Thread Monster : the gas or electric clothes dryer


These thread monsters are hurting the planet, ruining our clothes, costing us to much money and adding to inside air pollution. That monster is a clothes dryer, of course.

Going to put my love on the line
Going to hang my clothes out to dry
Cuz I love my baby so fine
cuz she loves a clean blue sky ~stele 10

Letting It All Hang Out : The Clothesline Wars by Ronnie Citron-Fink

It seems like one of the simplest of household tasks – hanging out the laundry to dry. But this simple task has received quite a bit of controversy. The politics of laundry drying is the subject of a recent New York Times article that chronicles a woman’s struggle to put her laundry out to dry.

After learning about the threat of global warming, Jill Saylor decided to hang her clothes outside on a line behind her mobile home to save some energy. “I figured trailer parks were the one place left where hanging your laundry was actually still allowed,” Saylor told New York Times reporter Ian Urbina. But, she was wrong. Apparently, many people in her trailer park view clothes drying outside as an “eyesore,” so she was forbidden from doing so. According to the New York Times article, what happened to Saylor is not uncommon. In fact, 60 million people living in 300,000 private communities in the U.S. are banned from drying their clothes outside.

However, the laws are changing with implications that are cultural, political, economic and environmental. What’s behind the controversial clothesline wars?

• Proponents believe they should not be prohibited by their neighbors or local community agreements from saving on energy bills or acting in an environmentally-minded way.
• Opponents say the laws lifting bans on outside clothesline drying erode local property rights and undermine the autonomy of private communities.

Clothes dryers use at least six percent of all household electricity consumption and 10-15 percent of domestic energy in the U.S. The environmental impact of using the clothes dryer less could easily help each of us do our part for the planet.

10 reasons to hang dry laundry:
1. Save money.
2. Clothes last longer.
3. Clothes and linens smell better.
4. It conserves energy and environmental resources.
5. Hanging laundry is a moderate physical activity that can be done outside.
6. Sunlight bleaches and disinfects.
7. Indoor racks can humidify in dry and cold climates.
8. It is safer. Clothes dryer fires account for about 17,700 fires, 15 deaths and 360 injuries annually.
9. It is a fun outdoor experience that can be meditative and community-building.
10. Small steps make a difference.

The cultural and community-building component to laundry drying became evident to me a few years ago when I spent some time in Spain. The fourth floor apartment had a laundry line attached to a windowsill that connected to a neighbor’s window. Looking out the laundry window, as we affectionately called it, all the building occupant’s communal laundry lines crisscrossed up and down the center alley of the building. Everything from towels to underwear to sneakers went on the line to dry. Every few days I would lean out the window, retrieve my line and smile and wave to the other apartment dwellers as we put our laundry out to dry together. There seemed to be no class distinctions, rich and poor hung their laundry up to dry.

Maybe thinking about home building differently can nudge us closer to using the dryer less. Richard Seireeni, a Huffington Post writer suggests adding a “dry room” to homebuilders’ plans: “a place where the furnace, water heater (or tankless water heater) and washer/dryer could live together along with built-in lines or racks for drying [where] all that excess heat that is normally vented and wasted could be used to dry the family laundry, particularly in the winter when outdoor line drying is not always possible.” Seireeni’s idea is simple, efficient, and could save a homeowner a lot of money.

However, if you’re stuck in a house without a “dry room,” and don’t have the means to line dry your clothes outside, especially as the air gets cooler for those of us on the northern hemisphere, here are some tips to lighten your dryer’s energy load.

So, what happened to Ms. Saylor, from the mobile home park? “Pressure makes a difference,” she told NY Times. A petition was delivered to the property owner, who recently complied with Saylor, and victory was hers.

What do you think? Should drying laundry au natural be a cultural, political, economic or environmental clash? Do you believe that sheets dancing in the wind are beautiful because they help heal the environment, or do you want to look outside your window and see nature, not laundry?

And while you’re at it, check out the trailer for Drying For Freedom, a documentary that follows the movement to lift the bans on clothes lines. []

H Is For Hang Dry by Ronnie Citron-Fink

Dryers use 10 to 15% of domestic energy in the United States!

"We must all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately." - Benjamin Franklin

Without measurement there is no improvement. ~ Lord Kelvin

Dryers use 10 to 15% of domestic energy in the United States!
(Learn more...)
10) Save money (more than $25/month off electric bill for many households). FN1
9) Clothes last longer. Where do you think lint comes from?FN2
8) Clothes and linens smell better without adding possibly toxic chemicals to your body and the environment. FN3
7) Conserve energy and the environment, while reducing climate change. FN4
6) It is moderate physical activity which you can do in or outside. FN5
5) Sunlight bleaches and disinfects. FN6
4) Indoor racks can humidify in dry winter weather. FN7
3) Clothes dryer and washing machine fires account for about 17,700 structure fires, 15 deaths, and 360 injuries annually. The yearly national fire loss for clothes dryer fires in structures is estimated at $194 million. FN8
2) It is fun! And can be an outdoor experience that is meditative and community-building. FN9
1) Demonstrates that small steps can make a difference. Don't have to wait for the government to take action! FN10

"My #1 reason for hanging clothes: time management. When I dry clothes in the dryer (which I must do in Illinois in the winter) I need to be there when the dryer stops or everything comes out wrinkled, so I can't walk away except for short periods. When I line dry, I can walk away - go shopping, have fun, garden, whatever - and the clothes will be fine no matter how long they hang on the line after they're dry." ~ Marti Jernberg, Elgin, IL

"People here operate AC in their houses almost year round, because it's so friggin' hot. A clothes dryer just heats the house up more, so the AC has to work harder to cool the house down, thus wasting even more energy than your estimates for colder parts of the country." Linda DuPriest, Friggin' Texas

• It is not enough to define a problem and offer no solutions.
• Our consumption patterns create the demand for electricity.
• The generation of nuclear power is an inefficient energy source producing an abundance of hazardous waste of which we cannot safely dispose.
• Raising awareness of existing alternatives to nuclear power and large hydroelectric projects will help people and corporations to make appropriate technological choices.
• Nobody should have to live, work, or play near a nuclear facility.
• No culture or community should be destroyed by a hydroelectric facility or any other monolithic corporate project.
• The sun is the most powerful nuclear reactor and can serve many purposes—none of which should be ignored.
• All citizens nation-wide should have the legal right to hang out their laundry.
• Frugality, or thrift, needs to be a universally practiced virtue.


