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Doing the laundry - the green way

Updated on August 9, 2015
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It's easy to do planet-friendly laundry and still have wonderful clean clothes

Afew years ago, our clothes drier stopped working.

I say 'our' but we share our rather dreadful laundry facilities with a small number of other apartment-dwellers in a dingy, shared laundry room. Other residents just didn't know what to do but I did; hidden away at the back of our building were two deserted and rather rusty uprights that an old 'un like me recognized as being posts for a washing line.

One quick trip to the store and a couple of dollars later and I had my clothesline and was in business; ready to dry my laundry, old-style. Just like my mum used to.

I never went back, even after the dryer was fixed. I still use the washing machine, and I can't see myself reverting to hand-washing anytime soon, but I'm not going back to using the dryer, with the money that entails.My laundry dries beautifully and smells so much better than it did when I used dryer sheets, softener and all those other items I was spending money on.

Now, all I need is my cold-water laundry detergent and my 'secret ingredient' bluing liquid. But doesn't it take time? Truly, it only a few minutes longer than using the dryer.


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My mum used to say that you shouldn't show your dirty laundry in public but here it is! Ready to go into the washer and then to be dried in lovely fresh air using solar energy and windpower.

The benefits of line drying

  • Saving electricity and power is a major reason why I use natural resources to dry our clothing. But saving money is another great reason. We were putting about $5 a week into that electric dryer. That;s $260 a year. Earlier today I saw an online ad for a three day cruise from Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas and it cost $249. Now which would I prefer to spend money on, I wonder?
  • The sun bleaches and also has a sterilizing effect on fabrics. I've noticed on white clothes that small stains disappear after a few weeks of being dried on the line. White items stay very white and this is even more so because I use the bluing liquid you'll see below. Note that I dry black clothes inside out so that they don't fade in the sun.
  • It is less harmful to your clothes. When I used the dryer, I used to be quite surprised at how much fluff gathered in the lint filter. (It always seemed a waste to put it in the trash. I always felt that I should be stuffing a pillow with it or something equally environmentally-friendly). Then I realized what that fluff was - my clothes! Gradually, they were wearing away in the dryer.
  • No ironing! I know, I said that as if I used to do piles of ironing ... I do have an iron somewhere but I forget just where. But have you ever left clothes in the dryer too long and over-dried them? Or left them in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the dryer after it's turned itself off? All you get are wrinkled clothes. On the washing line, any wrinkles drop out and all the items need is folding neatly when they're removed from the line. So easy.
  • The smell - people spend so much money on products to make their laundry smell good. There is no better smell for your laundry than that lovely combination of fresh air and sunshine. It's more money saved too as there's no need to buy any fancy products to put into the machine.
  • The fabrics are free of chemicals. Some of the dryer sheets that are available contain a whole load of nasties. Those chemicals then get into my clothes and I breathe them in when I'm wearing them. No thank you. That's a good enough reason alone to dry clothes and other laundry out of doors.

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But BritFlorida, look where you live

Yes, it's true that I live in a sunny climate and we often have what my mum used to call 'good drying days'.

But here's something that might surprise you. Florida is a very wet state indeed. South Florida is particularly so - Miami, for example gets around fifty eight inches of rain every year. Compare this to New York where the annual figure is a mere forty five inches per year.

Here's another interesting fact that involves the other part of my name - the 'Brit' part. Everyone knows that it always rains in London, right? Did you know that here in South Florida we get more than twice the rainfall?

In London, its just twenty four inches. And the sun isn't an essential part of line-drying. Yes, it speeds the process up - when there's a good breeze and it's sunny, my laundry is usually dry within an hour, except for heavier items like jeans that might take half an hour longer but even without the sun and the warmth, clothes will still dry beautifully outside. Some lighter items are completely dry in fifteen minutes.

Ms Lndry Lqd Bluing 8oz
Ms Lndry Lqd Bluing 8oz
This is completely non-toxic and has been made in the same way since 1883. (It's a shame it comes in a plastic bottle but what doesn't these days?) It is magic stuff. For whites that go yellow or get a little gray, this will perk them up in no time. I just add a few diluted drops to the washing machine. This, plus the sun, keeps whites as white as snow. We order this in bulk online and it lasts for ages.
 
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Tips

  • Some areas and condo associations don't allow line drying. This is an appalling state of affairs in this day and age. Write to your city officials or homeowners' association and explain the environmental impact of using electricity when we can dry our laundry free using natural resources.
  • Shake the garments before you put them on the line as this will get rid of any wrinkles.
  • If you don't have a garden, or if it's raining remember that washing can be dried on a covered patio or balcony,
  • Don't use too much laundry detergent in the wash. Some people say that line-drying makes their garments stiff but it won't if a) they are completely rinsed of any detergent and b) if you don't leave them out too long to bake in the sun.
  • When you remove items from the line, shake and fold them before putting them in the laundry basket. They won't need ironing.
  • Remember that you can use hangers on the line if you wish. This is a good idea for items such as dresses. Just put clothes onto the hangers and attached to the line by hanging it on the clothesline and securing with a clothespin.
  • Speaking of clothespins, I love the look of wooden ones (and they are so nostalgic) but they quickly discolor. Plastic is better and more fun if you choose funky colors!
  • In some areas, it might not be feasible to line dry all year round but you can still take advantage of it - and save money - during the spring and summer months.
  • Do remember to take your laundry inside before your neighbors fire up the grill in the evening. Clothes smelling of hot dogs and onions is not the desired effect :)

Did you notice my clothes pole / prop?

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It's essential to have a clothes prop or pole. (I can never remember which to call them). These raise your washing as high as possible to make the most of the breeze. When our dryer broke down, we went to the store to get the line but I forgot all about the pole.No problem.

There was a small dead palm branch in our jungle-like garden so we took that, cut a notch in the top with a bread knife and have been using it ever since.I call it my 'Tarzan clothes prop'. I'm sure that Jane would have used something similar!

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Here's my lovely dry, wrinkle-free, wonderfully-smelling laundry after being on the line.

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The amazing Mrs Stewart's liquid bluing.

Other products to help you make the most of line drying your laundry and being planet-friendly.

Really?

I was reading an article about this subject recently. The article writer was, of course, extolling the virtues of outdoor drying. She addressed various problems, such as some neighborhoods not allowing it but then came up with another 'common issue'.She addressed the problems of what to do if you'd be embarrassed to dry your underwear in public.Really? Are people really concerned about that? I find it hard to believe, don't you?

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