Today is the perfect Spring day to hang out the washing . While I do own a tumble dryer (which I try to resist using) when it’s cold and wet the washing ends up hanging off radiators in every room in the house. It’s always such a relief to get a day when the sun is shining and I can hang clothes out to dry.
It may seem like a little thing but hanging out a single load of washing (5kg) can save 2.4kg CO2e asrunning a clothes dryer for a single load is equivalent to switching on 225 low energy bulbs for 30 mins (see here)
In the US 85% of the population owns a tumble dryer and this is by far the preferred option to drying clothes. I read many thrifty/environment type blogs from the US and there are very few bloggers who advocate line drying*.In the UK 57% of the population own a dryer but the majority of us (14 to one) prefer to line dry.
One theory why Americans are reluctant to hang washing out to dry is the restrictions imposed by landlords and local communities. There’s a really interesting BBC article here about the US movement, Project Laundry List, that is fighting community association and landlord restrictions.
Alexander Lee, the founder of Project Laundry List, was inspired to hang his clothes out to dry following this quote from anti-nuclear lecturer, Helen Caldicott, who said: “If we all did things like hang out our clothes, we could shut down the nuclear industry.”
He believes that if one in three Americans started line drying for five months of the year, 2.2m tonnes of CO2 would have been prevented from entering the atmosphere by 2020. Considering we all agreed in Paris last year to halt global warming at 1.5 deg C rise this is a contribution.
It’s certainly true that it takes longer to hang out washing on a line than stuff it inside a tumble dryer. There are times when I’ve been late leaving for work or the school run because I mistimed the washing machine and have had to rush around pegging clothes on the line. On a bitterly cold day it’s not much fun to hang up wet washing and then know that it won’t even dry properly and will have to be put on the radiators lately. Or the days when I’m constantly running in and out of the house to bring loads in when the weather turns wet.
But I do love the smell of outdoor dried clothes (if you put them on the radiator it’s better than any Yankee Candle scent!). I love that I have done the slow, meditative act of pegging out my family’s clothing and (while trying not to get too Little House on the Prairie about it) have done what generations did before me – and done my small bit to reduce energy consumption. With a faulty tumble dryers story currently in the press as well I guess it’s probably a safer option too…
*Shannon Hayes from the excellent radical homemaker blog (and book) advocates hanging out the washing to dry as one of her ten easy steps to becoming a radical homemaker (read more here from her article for Yes! magazine).