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Erin Huffstetler

Clothesline or Dryer?

By May 14, 2009

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There are few things that frugalites have a stronger opinion on. Where do you stand in the great clothesline vs. dryer debate:

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Photo © Flickr user Joeannenah

May 15, 2009 at 7:39 am
(1) V says:

Cannot use a clothesline. Too many allergies in my family.

May 15, 2009 at 10:13 am
(2) Tim says:

Geeeeeeeeezz. Why don’t ya ask how many go down to the creek and wash their clothes on a rock? Just what I want to see….all these undies hangin out to dry in the neighborhood of my dream home. I MIGHT do it if I lived in the backwoods. No power/phone>>>you get the drift. Why relegate ourselves back to the stone age to save what….$15-20 bucks a year? If people are that desperate to save on drying costs and spend HOURS extra to do it,perhaps you should have a column on “living like a Neanderthal on $3.00 per day”.

May 15, 2009 at 11:05 am
(3) Keith says:

We have an electric dryer and, for about 6 months of the year from mid-autumn to mid-spring, we vent it indoors. Venting the dryer inside adds warmth and much needed humidity to the house. There’s no point in blowing all that warm moist air outside. The energy savings during the colder months from running the furnace less and not needing to run a humidifier offset the energy cost of running the dryer during the warmer months. We live in Michigan, so the cold weather runs from about mid-November to mid-May. In fact, I just switched the dryer vent back outside a couple of days ago. – - WARNING: If you have a gas dryer, you can’t vent a gas dryer outside because fumes from the burner are mixed in with the hot air. Venting inside only applies to electric dryers. – -

May 15, 2009 at 12:06 pm
(4) Anna says:

We save $26 per MONTH by hanging our clothes out on the clothesline, and the U.S. Department of Energy estimates an average family will save $400 per year by doing so.

It’s amusing how many wannabe affluent communities enact “no clothesline” bylaws and make a fuss about BVD’s flapping in the breeze. I live in a -veeerrryyy- affluent neighborhood where every house has an ocean view and most of our very affluent neighbors take pride in “going off the grid.”

Three have organic gardens in their south-facing front yards, four keep chickens, one has three diary goats, two have solar panels, one has a mini wind turbine, six have planted “edible landscaping” fruit trees and bushes, everybody has at least one Prius or similar low-mileage car, and nearly everybody has and uses their clothesline for at least some of their weekly wash load. Perhaps it’s because our proximity to the ocean makes us aware of how our behavior impacts global warming. Environmental excess is frowned upon in our community.

I think it’s time people got over their media-brainwashed notions about clotheslines being “backwoods” and buying resource-intense machines to do a job mother nature does for free. SOMEBODY has to be the one to set a good example and deprogram the neighbors from their Whirlpool media brainwashing. Pumping carbon into the atmosphere to dry clothes is sooooo 1997!

May 15, 2009 at 12:18 pm
(5) Antoinette says:

“Pumping carbon into the atmosphere to dry clothes is sooooo 1997!”> Yes, and just think sunlight is FREE!
Makes sense to me to use a clothesline. If there is a power outage, will the person who says using clotheslines is “backwoods” know how to dry his clothes?! LOL

May 15, 2009 at 6:14 pm
(6) Stefanie says:

I don’t understand how people can say that you save $33 a month ($400 a year) by using a clothesline. My last electric bill was only $66. I really doubt that half of my electricity was used by drying clothes.

May 15, 2009 at 8:12 pm
(7) Leif says:

We use the clothesline as much as possible. Unfortunately the climate of New England makes it difficult to use it all year long. I apologize to anyone who doesn’t like to see undies on the line (my girlfriend dries her unmentionables on a rack in the bathroom).
A good shake to the clothes before hanging and one as they come off the line keeps them from ending up stiff.
There is no better scent than air dried clothes and bedding, This is by far the more frugal and environmentally sound way to dry laundry. We greatly reduce our electric bill and wear and tear on the drier this way. the savings works out to about $15 a month for our household.The first three months we took up line drying we spent the savings on fluorescent light bulbs, which helped further reduce our electric bill.

So, pardon my undies but I’ll stick to the line.

