“Greening” Your Laundry – Even in Winter

Here at Ash Lane Farm, we try to be as “green” as possible (well, excepting my addiction to Cherry Coke!); we try to use as little electricity and propane as we can, depending on alternate sources for heat and energy.

One of these areas is laundry.  No, children, I don’t wash my clothes on a rock in the stream.  I do have a modern washing machine but we use cold water almost entirely for washing.  And have cut down the amount of soap that we use to about half.

I have not made  homemade laundry soap yet, but keep promising myself to do so. I plan to either find my own recipe or purchase the do-it-yourself kit from Lehman’s. Until then, I use a biodegradable soap that will not harm our septic tank.

Once the clothes are washed, there is the matter of drying them.  And yes, children, I have a gas dryer that works well.  But Norm and I are determined to use as little propane as possible so we hang clothes outside on a very sturdy clothesline.  This works great on nice sunny, warm days in the spring, summer and fall.

But what of rainy days?  What of winter days?  When the skies are weeping, it’s difficult for clothes to dry.  When it’s frozen outside, the clothes will freeze but it’s not comfortable for the hands or body in the cold weather – then you have to bring the frozen clothes in to warm them and then dry them.

Now, on nice winter days like this (45º, sunshine and little breeze, right now) we could hang the clothes out but we can’t reach the clothesline … the snow drifts prohibit it (see photo above)!

So, what to do?  What to do?  Do we break down and use the dryer?  I’m sure that many of you do, and there is no shame in it.  My oldest daughter keeps saying “Mom, everyone ELSE uses the dryer!”  But we (well, mostly husband Norm) are determined to use that dryer as little as possible.

We get out our handy-dandy laundry rack and use that for one load of clothes.  But if we only had the rack, it would take 2 or more days to get laundry washed and dried.  So we have a clothesline stretched down in the family room where the pellet stove is located (another way of saving on propane).  It gets nice and toasty down there so the clothes dry quite quickly.  That takes care of the rest of our laundry.

Wash on Monday, take down and put away on Tuesday – works slicker ‘n snot!

The pros of doing laundry this way?  We don’t use the dryer; the clothes are fresher, in a way; any stains that haven’t gotten out can be tackled on a second wash and are not set in by the heat of the dryer.  The clothing that takes gentler care doesn’t get thrown by accident into a hot dryer to get ruined; fingers don’t get frozen; there is more humidity in the air on laundry day.  The cons?  The nice fresh air that the clothes get when they are dried outside; the convenience of the dryer – pop them in, grab them out, fold and put away.  The time (but what is time to a retired person?) it takes to hang and take down.

The clothes get clean and dried in two days with very little energy expended in the chore.  We save money by saving on propane and our little bit of saving makes us feel like we are helping the energy situation.  And as I hang the clothes on the rack or the inside line, I dream of the day that the snow and cold will be gone and I can go outside, listen to the birds and the chickens while I hang clothes in the fresh spring air.

About cpthegreat

Connie (aka Spinning Grandma) lives on Ash Lane Farm in southwest Minnesota. She is an expert on spinning, weaving and knitting and a former history interpreter.

9 thoughts on ““Greening” Your Laundry – Even in Winter

  1. I’m 71 & have never had a clothes dryer. We don’t have room for one & I enjoy hanging out laundry. In the winter or when it’s raining we hang it on a drying rack over a furnace vent & on hangers hung on the shower rod. This adds moisture to our dry air. In emergencies we have a laundromat close by. PS I need the exercise!

  2. It is so hard to find outside poles already made up that dont cost a fortune as I have noone to make them I will keep looking and I do not like the umbrella kind. Drying rack and hangers it is till I find one.

  3. I have no dryer. The clothesline outside is the best and the drying racks and hangers work just fine when needed. And there is humidity for the winter months. What could be better? And … I am not retired! ♥ My philosophy is … “Why pay for something that God will do for free!”

  4. Long ago, when we had four young children, and one was in cloth diapers, I had lines strung up in a room that we had no furniture for. On rainy days, I could hang a whole load or two on the four or five lines. There was a small gas heater in there, and they dried quickly.

  5. Love the fabulous stories here. Greening the laundry is always better than using laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and worrying about your socks and underwear getting eaten. But I do wonder something…how do you keep a cat from peeing on the laundry?

  6. I really enjoy each of your comments and ideas given. I would like to ask what ideas you have on the best laundry detergent to get the clothes clean, smelling fresh and white? We all could do more to save.

  7. I appreciate these links, though detergent is not always needed. Just water, or even water and abit of vinegar will do. Even just water and a bit of baking soda will do as well, though I think it has a different purpose than vinegar does. If I remember right, I think the baking soda pre-treats. I have not found anything that veingar cannot clean.

    Too bad your site does not carry cat traps that I can place near my laundry so the cat will not pee on it. *sighs* Oh well.