Exploring the gospel principles of earth stewardship

Summer Laundry

I don’t want to air my dirty laundry, but clean laundry, now that’s a different story.

I can remember being a child, running through sheets hanging out to dry. They were magical, those impromptu tents, flapping above the ground, with me, standing inside the light colored shade, darting from one cool shelter to another.

As a mother, I’ve always hung at least some of my laundry out to dry. At first it was just the cloth diapers, so the sun could bleach them white. We had our duvet cover stolen off the communal clothesline at our student housing complex at UCSD, but no problem with diaper pilfering. In New York, I continued hanging diapers out, season and weather permitting.

Now we live in Utah, which may well be the perfect place for line drying. Our yard did not come with clothesline posts, so within my first week here, I bought collapsable  drying racks from Ikea. The electric dryer that came with our house worked so poorly, that it just made sense to dry things outside during the hot summer and the crisp days of fall.

Then, last winter, the dryer finally gave out. Instead of repairing or replacing it immediately, I set up my drying rack inside. Jeans take a day and a night to dry inside, in the winter. I had to rearrange my laundry schedule to accomodate drying time and rack capacity, just as I had to rearrange the furniture to have a designated indoor drying area.

And it worked. Even with three kids, my husband working long hours and traveling, and me juggling classes, homework, housework, church calling responsibilities, and volunteering at the school, even with all of that, I still had time to hang all of our laundry to dry. So we gave away our dryer to someone who could use it (it only needed a small fix), and we haven’t missed it.

One day, I’ll have clothesline posts, so I can hang my sheets outside for my kids to run through. But until then, I love being outside in the morning, hanging the laundry on my little drying racks, while the children play around me. Sometimes they help. Other times the clothes get caught in the cross fire of water battles. But every sunny day we do laundry, we get to be outside, waving to our neighbors as they go past, and enjoying being alive on God’s green earth.

  • Sprout says:

    Very cool, Rachel. I’m curious if the laundry has any kind of a different smell when they are dried in the sun vs. inside vs. by a dryer. What has your experience been?

    • Anonymous says:

      It does have a different smell. Drying clothes and towels outside gives them a natural, crisp, clean scent. Inside, there’s no noticeable smell. I’m very sensitive to chemical fragrances, so I have to be careful about the laundry detergent I use and I never use scented detergents or fabric softeners. I assume that if I used them, that fragrance would stick to the clothes through air drying, more so inside than out, but I’m not the person to test that hypothesis. I would also caution anyone with severe seasonal allergies to be careful hanging clothes or bedding outside.

      I know that we save a little bit of money (and therefore resources) by using less electricity. Hanging jeans to dry helps them last longer as well. By hanging everything, I don’t have to worry about accidentally putting line dry only items through the dryer.

      I do have to be careful with some shirts that want to fade in the sun; I make sure they are shaded by other things. Our washer isn’t great, so we occasionally have lint issues; I use a lint brush to take care of that. The only articles of clothing that could really benefit from the dryer are my ribbed tank tops; they don’t shrink back down to their proper size unless they get put through a dryer. But even that hasn’t been enough of a problem to compel me to go to the laundromat. 

  • Anonymous says:

    By the way, the drying racks I use are just  cheap, $20 folding racks from Ikea. Each one holds about one load of clothes and folds flat when not in use. I’ve been using them for two years, and they’re still going strong.


  • Karmen says:

    Although I grew up with clothes drying on the line in the sun I have a hard time doing it myself because I prefer the feel and smell of the clothes from the dryer.  My kids, however, ages 25-34, are all “clothes hangers.”  They hang them outside in the sun in the summer and on their grandmother’s old foldup stand (not nearly as nice as the Ikea racks) inside in the winter.  They don’t have the memories you speak of, running through the clean clothes on the line, they have just chosen to save the energy. Their desire to be as energy independent as possible exceeds the conveniences.

  • Steve says:

    Here in the UK, tumble dryers are a lot less common, especially in
    flats.  Hanging laundry inside is the norm, despite the terrible drying
    conditions in a cool damp climate.  We are lucky enough to have a drying green behind the flat.

    I love outside-dried clothes as they smell like spring time to me!  My wife prefers the clothes dryer smell but concedes to the energy and money saving aspect – and the fact we don’t have a dryer.

    Another little UK trick is the airing cupboard, which is simply a closet where the heating boiler sits.  By regulation they have to be ventilated to the outside to clear away carbon monoxide.  This coupled with the higher-than-normal ambient heat makes it a perfect place to hang clothes.  Many homes in North America have a furnace room or the like.  If you have forced-air heating/cooling this is an ideal indoor environment for drying as the furnace or a/c will dry the air as it circulates through the cold air return (usually direct in this room).

    • Anonymous says:

      I think that in America, we, for the most part, have accepted the manufacturers’ claim that a washer and dryer must go together, that a tumble dryer is as essential to doing laundry as is a washing machine (which itself is a luxury item). But then, I believe that a lot of consumer demand here is based on the unexamined expectations created by our consumerist culture. The “need” to have an electric or gas dryer is just one example.