May 17, 2009 at 6:50 am
(8) Dawne says:

I, like Leif, also live in New England where it can be damp for long periods during the warmer months. We are a family of five. Because my husband was laid off a few months ago, I just recently began hanging our clothes either on a drying rack in the laundry room or out on the back deck when it is nice out. It was one of the many things we cut back on. The first month we saved 30.00 dollars on our electric bill and the second month we saved 35.00 dollars. This was a significant difference to us so we are sticking with it even if he does get another job. It is a little more time consuming but worth it. I found a garment rack for 14.00 dollars and pant hangers on sale at Target and I hang our shirts and pants on that inside the house so they dry wrinkle free.

May 18, 2009 at 1:43 am
(9) CL says:

depends on time of year. in the summer, definitely outside; not only does one save by not using the dryer, but one also saves on AC power because it doesn’t heat up the house.

May 18, 2009 at 2:27 pm
(10) Anna says:

We dry our clothes outside on the line straight through the winter months. Here in New England, it hovers around 15 degrees in the daytime and drops down below zero some nights, but the laundry dries. You have to wear gloves when you hang it out and the clothing will freeze stiff as a board as soon as you pull it out of the basket before you can even get the clothespins on it, but it still dries. When you pull it off, it will be stiff as a board, but as soon as you bring it indoors and it warms to room temperature, it’s soft, wrinkle free and dry as a bone.

A physicist friend said it essentially “freeze dries.” At certain temperatures right around the freezing mark, water turns directly from ice to vapor, completely skipping the liquid water phase. I haven’t used my dryer in nearly two years!

The trick is to position your clothesline so it’s in direct sunlight for as much of the day as possible. I string extra line from tree to tree in the winter so my clothing is positioned toward the sun. Really thick items (like jeans) may need to be put out the night before so they’re dry by supper the next day. Occasionally, areas the sun doesn’t hit (inside the pockets, etc.) may be a bit damp, but just toss them over a chair for an hour and they’ll finish drying. Check your 5-day weather forecast before doing laundry. Any day that says “sunny, breezy and cold” is perfect freeze dried laundry weather. My neighbors think I’m nuts when they see me standing in 3 feet of snow hanging laundry, but it dries. Really, give it a try!!! You can’t beat the clear, clean smell of laundry that’s been freeze dried.

May 19, 2009 at 5:31 am
(11) Dawne says:

Also, if there is room in the house, I know some people have small places, you can purchase a couple of drying racks for about $12.00 and place them in a room where you can hang your clothes on to dry. I have three drying racks and a garment rack set up in the laundry room and that is where I hang my clothes to dry on wet/cold/damp days. If it is nice out, I will bring the racks upstairs out on the deck and the sun will dry them within a couple of hours. They smell fresh and the savings have definitely been worth the extra effort.

May 20, 2009 at 2:49 am
(12) Cheryl says:

I’m open to using a line, esp. since my dryer is broken so I use a combo of laundromat drying and hanging things up inside the house. I wonder about a few things though:

What about dust, pollen, and bird splodge?

How can sunlight be both a wonderful bleaching mechanism and easier on your clothes than a dryer at the same time?

The things I hang in the house look like wrinkled up crap. How do you get your cottons and blends presentable? Ironing? Not really up for ironing my kids’ casual tshirts.

May 20, 2009 at 3:07 am
(13) Sylvia says:

We live in Africa, so for us to use a dryer to dry our clothes is a little ridiculous with our sunny days most year round. However during the rainy weather, the dryer does become handy as nothing seems to dry properly because of our added humidity. Using a dryer here is really only for the lazy ones!

May 20, 2009 at 3:50 am
(14) Jennifer Berendt says:

In Germany where I live, it is very common to have no dryer and use indoor clothes racks. The moisture from the clothes is great for keeping heated areas from being too dry in the winter.

My MIL stretches the clothes a bit before hanging to keep the wrinkles minimal.

I do have a dryer that I use when the drying racks and laundry baskets are full but I managed to cloth diaper my son for almost 2 years with no dryer! The sunshine worked great to fade stains.

Hanging laundry is a great way to save money.

May 20, 2009 at 5:21 am
(15) denise says:

I use and have used a clothesline for over 25 years.I have a dryer. There is nothing like the smell of bed sheets off the line in the springtime, gees funny aren’t the fabric softeners trying to come up with that smell with chemicals?

May 20, 2009 at 6:04 am
(16) ronna says:

Unfortunately I live in a 600 sq ft one-bedroom apartment. No porch or balcony. I suppose I could hang to dry in the laundry room of this building but ugh the spiders! LOL. I know from previous experience in a larger apartment, hanging to dry indoors in summer was nuts because of added humidity. In winter it was great! I hung stuff to partially dry so I could put 2 loads of wash into one load to dry to save $$.

