Thursday, June 10, 2010

More Than a Clothes Line

This post is written by my cousin Carolee in Ohio. I am a slave to my dryer, but inspired by Carolee’s commitment, and the joy she finds in line drying her clothes. Of course, it’s better for the earth and probably your clothes, but I never realized it could be good for your soul, too. She’s given me much to think about. Enjoy!

One of the joys of my life comes from connecting with the rhythms of the earth - weather, seasons, daylight and darkness. Eat what's in season. Sleep when it's dark. Wake when it's light. Garden in the early morning before it's hot as blazes. Open windows in the early morning and close them up to hold in the cool air when the sun drives the temperature up. Do laundry when it will dry well. It's rather like Cara's living close to the earth for food production. Buying local and growing one's own are on the same spectrum as line drying one's laundry. A bright sunny, breezy day will dry clothes in a flash.

Do I dry everything? No, I don't like "crunchy" underwear, wrinkled "good" t-shirts and socks that don't stay up. I dry these on low to help them regain their shape and stretchiness. I also machine dry permanent press shirts and pants to remove wrinkles and most of our dark blue and black clothes to remove cat and bunny hair.

I line dry about two-thirds of our laundry. I love napkins and table cloths that look like they've been ironed when all it took was a good shake and a smart snap of the material before hanging the item on a drying rack or clothes line. Jeans and heavy pants and shirts hung neatly will dry with creases in all the right places. Towels give the loofah affect when line dried. Wash cloths, rags, you name it -- line dry unless it needs the machine to dry well.

The equipment is simple:

• Clothes line(s) outside. I have 2 retractable lines that run from the house to a tree. One line stays up pretty much all the time and the other, which runs more through the center of the yard; I reel in when not in use. Lines are available at hardware stores.

• Poles to prop up the lines to prevent excess strain on the lines and drooping long items on to the ground. These light weight metal poles with tops designed to hold the line can be found at hardware stores. I have 2 per line, though depending on the weight of the items hanging, I may not use them all.

• Large drying racks to use indoors and out. These are ideal for small, short items (napkins, rags, washcloths) that take up lots of line space when hung on the line and for heavy items (bath mats and rugs) that might drag the clothes line down. The racks fold and are easy to grab and bring in if rain approaches. I sometimes load my 2 racks on the screened porch when the weather is "iffy" and I'm leaving for the day.

• Wooden clothes pins that grip well. Skip the plastic as these are more easily broken. Pins sometimes snap off the line, break, get lost in the grass or migrate to the kitchen to hold chip, cracker and coffee bean bags closed -- so buy more than you expect to need.

• An pocket apron to hold the cloths pins. I have an "84 Lumber" nail apron. The apron is kind adults wear at the school carnival to collect and hold the tickets at the kid games.

• For indoor drying - the same large racks used outside and a pipe or pole hanging from your basement or attic ceiling upon which you can hang hangers.

• Plastic hangers and hangers with plastic clips to hang skirts and pants. I have a bunch of hangers that came with little kid's clothes that work well for small skirts and pants. I bought plastic kid size hangers for my 7 y.o.'s shirts since full size hangers stretch out her stuff. Nearly all of our family's clothes are hung in closets, including t-shirts, sweatshirts and sweaters. I dry them on the hanger and transfer to the closet on the same hanger -- no folding required.

How to?

• If time if of the essence - hang items from the end to allow only a single layer. If not, flip the towel or sheet over the line so it hangs in a double layer. Depending on the weather, things dry in about half a day if in a double layer and in a couple of hours in a single layer.

• It's okay to pull stuff off the line nearly dry and finish it up in just a few minutes in the machine. This happens to me when I put stuff out at 3:30 and it's not quite dry by the approach of darkness and the evening dew coming on.

• Shake out wrinkles and hang clothes like you want them to look then they are dry. I give pants a good shake, clip them into hangers and hang them up to dry. Once dry - it's straight to the closet. I often pull the pockets inside out. I hang sweat pants and shorts with pockets inside out to help the pockets dry as fast as the rest of the material.

• Items on hangers are hung directly on the clothes line with clothes pins as spacers to keep clothes from sliding together. Since the weight is concentrated, I use a pole or two to prop up the line in this area.

The blessing of line drying is that I no longer am in control of the schedule -- the rain is. I leave for work at 6:30 a.m. and return home at 3:15 to meet the kids arriving from school. So, if rain is likely my "no laundry" excuse is set! Bookmark for the most accurate predictions. I do have the blessing of a neighbor who also line dries, so she will take down laundry and put it on my screened porch if rain comes unexpectedly and she sees laundry on my lines. I try not to set her up for running and grabbing laundry since she's well into her 80's!

In the winter, the weather excuse is gone -- but the humidity level of the house benefits from each drying towel, jeans or linen. I turn on the radio and "hide" in the basement from the busy family above my head.

In the spring, summer and fall -- I truly enjoy my early mornings hanging clothes in the quiet dawn. I listen to the birds and think of other women working quietly as the day starts. It's often dark and I'm waiting for enough light to feel safe riding my bike (with flashing lights and a "don't kill me" green vest) to work. In the afternoon and on the weekend days I often find myself thinking of my mother and women in the neighborhood where I grew up -- every single one had and used a clothes line. Now, I am an oddity -- what's with that? Sunlight and breezes are free! They use no fossils fuels and create no pollution. By washing items sorted not only by color, but also by "machine dry or not" criteria the use of the dryer is minimized. I often wash 3 to 4 loads and consolidate the machine dry items to 1 dryer load. The rest is blowing in the sunny breeze - for free!

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading this post. I air dry everything. I do not even have a dryer any more so I am not tempted to use it. For those who are ready to try air drying I really recommend this clothes drying rack. It has no lower bars so everything gets great air flow. It is made in the USA and according to it's website it is repairable. I haven't had to test that and I have had mine for almost two years and I use it daily.