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clothesline bright colored shirts blue sky

Spring was very unsettled here in New Mexico, and I was not able to hang my clothes out to dry. I have drying racks in the laundry room for times like this, but I struggled to hang sheets and towels outside long enough to get that yummy freshly-dried-in-the-sun smell. The weather has calmed down, it’s warm, days are long, and the clothesline is in full use again. Yay!

I have only had a dryer in two houses that I’ve rented. One was in eastern Tennessee, where the thick humidity dictates having one. I hung clothes out once, and they never dried! Clothes start to smell bad, almost moldy, before they ever dry. I caved and used the dryer that was provided.

The other house was on the main road through Taos. The dirt from the road coated everything in the yard. It even seeped in through the cracks in the window frames and rested on the windowsills. Again, I acquiesced and used the dryer. Sadly.

Other than that, I have been hanging clothes out to dry for 40 years. Even my mother had a folding clothesline out back for occasional summer drying. Watching the sheets spin in the breeze was magical to a 5 year-old!

The benefits of line drying

Aside from that fresh smell you get hanging clothes outside, there are good reasons to not use a dryer if you want to live an environmentally conscious lifestyle. Dryers are one of the most energy intensive appliances in the home, and energy costs money. The sun can dry your clothes for free. Installing a clothesline will be a small upfront investment, but you will get paid back quickly.

The sun is a disinfectant. It naturally sanitizes and bleaches your clothes and linens without harming the environment.

The heat and tumbling of the dryer are hard on your clothes. You’ll be replacing them less often if you hang them to dry. Taking care of things so they last will reduce your consumption and your carbon footprint.

clothesline and wicker laundry hamper

You’ll be more in touch with the weather. This is the planning part of it. You need to know when it will be sunny and for how long in order to get your clothes completely dry.

Fresh air and a little exercise make you feel good! I do laundry early in the morning, so I listen to the birds when I’m hanging it. It’s refreshing to watch the sun reach into the sky, feel the cool morning air touch my skin, and revel in the quiet. And hauling a basket of wet laundry around is good for your body!

Here are some tips on how to hang laundry.

The drawbacks and solutions

Not every living situation is conducive to drying clothes outside. Environmental factors may stop you like they did me. Your covenants may also prohibit clotheslines. Some states and cities even outlaw clotheslines. My advice is to create change! Go to meetings, explain the economic and green benefits of clotheslines, and see if you can outlaw the laws!

If you can’t hang clothes outside, you can use your dryer less. Get a couple of good sized drying racks. I can hang a full load on one if I overlap my clothes. If you hang them at night, they are usually dry by morning.

So maybe you can’t hang every load, but for each one you dry outside, you’ll feel good about being outdoors, saving energy, and living lightly. Leave a legacy by getting the laws changed in your state, city or neighborhood. That’s green living that keeps on giving.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.