May 20, 2009 at 7:13 am
(17) Alice says:

I don’t do it to save money. I do it because it is like meditation for me. It is an excuse to stand outside and listen to the birds and smell the breeze. Besides the clothes smell wonderful! Saving money is just the cherry on top!

May 20, 2009 at 8:07 am
(18) Keanne says:

We live in an area where people can burn. If I want my clothes to smell like smoke or burning trash (pew!)then I’ll hang them out on a line. But, mostly I want them to smell fresh.

May 20, 2009 at 8:23 am
(19) Brandi says:

We have an HE washer and dryer, which already use a lot less energy than regular ones. Also, with a small backyard, there really isn’t room for a clothesline. And with a toddler and a baby (and one on the way) I’m lucky that the laundry gets done at all! It would be very difficult to take all the clothes outside and hang them up!!

May 20, 2009 at 9:15 am
(20) JR says:

I live in a windy area. When I hang things out I get back sandpaper!

May 20, 2009 at 9:25 am
(21) garnet128 says:

I use a little of both. Not because of the money savings or the environment, but because I discovered years ago, when the dryer was broken and I had no choice at the time, that clothes last longer when not placed in the dryer. Not to mention the shrink factor of the dryer. I do NOT hang outside due to allergies and asthma. I have line strung in the basement (next to the washer and dryer) and hang many things on plastic hangers. And call me crazy, but I don’t mind ironing, I iron a few items every morning and mentally put my day in order while doing so. With that said, I still like the dryer also for some items. When I lived in a small apartment, I managed to string a line in my bedroom that I put up when needed and took down when not needed. I do all my laundry in one day, so a line stung once a week is tolerable

May 20, 2009 at 9:32 am
(22) Mandy Cat says:

As in many covenant controlled communities, clotheslines are against HOA regulations where we live. And I have to admit I’m glad. Our backyard opens on to a greenbelt and from our patio we overlook about ten other homes. I wouldn’t be all that thrilled to look at ten families’ worth of laundry hanging outside while having dinner. Our greenbelt view boosts our home’s value by $10K to $15K and (call us greedheads) that’s important to us.

May 20, 2009 at 10:08 am
(23) mudmandon says:

Helping Erin hangs clothes in the warm sunshine sounds perfect to me.

May 20, 2009 at 10:18 am
(24) kris says:

We use both. I really look forward to hanging in the summer though. I’m too much of a cold weather wimp to hang in the Chicago winter. I will NEVER buy anywhere that has a HOA for reasons like this.

May 20, 2009 at 10:20 am
(25) Darlene says:

I use a clothesline whenever I can to dry my clothes. We usually have a wonderfully strong breeze across our yard and most times when I’m hanging out my third load of laundry, I’m then able to bring in the first load which is completely dry. Not only does hanging laundry outside save money on drying the clothes, it saves on ironing them as well. I’m careful how I hang things up and I pat out all the wrinkles and creases as I’m pinning them on the line. I love hanging bedclothes outside to capture that “fresh air” smell which I find so relaxing when I’m drifting off to sleep. I empathize with those who have allergies for which this pleasure is not available. And I’m glad I live in a “down home” neighborhood where hanging laundry outside is the normal thing to do. I get some exercise carrying the baskets in and out of the house, and I get a chance to fill my lungs with fresh, clean air. I love it!

May 20, 2009 at 11:27 am
(26) Kathleen says:

I LOVE drying clothes out on the line!! For many years I did not. Then we moved in with my Father to take care of him as he had very serious health problems. My parents home had these old clothes line poles and just out of the blue we strung them with line. It was so very relaxing and very enjoyable hanging the clothes out. My daughters were teenagers at the time and they too loved drying the clothes outside. For us it was not so much about saving energy or money, although, that definately helps. It was about the way the clothes smelled and felt. Nothing can beat getting into a bed at night, snuggling into fresh sheets that have hung outside to dry in the sunshine. You just sleep so very much better. Later after my father had passed and we moved into a new home that was my first request, to have clothes line hung. Sadly, now we live in a place where I am not allowed to hang out my clothes. I greatly miss it. By the way…we never hung out any underwear, that was dried in the dryer.

May 20, 2009 at 12:48 pm
(27) Zig says:

To me there are more important things to worry about in this world than to worry if so and so is hanging out their laundry. Remember you don’t have to look or stare at someone’s laundry if it is hung on their property. I’m more impressed with a person who hangs out there clothes than a person who tries to keep up with the Joneses.

