At one time in the not-too-distant past, the sight of lines strung with freshly washed laundry flapping in the air were a common sight to passersby. Unless traveling the countryside populated with the Amish, that sigh is increasingly rare today. At some point, the joys of laundry dried in the fresh air gave way to the convenience of indoor electric clothes driers.
The first dryer was actually invented way back in 1799 by Pochan, a French inventor. The ingenious contraption required clothes to be placed inside a crank-operated container that was punched with holes. The container was suspended over a fire, and if the ‘ventilator,’ as it was called, was cranked correctly, the clothes came out dry. When used incorrectly, the clothes burned. By 1909, hand cranked dryers spun clothes to help dry clothing quicker, and by 1920, electric dryers first emerged on the scene. Suddenly, anyone with electricity could cut their time invested in laundry day chores significantly.
Such was progress. But was it, really? According to www.laundrylist.com’s Project Laundry List, April 19 is designated as National Hanging Out Day. â€œFor many people, hanging out clothes is therapeutic work. It is the only time during the week that some folks can slow down to feel the wind and listen to the birds,â€ states site organizers, who also point out that the average American uses more energy running their electric clothes dryer than the average African uses in total for an entire year.
Hanging clothes to dry is a great way to conserve energy, thereby preserving the environment and helping to cut down on pollution. Six percent of the average household’s electric bill is from running an electric clothes dryer (77 percent of homes have electric dryers, while the others have gas or propane fueled ones). Eighty percent of American homes have dryers, while less than four percent of Italian houses own them. Supporters point out that sun dried laundry has the benefit of having sunlight bleach disinfect naturally, as well as providing exposure to the sunlight for the person hanging it. There is also a degree of positive exercise in the healthy work that this moderate physical activity provides. During wet and cold months, indoor racks can be substituted, and they actually help to restore needed humidity to the dry air.
Electric clothes dryer fires are responsible for about $194 million in damages each year. Hanging clothes to dry on a clothesline, however, means you can hang them and forget about them for awhile. You can leave without making sure an electrical appliance is turned off. They can also add heat, particularly in southern climates where homeowners struggle to keep their homes cool during hot, humid months.
Many do not realize that clothes that are air dried last longer and retain their original characteristics much better than if they were dried in a clothes dryer. Check out the lint in the lint catcher to see this effect for yourself. In the U.S., 23.8 billion pounds of clothing and textiles end up in landfills, often because they are past their useful life, a number that could be reduced by stringing clotheslines.
Laundrylist.com highlights these savings, noting that if all Americans who currently do not use a clothesline started to one for 10 months of the year, we could avoid 12 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere annually.
Probably the most pleasant reason that most people find for hanging out their laundry is the wonderful, pleasant scent that air dried laundry brings back into the home.
â€œI love to hang out my bed sheets, because they smell so fresh,â€ said Kathy, a clothesline fan. â€œI am convinced that we all sleep better on air dried sheets.â€
Try it yourself. A simple clothesline, strung across the backyard, just might change your life for the better.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in Around the House: Making your space a better place! By Jennifer Kneuss. Spring 2012 edition of Graphic Publications.