Green Cleaning: How Line Drying Can Save the Planet

It may seem like a way of the past, but line-drying clothes has never been more appropriate for the times we live in. Electric clothes dryers are one of the most energy-hungry and expensive appliances to operate and are major carbon emitters. Hanging your clothes on a line, however, saves electricity, reduces carbon emissions and—bonus—costs virtually nothing.

Save money and energy

Electric dryers account for approximately six percent of total household electricity use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Ditch the dryer and you can save at least $70 to $100 off your electricity bill every year. After the initial small cost for the line-drying set up (clothespins, string, and/or an indoor drying rack), hanging your clothes to dry is free and uses no electricity, so you’ll save every month.

Curb emissions

Need more reason to hang your clothes out to dry? Over 32 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, 43 billion kWh, and 443 million therms of natural gas are emitted every year in the U.S. from electric dryers (according to the Environmental Protection Agency). Air-drying can reduce a household’s carbon footprint by a whopping 2,400 pounds a year. So, even if you don’t hang every load, each time you do you are helping to protect the planet.

Air-drying is simple

There’s nothing like that fresh, air-dried laundry scent. Hanging clothes outside gives you that satisfaction naturally without the chemicals in dryer sheets or that static cling. You can simply use a string tied between two poles or trees, and count on the power of the sun and wind to dry your clothes. The act itself can be soothing as you get a chance to be outside doing a mindless activity.

If it’s raining or very cold in the winter, use an indoor drying rack (also known as a clothes horse). Many can be folded up when not in use. You can also use hangers or drape large items like sheets and towels over a door, banister, or shower rod.

Save your clothes

Air-drying will also increase the lifespan of your clothes. Electric dryers weaken fabric fibers, resulting in all the lint in your drying machine. Using a clothesline will not cause fibers to wear off. Extra bonus: sunlight has a sanitizing effect.

Taking back the right to dry

Committing to hang your laundry out to dry may be met with an unlikely obstacle: some homeowners associations across the U.S. have made clotheslines illegal. Why? Some cite aesthetics in highly populated communities, but there has also been pressure from the electric dryer manufacturing community.

In response, a movement led by Project Laundry List  to revolutionize the clothesline is growing in advocacy and support around hang-drying clothes. We previously highlighted Steven Lake’s documentary, “Drying for Freedom,” which covers the movement and the hurdles to bringing back the clothesline. The good news is that 19 states have passed legislation for the “Right to Dry,” invalidating ordinances that make it illegal.

If your state is not one of them and you live in a community with a homeowners association, inquire about the rules on line-drying outdoors and contact your state and local representatives to let them know you want the right to dry.

Want more tips? Check out these articles from Organic Gardening and Mother Nature Network.

If you want to calculate exactly how much your electric dryer costs to operate, use these formulas for wattage and consumption.