As for hanging clothes out to dry in a small space it can be done. Because of my year round allergies we now hang clothes inside the house and we only wash during non peak hours. We have a clothes lines set up in the hall. We have “j” hooks in the studs and bungee cord zigzagged down the hall. We also have tension rods in the hall to hang clothes on. We also hang clothes in the bathroom with a small fan running to help dry the clothes. You can also get hanging clothes hangers like this one shown in the link
http://www.lehmans.com/store/Home_Goods___Laundry___Drying___Stainless_Steel_Clothes_Hanger___1065380?Args= to hang clothes. (I’ve seen them cheaper at dollar stores, the grocery store and sometimes at the hardware store).

You can also buy a drying rack and put clothes on that to dry and those can be bought at Target, Wal-Mart, Bed Bath and Beyond, and hardware stores. When you buy clothes pins get the metal type because they will last longer in the long run.

Sorry for the long post but I’m very passionate about hanging laundry to dry.


May 20, 2009 at 12:51 pm
(28) mammahop says:

I use the clothesline 90% of the time. I do not hang out our ‘undies’– mostly because of modesty. During the winter months, I put our clothes in the dryer on de-wrinkle, then take them out and either put them on a line I have in the laundry room (we have a woodburner there) or else hang them on coathangers on the back of the door.

If you live in the country like we do, electricity seems to be much higher. By washing with cold water (we have an electric hot water heater), of the recommended concentrated laundry detergent, and vinegar for fabric softener, we save and additional $200 per year for a family of four.

As for not having the time–I worked 45 to 50 hours a week with two children under the age of 3. There were many times that I hung out clothes after dark, then took them off of the line the next night. I live right on the highway and on top of a hill, so it is always windy–and if you drive by–most likely you will see clothes on my line!!!!!!

May 20, 2009 at 1:32 pm
(29) Mary says:

I actually feel sorry for people who have never experienced ‘wash day’ as a child. The smell in the house was wonderful! I still love the smell of ‘wash day’. We carried water from the well pump to the extra large kettles on the wood range in the kitchen, to heat it. Then it was carried to the wringer washer and galvanized rinse tubs. Laundry was hung out year round in the mid-west, it would freeze dry and if there was a damp spot, it was hung over a line in the kitchen or over a door or chair to finish drying.
I still use my wringer washer..have the luxury of running water now; my wringer saves electricity, water and septic treatment costs. The smaller electric motors don’t use as much electricity; I can wash three loads of clothes in the same water with a little planning; the water is drained onto the lawn or garden instead of putting soap into the septic system or sewer system.
When I bring clothes in and they’re not soft from whipping in a good wind, I do throw some in the dryer on an AIR/FLUFF cycle. That cycle uses the 110 side of the 220 supply in a dryer. Only takes about 10 minutes to fluff any wrinkles or stiffness out. As long as I don’t use a heat setting, the 220 supply isn’t used.
In summer I take my wringer washer and rinse tubs right out into the yard and do my laundry there….gets me out of the house.
Wringer washers and galvanized rinse tubs are still available, I found my wringer at a yard sale but they’re on Lehman’s site, online.
Many wringer washers from the 40′s and 50′s are still running perfectly today; how many automatic washers can say that? I recently saw a good use for an automatic washer; when they die, as they do in about 10 years of easy use, you tear them apart and convert the drum into a fire pit for the yard!
‘Wash day’, my way, is not a chore, it slows me down, (everyone is running as fast as possible these days), and takes me back to memories of times spent with my mother. I take great pride in my laundry, it’s cleaner than the automatic way!

May 21, 2009 at 4:39 am
(30) rhonda says:

We live in Australia and drying clothes outside is the norm – except in really cold areas in winter. Using the sun to dry your clothes is the most energy efficient drying method there is. There is no ‘social stigma’ here about using a clothesline! Shows how cultures are different.

May 21, 2009 at 10:53 am
(31) Carrie says:

A clothesline – or a rotary line – outside –
and a clothes horse indoors in the spare room – or sometimes the kitchen or the scullery -if it’s very wet.
I would never dream of using an electric dryer – very bad from an environmental point of view, not just because of the extra cost. It simply isn’t necessary.

May 21, 2009 at 11:09 am
(32) Becky says:

I used to when the kids were very little. Then we all developed allergies. Can’t do it any more but I wish I still could.

