Sustainable Choices

Use a Clothes Line to Air Dry Your Clothing

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Carbon Impact:
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Money Savings:
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Health Helper:
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Perhaps the most elegant and simple way to dry your clothes is by using the sun’s energy. While drying machines are notorious energy hogs, a clothesline uses zero fossil fuels. All you need is a long cord or rope, some clothes pins, and a sunny or breezy day. Of course, in some parts of the world the third ingredient—sun— is harder to come by. If you can air dry your clothes in the winter, then more power to you. But if December is drizzly, you might have to wait for those sunny summer months. Then you can get out the clothes pins and start hanging.

Tips & Tricks
Do you laundry on a sunny day. If you plan to line dry your clothes, think ahead and wait for a sunny morning to run the laundry. Then you’ll have perfect fossil-fuel-free drying conditions for the rest of the day.

An overcast sky can still make ‘em dry. Don’t let the lack of sun fool you. You may be able to line dry your clothes on a cloudy day.

Use clothespins. To dry more evenly and avoid strangely shaped dried clothes, buy some clothespin to keep handy.

Web & Print Resources
Organization devoted to clotheslines:

“Right-to-dry” campaign against anti-clothesline covenants:

About more efficient clothes dryers:


Personal Story
This material originally appeared in The Christian Science Monitor article “As an energy-save, the clothesline makes a comeback” by Caitlin Carpenter (August 24, 2007).

It started out innocently enough. Concerned about global warming and her family's energy consumption, Michelle Baker wanted to hang her wash outside. She scoured stores for a clothesline durable enough to withstand Vermont winters and classy enough for her Waterbury backyard. She came back empty-handed every time.

So Ms. Baker and her husband made their own: a few lines of pristine white rope hung between two Vermont cedar poles. Soon, friends and neighbors were enviously asking where they got it. Born of enterprise, enthusiasm, and wet shirts flapping in the breeze, the Vermont Clothesline Co. debuted in April.

And just in time, as a national clothesline—or "Right to Dry"—movement escalates. In fact, Vermont is the latest state to introduce a bill that would override clothesline bans, which are often instituted by community associations loath to air laundry even when it's clean. Now, clothesline restrictions may be headed the way of bans on parking pickup trucks in front of homes, or growing grass too long—all vestiges of trim and tidy hopes that may not fit with the renewed emphasis on going green.

To read more, see

Fun Facts

A dryer is typically the second-biggest electricity-gulping appliance after the refrigerator. If you line-dry 10 loads of laundry, you could save enough electricity to run a clock radio for 3,000 hours. Source

Ross Moore of North Dakota invented the first automatic clothes dryer in the U.S. in 1935. Source

In 2005 there were 88 million dryers in the U.S., according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. Annually, these dryers consume 1,079 kilowatt hours of energy per household, creating 2,224 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per household. Source