Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Right to Dry

It's one of life's frustrating ironies: As many of us try to reduce our energy consumption, we live in old homes with rusting clotheslines hulking in the backyard. Like the ultimate Southern California irony, the Los Angeles Red Car line, these metal contraptions were allowed to rust over or removed altogether when clothes dryers became the rage.

When I rented a house in Monrovia, we had something like this clothes tree in the backyard:

Just picture that contraption 50 years on, creaky and sagging in spots. But I had no dryer at the time, and hey - it worked great! If I did my wash strategically (which I seldom did), I could even peg up the unmentionables on the inside and hide them from view of the house in back (which shared a lot with ours) by stringing the sheets on the outside.

Although I did eventually get a dryer, I continued using a clothes line, especially on hot days, until my kids came along. With the volume of laundry that little kids produce, the dryer really was a savior at that point.

But now that I'm washing for two again, I've been wanting to get back to line drying and I rigged up a short line near my garden this summer. The notion was reinforced when I interviewed an advocate for the right to dry movement a few months ago.

So how fortunate was it when I whizzed past a little hulk of metal and wood on someone's curb yesterday? I turned my bike around and discovered a fold-up drying rack that I slung over my shoulder:

It was in great condition except that one metal rod had come loose from the wooden rack. A hot glue gun, a nail and a bit of packing tape, et voila! Good as new.


  1. That "frugality gene" is at it again.

  2. I think that's great, Karen! I've always loved the scent of clean, fresh clothes dried on the line. Both my mom and my aunt had clotheslines like the one you picture and used them regularly, although they had clothes driers. Old fashioned notions are sometimes the best, aren't they? Oh and fabulous find and renovation of the folding drier!

  3. Yep, the old ways are often best, Lori!

    Susan, the frugality part appeals to me, but when I did that story about the line-drying movement, I calculated the cost savings of not using the dryer and it is pretty low. Those gas dryers are really efficient in terms of cost, and even energy when looked at versus other energy-draining appliances.

    I just feel almost immoral turning on a hot dryer when the sun is beating down outside at 100+ degrees! Now, this week's weather makes me glad to have the dryer, however.

  4. I have a question, though. The other day I was felting a bag that I knit, and I had thrown a towel in the washer to give the bag and good whacking. I put the towel on a clothes rack, and it's as stiff as a board! It'd be like drying yourself with a loufa. Thoughts?

  5. Some towels do dry stiff, but they soften up when you use them.

    You can also throw them in the dryer on "air dry" for a few minutes after you line dry them to fluff them.

    Someone once recommended 1/2 c. of vinegar in the rinse cycle of the washer, but I've never tried that.

  6. I'm a fan of the clothesline as well. In addition to the positives you mentioned, I like the simple act of leaving the indoors and spending a few minutes in the outdoors hanging the clothes. It's a stress reducer.

  7. Yes, Kelly, that is one of the major perks in my opinion!

  8. My dryer busted a while back. Like last fall sometime. I've got a drying rack just like that which I've put into regular use. I've also made use of laundromats, where 75cents gets big fluffy towels or fluffy terry cloth robe dry. Helluva lot cheaper than a new dryer, and I have been feeling good about how green my last year of drying clothes has been.

    (Yes, Margaret, teh loofa effect is one drawback, and I use laundromat for The Big Towels. But for hand towels, the first use of them softens them up again).

    I live in a condo, so hang-drying indoors with garage is permitted, but the HOA Rules and Regs say "thou shalt not be green and unsightly because we have standards to maintain" -- or, in other words, no drying of clothes outdoors in public spaces.

  9. The CC&R regs are the target of the right to dry movement, Susan. They're really ridiculous, especially now when we're all trying to reduce our carbon footprints.

    When I was in Italy, people in the most beautiful buildings had their sheets and towels hanging out their windows. I thought it was charming.

  10. I love the fresh-air smell of sheets that dry outside. I've also seen some beautiful photographs of laundry drying on the line. (I know, it depends on the laundry. I will not be taking pictures of mine.)

  11. Wait a minute. There's a law that says we can't dry our clothes in our own back yards?

  12. Petrea, many neighborhoods - particularly "planned" communities and condo complexes - have laws banning outdoor clothes drying.

    Some of them even ban drying in the backyard - where presumably you have a private space!

    That's what the right to dry movement is all about.