May 21, 2009 at 12:20 pm
(33) bg12649 says:

I am from the southernmost part of MS. I was born and raised here. I hung clothes on the line from the time I was old enough, and tall enough, to reach the line…and we were a family with 8 children…even did quite a bit of washing on the scrub board. I have had a dryer for the past 3-4 years…am 53 years old…and I just don’t think I would enjoy the line again. I am sorry…but trying to hang laundry on a super hot, muggy day down here is miserable! I would certainly do it should I not be able to pay the electric because of the dryer, but they will have to prove the dryer was costing me quite a bit. Summer days almost always have showers down here…it seemed to always be a tag game in trying to get them on and off the line before the showers got them!

May 21, 2009 at 12:35 pm
(34) Carole says:

I love hanging my clothes out on the line, sheets and towels are dry in an hour and they smell so wonderful and feel so nice to use. We live in Montana so we don’t hang clothes outside in the winter but we hang our sheets and towels, undies, shirts, jeans on the doors and shower rods during the winter months and that helps keep moisture in the house and they were dry within 24 hours. We only use the dryer to dry my husband’s work socks.
I love to see clothes hanging on the line outside. You know people are industrious and that their clothes are clean.

May 21, 2009 at 1:00 pm
(35) Carol says:

When you are figuring out the costs of using a dryer, you must factor in other factors besides power use. First of all, every time you use the dryer, you are using a part of its overall life. Conversely, using it rarely prolongs the life of the appliance. Also, not using the dryer definitely increases the life of the item: linens, clothing. When you add up all the savings it is considerable. I use a very handy, lightweight foldable rack that I use on my patio in the summer where it is not an eyesore to the neighbors; in the winter I move it into a spare bedroom. I know I save plenty by rarely, rarely using my dyer.

May 22, 2009 at 10:03 am
(36) sarah says:

I am in two minds as i find i have less ironing to do after using my dryer thus saving money there?

May 22, 2009 at 4:27 pm
(37) Dawne says:

I see there are some who are concerned with line dried clothes turning out wrinkled. If you hang your shirts on a clothes hanger then up on a garment rack they will dry pretty much wrinkle free. Sometimes you can throw them in the dryer for about 10 minutes to “fluff” them up then hang them. Use pant hangers to hang the pants. If you shake things such as towels and socks and such before hanging they will dry straight.

May 27, 2009 at 10:46 am
(38) The Line Man says:

Re: Post 2 & 5
Post 2. Where has this guy been for the past 60 years? Only a $15 to $20 saving per year by not using the dryer? Talk about being backwoods, stone age, and a Neanderthal, here’s a perfect example.
Post 5. If there is a power outage Toni, Mr Kilowatt would be lost without his dryer and walk around in wet pants which he is probably use to doing anyway.

June 16, 2009 at 3:52 pm
(39) mammahop says:

I can understand if you have allergies that you cannot dry your clothes outside–but for those that classify it as an eyesore or against their housing policies should not even be posting to this ‘frugal’ website!

January 12, 2011 at 12:34 am
(40) Blah says:

I use a clothes line. For those who said it doesn’t save money…your soooo wrong, here we save about $20-30 every month on the electric bill. Those who say wrinkles…your not doing it right. We hang inside in the cold winters, however we use a small fan to get the wrinkles out. in summer we hang clothes outdoors exception of undies these are hung indoors all year round.
For those who say not enough space, we are in a 800 square foot living space with a back year the size of two smart cars. (not as small as 600 but get creative, you will find room.) your clothes will last longer…even with a sun that fades- btw get off your lazy butt and bring then in when they are dry don’t leave them out for a week-that helps. The sun doesn’t have time to fade them, the breeze is what gets the job done, not so much the sun anyway. Sorry Tired of wastful people and their opinions! Tell me not to dry on a line.huh
The benefits of a line far out weigh the costs of a dryer, and i don’t mean $$.

September 3, 2012 at 7:58 pm
(41) Nancy Jamison says:

Hi from Vancouver Island. I have allergies and find that clothes hung outside are LESS of an irritant than dryer-dried ones. Remember that solar energy heals and so does wind-energy. When I sleep in sun dried sheets I find I am are actually giving myself a self- infusion of both solar and wind energies. How can that not be healing? It is. Our great grandmothers and fathers knew something about this in the past…..

April 6, 2014 at 8:37 am
(42) Melinda says:

We save about $400 a year busing our clothesline. Far from Neanderthal – more like money to use on our vacation. Clothes smell great, stains get out better, all around a good deal.

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