Friday, January 30, 2015

Fossil Fuel Free Clothes Drying

Looking for a way to dry your clothes and avoid the use of those nasty fossil fuels?  How about putting in a clothes line?  Your response might be, oh sure sounds good in the summer time, but tramping through the snow to turn my clothes into icicles is not my idea of a good time.  Then perhaps you might want to invest in an indoor collapsible clothes rack.  Not to name names, but I purchased one made in the USA this fall from the Ace Hardware Store on University Avenue in Blaine for under $40 and have been drying my clothes in doors for most of the winter.  I have fallen in love with this new convivial tool, and cut my greenhouse gas emissions apparently by 5-10% I think I read somewhere. 

For those who need to see the math before they’ll buy into this sales pitch, here’s an estimate of how much gas and money you can save by switching off the gas dryer and switching over to the clothes line.

Assuming I do three loads of laundry per week at one hour per load that amounts to 156 hours of gas dryer operation per year for my two person family.  I used the handy dandy spreadsheet available at this website to find out that my 22,000 BTU/Hour (that’s British Thermal Units for those who are interested) dryer would consume about 3,400 cubic feet of gas in one year of usage (at 1020 BTU/Hour per cubic feet of gas).    And then at 100 cubic feet per therm, we would be using a wopping 34 Therms per year.  My gas supplier Center Point Energy currently charges 73 cents per therm, so I can save a wopping  $25 per year by avoiding the dryer. 

So now you’re probably asking yourself - why would I want the hassle of hanging my clothes outside or on some wacky rack if all I will save is $25 per year, especially if I have to go out and spend $40 for in-indoor rack and lord knows how much to put a clothes line up?  If you’re asking yourself those questions, you might understand how in our current economic system where fossil fuels are cheap, getting off fossil fuels does not seem very cost effective. 

The reasons I dry my clothes fossil fuel free go beyond simple costs.  Using the spreadsheet I mentioned above, I calculated that using my gas dryer results in putting around 400 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air each year.  In the big picture this is a drop in the bucket, but at least it is one way I can reduce my emissions.  I find that hanging my clothes outside on nice days allows me the opportunity to spend more time outside, listening to the birds, getting some sun, and conversing with my neighbor as I hang my clothes.  It also gives my clothes that fresh air smell you can’t get from the clothes dryer.  I have read that clothes that are line dried last longer as they don’t turn into lint, and it brings up memories of the stories my mom used to tell me about hanging clothes on the line with her dad, many years ago.  And probably one of the biggest reason I like the line hanging methods is that it allows this procrastinator the opportunity to avoid that clothes-dryer wrinkly clothes look I get if I put off folding them as soon as the dryer shuts off.

So what experiences have you had with drying your clothes on the line?


  1. I've been drying my work clothes on the drying rack for years, it certainly does help them last longer! Growing up, my mom always had indoor clotheslines in the basement so our family of five NEVER used the dryer. Wish I had room for another rack or two!

  2. Stacey, my parents also had the in door clothesline in the basement as well. Unfortunately, my surban home has no basement, so need to use the rack. Sad thing about my mom and hanging clothes on the line is she has a hard time getting up and down stairs anymore so use of the clothesline seems to be a thing of the past for her. I never used to understand why anyone with access to a dryer would use a clothesline, but perhaps as I get older I maybe am starting to get it. Oh will, simple pleasures for simple people.