49 = $70.56, which is close enough to your original estimate.

Shelly Kneupper Tucker March 9, 2010 at 8:38 am

Thank you, Michael. I’m sorry I “gummed up the works” trying to calculate it.

Jennymcb March 8, 2010 at 6:49 pm

We need to get our line back up after getting the house sided and I am excited to dry this summer. Why? Well, we cut down some trees to get more sun on our house to melt ice on the roof and to warm the house in the winter. We may regret this the summer, but the heat in the summer and the longer sun time on the clothes line will be worth it. I enjoy the smell of sun/air on the clothes and enjoy hanging it out to dry. Sheets dried outside are the best!
.-= Jennymcb´s last blog ..Forgetful? Or just too many books? =-.

Shelly Kneupper Tucker March 9, 2010 at 8:39 am

Sheets dried outside ARE the best, but I wish I had my Grandmother to iron them for me. Have you ever tried to iron sheets? They feel wonderful, but the work isn’t worth it!

caite@a lovely shore breeze March 9, 2010 at 6:49 am

I do usually hang clothes out on the line most of the year…at least once to temps go above freezing. or they turn into clothes icicles. now if I had a garage, that might work, but I don’t.
.-= caite@a lovely shore breeze´s last blog ..Stinky Bandit Tuesday! =-.

Shelly Kneupper Tucker March 9, 2010 at 8:40 am

Seriously, caite, if you dry clothes on an inside hanger, it will add humidity to the house. You might not want that, but around here it’s so dry in winter that it’s wonderful to get that extra bit of humidity.

ellen March 9, 2010 at 6:24 pm

One more plus – sunshine will get out stains on whites that nothing else will budge – even those horrid brown armpit stains that boys get on their T Shirts.
.-= ellen´s last blog ..Guess Who Came for Dinner =-.

Shelly Kneupper Tucker March 9, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Husband’s get those, too, but don’t tell him I told you! I didn’t realize the sunshine would do that! I’ll give that a try.

Electricity Texas March 10, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Excellent point.
thank you for sharing this with us.
very useful information..
keep going on.

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