Fire Your Dryer by Melissa Breyer

Get a clothesline or rack to dry your clothes by the air. Your wardrobe will maintain color and fit, and you’ll save money. Read about the virtues of hanging your clothes out to dry.

Okay, so maybe I gravitate toward “Granny-sense” a bit more than your average gal in New York City–I get my milk in glass bottles (although from the farmer’s market, not from a white-capped milkman, but if I could…), I’ve been known to make my own butter, and little makes me happier than putting up some summer fruit. I know I’m not the only person in the city to lean towards simplicity–I think part of it is a tinge of rebellion about living in this huge metropolis. Even though I choose to live here, I can’t deny the part of me who desperately wants laying hens and a long walk to the mailbox. And that’s the part of me who thinks that line-dried laundry might be just about the loveliest thing ever.

I’m not sure which comes first. Does our desire for simplicity lead us to green living, or does green living lead us to simplicity? Either way, what could epitomize both concepts better than a clothesline with fresh, fluttering, air-dried linens? Now, yes, in this vision I am picturing there is ample grass underfoot, the smell of wildflowers in the air, and rolling hills in the vista. But still, there is something undeniably urban-romantic about the Brooklyn old-timers who always have a load of laundry drying on a clothesline stretched from their window to a pulley on a neighboring phone pole. I have come to love the creak-creak-creak squeaks that each tug of the line elicits as some granny is pulling her clothes home.

Now add to the romance a few important considerations. In many homes, the clothes dryer is the third most energy-consuming appliance–and I think we all know that by cutting back on our energy use we are helping to reduce our dependence on dirty coal-fired power plants.

And there are some great side affects to air-drying, Green America points out the benefits and offers some great tips:

• The dryer shortens the life of your clothing by over-drying items and thinning them out. So firing your dryer is also a great strategy for conserving your favorite clothes longer and saving the cost of replacing them before their time.
• Anyone who’s had to wait around the laundromat or delay an errand to fold clothes right when the dryer finished will appreciate the flexibility of air-drying clothes. While it may take longer for clothing to get dry–from a few hours to about a day–you don’t have to be present to fold them to prevent wrinkles or leave a shared dryer for someone else. You can hang your laundry on the rack or line and go about your day, then come back to fold whenever you get around to it.
• Another perk to “firing” your dryer is that it eliminates the risk that your dryer could ever start a dangerous fire. According to a report by FEMA, clothes dryer vents can become clogged with lint, causing more than 15,000 house fires every year.
• A clothesline enables you to spend some of your laundry time enjoying the outdoors, your clothes smell “sunny” when they come back in, and drying in the sunshine helps to naturally disinfect clothes, and to gently bleach whites.
• You can purchase a variety of racks and lines for outdoor air-drying of clothes. Some fold out into a rotary umbrella shape; others stretch multiple lines between two “T” posts. Gaiam’s Real Goods offers a $20 retractable clothesline that can mount to a post or the side of a house. The innovative Cord-O Clip is a time-saving clothesline with built-in clips that close automatically when people place clothes on the line and push, and open automatically as the line is pulled around once the clothes are dry.
• If you have pollen allergies, don’t have an outdoor space for hanging up clothes to dry, or expect the weather in your area will be too rainy or cold for a successful outdoor clothesline, forego the outdoor approach and use an indoor drying rack instead, of which there a wide variety of available.
• Large items like sheets and towels can dry draped over a door, banister, or a shower rod; and tablecloths generally dry happily right on the tables they cover (use your best judgement as to whether a damp tablecloth will affect the finish on your table or not). Socks and other smaller items can air-dry using hangers lined with clips.
• Nancy Hoffmann in New York City has been drying her clothes indoors in her apartment for years. To speed up the process, she turns a floor fan on a low setting facing her drying racks. She reports that “most of my clothes dry in a couple hours, max” with much less electricity use than a dryer would require.
• Drying clothing indoors can also have an added perk when it helps to keep indoor winter air moist, a kind of low-tech humidifier.

I would love to hear from you whether or not you have ditched your dryer. What benefits have you found? And will you share your tips in the comments below?

A clothesline can dry clothes in humid climates, in the winter and even on snowy days.

Songwriters, add your clothesline song in a comment below. Songwriters posting their clothesline song will get the chance to win up to $4,444 and a framed XOEarth Award with the polar bear.

• Our own*On The Clothesline* post and song

  Play> *On The Clothesline* mp3  

No Clothes Dryer / Yes ClothesLine

No Clothes Dryer / Yes Clothesline



About Stele

Earth Lovers, Write enviro songs, make art and media with me to inspire peeps to join us in taking eco actions that help save our imperiled Earth and slow down the climate change monsters. Peas, love and flaxseed butter, Stele

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

3 thoughts on “Thread Monster : the gas or electric clothes dryer

  • Avatar

    Dear Stele,

    I've been drying my clothes on the line outside and then in winter on hangars indoors, and love your idea.

    I also love the idea of 140 hit songs for the Planet: that is so GREAT. I support you 100% and wonder if there are ways to sponsor that don't involve $$.