Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hung out to dry

As has been established in previous blogs, I'm forgetful. I lost my garage door opener for a few days, consistently misplace my keys and still haven't found the dozen or so light bulbs I bought last year and stored some place I can't recall.

I'm a single mom of two teenagers. Go figure, being forgetful.

I think, way down the line when I'm asked to accompany one or both of my kids to therapy, I'll use the standard 'I did the best I could' line.

Because I do.

Like when I bought a very cool retractable clothes line at Goodwill recently. I figured there's nothing more nurturing, to the planet or my kids, than to provide that 'dried on the line' freshy freshness. My dad fashioned a very ingenious pulley system that would accommodate for line tension between my house and the big tree in the back.

Now that its sunny and warm in Colorado almost every day, it seems like a no-brainer to hang the clothes out to dry.

And, according to Mr. Electricity (I'm sure that's not his real name) who writes about saving energy, it's wildly economical to take advantage of that big yellow ball called the sun to dry clothing. On average, clothes dryers cost 35 cents per load in energy. I'm no scientist, but last I checked, drying clothes outside with the aid of warmth and sun is free.

Additionally, Mr. Electricity offers these helpful tips about air-drying clothes:

  1. Air-dry your clothes instead of using a dryer. This idea is getting more popular. Fewer people believe that clothes dryers are a necessity vs. three years ago. If you don't have anywhere to hang a clothes line, you can still use a clothes-drying rack. Tip the Planet has an excellent article about air-drying clothes, covering every possible angle, including clever things like retractable clothes lines.
  2. When replacing a dryer, get one with a moisture sensor. That way you'll never run the dryer longer than you have to. Make sure to clean the sensor occasionally, too, so that the waxy buildup from dryer softening sheets doesn't impede its ability to sense moisture.
  3. Get a front-load washer. Front-loading washers tend to leave less water in your clothes than top-load washers. (They use a lot less water, too.)
  4. Use a spin dryer. A spin dryer is a little machine that spins your clothes around really fast to remove excess water (and detergents bonded to the water). After a couple of minutes in the spin dryer, you put your clothes in a regular clothes dryer, where they dry in 30 minutes less time than usual. Based on 8 loads a week, 30 minutes of drying time instead of 60, and 10¢ per kilowatt-hour, a spin dryer saves about $97/yr. ($100 less the $3 cost of running the spin dryer itself.) A spin dryer costs about $130.
  5. Clean the lint filter after EVERY load. Your dryer takes longer to dry when it's trying to push air through lint.
  6. If you use fabric softener sheets, clean your lint screen with a toothbrush and water occasionally. Dryer sheets can cause an invisibly waxy buildup on the lint screen which makes it harder for the dryer to push air through it.
  7. Wash and Dry very early in the morning, or at night. If your utility imposes a charge based on demand, then do your laundry in off-peak hours.
  8. Close the door in summer, open it in winter. Closing the door to the room the dryer is in will keep it from heating up the whole house summer. In the winter, keep the door open, to grab some of that extra heat.
  9. Add a wet towel to remove wrinkles. If you leave your clothes in the dryer too long and they become wrinkled, you can easily cure this by throwing a wet towel in the dryer and drying again. This saves you from having to either iron all your clothes, or wash them and dry them all over again.
  10. Run around the house naked. Then you'll have less clothes to wash. (But not if it's so cold that you'd compensate by turning up the heat, which would more than negate your savings. On the other hand, if it's summer and this lets you run the AC less, then you'll save even more.)

As you can tell, Mr. Electricity not only is a wealth of knowledge; number 10 on his list would indicate that he's a bit of an exhibitionist as well.

But back to my retractable clothesline story...

I got both of my boys into the act one warm Colorado day, and they helped me hang a load of laundry on the line.

Just as I was affixing Connor's very heavy, lined Carhart pants on the line, the retractable line snapped, and our load wound up on the lawn.

I have yet to fix my retractable line, but I have every intention to do it soon.

I don't want to be hung out to dry in the savings department.

Because 35 cents a load may not seem like a lot in the short run, but it all adds up.


  1. Fun post Mary. Sorry your bargain clothesline broke. We live in an apartment and don't have a clothesline, but still air dry our clothes using this clothes drying rack - being round it works really nice under a ceiling fan!

    Maybe give the kids some tools and ask them to figure out a way to make that clothesline work...

  2. Great idea, Nickie! I fully intend to get this clothesline party started asap! I like the drying rack/ceiling fan concept, too! Thanks!