August 3, 2008

Hung Out To Dry

For quite a while now, I've wanted to install a solar clothes dryer (aka clothesline), but never got around to it for one reason or the other. It just seemed easier to keep feeding our wet garments into the energy-eating electric dryer because it's what we've always done. Oh, I will occasionally hang heavy items like blue jeans and blankets over our fence or across the patio chairs, but I'd never gone all the way and hung clothes out on a line. I've grown more and more intrigued by the whole idea, not only because of the energy savings and reduction of our impact upon the environment, but there just seems to be something so pure, so refreshing, so simple about the act of harnessing the free solar and wind power provided to us by Mother Nature.

In countries like Australia, hanging clothes out to dry is the norm. What's uncommon- and a bit absurd- is buying an appliance then having to pay for the energy used to dry your clothes. In the U.S., hanging clothes out to dry is just not chic. I'm not sure, really, why there is such a stigma attached to clotheslines. Maybe people associate them with being poor and not being able to afford a clothes dryer, but that is just pure nonsense. Maybe it is thought to be impolite to have your delicate garments swaying in the breeze for the world to see. Certainly, I can think of a lot worse things I'd rather not see in my neighbor's yard! And with the current trend of wearing your underwear outside your clothes, or pants so low that your boxers or thongs show, is seeing your neighbors tighty-whities hanging on the line really such an offensive thing? Another reason for the resistance to clotheslines, and one much more logical to me, is the short supply of free time. It may be easier to just move the clothes from the washer to the dryer, set the dial and mindlessly go on with life until you hear the buzzer sound.

Just recently, Neal was given a broken clothesline gadget from our neighbors, Herm and Eileen. It was the kind that mounted onto a surface such as a wall or fence and had multiple lines that would retract. I got very excited about the possibility of him repairing and restoring what I hoped would be my new solar dryer. Apparently, though, the gadget was too far gone to be repaired, so Neal salvaged one of the lines and strung it up in our backyard - right between the hanging brussel sprouts and tomatoes and the squirrel feeder - mostly obscured from the vision of our neighbors by trees. Today, I decided to try out my new domestic device. Wouldn't you know, it was fairly overcast and threatened rain for the better part of the afternoon! But, we did have some heavy breezes so I was able to take advantage of wind power in its purest form! And because of our low humidity in Colorado, everything dried quite nicely in a relatively short period of time.

What I learned:
1) It really doesn't take much more time to hang clothes on a line than it does to take them out of the dryer and hang them on hangers;
2) I get more exercise bending, stretching, twisting to get clothes on and off the line;
3) I get to enjoy the fresh air, the grass beneath my feet, the birds chirping, and the wind blowing on my face;
4) and the one thing to which all clothesline advocates will attest - no chemical-filled dryer sheets or fabric softeners can compare to the smell of fresh, line-dried clothes. I can't wait to try hanging our sheets and curling up in their fresh crispness.
5) I need more than one line to accomodate all the clothes two people and a house of critters produce in a week's time. Or, I could just try washing more frequently!


Anonymous said...

my grandmother swears by line drying! even though she has an electric dryer, she still prefers to use the line for clothes and sheets... the only thing she says the dryer is good for is soft towels and to use on rainy days :)

Lilla said...

I hope to be able to live up to your grandmother's way of life! Back to the good ole' days...