Kilowatts a Killer? Tips for Air-Drying Clothes
Not only does reducing your dryer use save money, but it is also much easier on your clothes. I recently donated a dress to Goodwill that I’d had for seven years — not because it was worn out, but because I was sick of wearing it. You don’t really realize how hard a dryer is on your clothing until you stop or reduce your use of the appliance. Here are some hints for air-drying. (See also: 16 Ways to Make Your Clothes Last Longer)
1. Be Patient
Air-drying clothes takes much longer than using a dryer. If you know you are going to want to wear a particular shirt or dress that week, plan for it — otherwise, it may not be dry in time.
2. Own at Least Two Sets of Sheets and Towels
Don’t expect that if you hang your towels up in the morning, they’ll be dry by the next morning’s shower. They can take a while, unless you live in Arizona.
3. Follow the Rules
If you want to put up a clothesline, first make sure you aren’t violating your neighborhood’s CC&Rs or condo association's rules (nothing like getting into trouble trying to save money). Even some beachfront condominiums do not allow you to hang beach towels on the railings.
4. Know That You May Not Be Able to Go Totally Dryer-Less
Sometimes, especially after days of rainy weather, we can’t get things completely dry. If they get left outside, there is a risk they will mildew, and then it becomes really difficult to get the odor out. So, we have learned to throw nearly dry items into the dryer for just 10 or 15 minutes. A few minutes in the dryer is still cheaper than running a whole cycle. If you are on a “timed usage” electrical meter program, avoid using your dryer during peak hours (when it costs more) for further savings.
5. Learn to Compromise a Little
Towels, for instance, are not nearly as soft as when they are dried in a dryer. Jeans are also stiff. Conversely, though, I love the crispness of fresh sheets, and air-dried garments have a fresh smell.
6. Love the Laundromat
For items such as comforters, one-piece dog beds, or pillows, don’t bother with the clothesline — head to the laundromat, where the size of the washers and dryers is appropriate for heavy items.
7. If You Have the Room, Develop Two Clothesline Areas
Our first area is covered and has eight lines: four at “normal” height and four about 16 inches higher, where we can hang smaller items like socks or washcloths. Area two is uncovered and stretches over the back lawn. It is retractable, so that it is out of the way most of the time. We use this one for sunny-day drying only, for items like sheets and pillowcases that dry quickly.
8. Keep It Clean
You will need to clean your clotheslines every couple of months. Just run a damp rag down each line. Otherwise the dust and gunk build-up can get on your clothes.
9. Choose the Right Clothespins
Some wooden clothespins can stain clothing. If you can find them, the heavier-duty plastic clothespins beat the light, cheap ones, which break too easily. They also have stronger springs, which hold garments more securely on windy days.
10. Experiment Where You Want to Pin Items
If you pin it in an obvious place, you’ll have visible clothespin impressions on the garment when it dries. You can also hang shirts on plastic clothes hangers, which cuts down on ironing as well.
11. Separate the Layers
Most garments are naturally two layers of fabric — a front and a back of a blouse, for example. Any time those layers can be separated by creative hanging, drying times will be decreased. For example, hang a pillow case by only one side of its opening, and let the other side hang open. Or hang a pair of jeans by the back of the waistband, and let the front hang open.
It’s called “air drying” for a reason, so the more air getting to both sides of the fabric, the better the evaporation. If you have a prevailing wind direction from one side of your drying area, you can even hang items like that with their openings to the side, so the wind billows them open and increases air flow to both sides of the garment even more. Make sure your clothespins are strong, though, or a pillowcase full of air can pull loose from the line.
12. Pay Attention
More than on one occasion, clothes have been dry, but we were distracted and didn’t take them down in time — and then it rained. Even with a covered clothesline, clothes pick up moisture from humid air.
13. Also Dry Indoors
Towel racks and shower rods can be put to use, as can a drying rack. Our dorming daughter has used her sunny window seat for drying her sweaters. Lingerie and light items dry well inside, but I would draw the line there. I have tried drying clothes near our wood stove, but they end up smelling like wood smoke. If you have a radiator, that can be a good spot for indoor drying. You can also put clothes on a rack near a ceiling fan or heat register.
Even cutting down on dryer use can help reduce your bill. Give it a try!