Update on last year’s baby steps challenge: air dry laundry

Last June, I wrote this post about my baby steps challenge for the month: air dry the laundry. Two weeks later, when I wrote this update, I was convinced the habit would become part of my daily life.

Things didn’t quite go as planned…

I faithfully hung our laundry out to dry for about three or four months, until the first “exception” sent me back to the dryer. I think it was getting ready for a vacation, or doing several loads of laundry after the vacation. And I never quite got back in the habit of air drying after that.

You see, we had a really rainy winter. But that’s a lame excuse, because my friend Katy at The Non-Consumer Advocate lives in Portland where it rains about a gazillion inches of rain per year, and she’s the Queen of Air Drying.

My husband had bought a really nice new dryer that saves on energy, so I didn’t feel nearly so bad about throwing clothes in there as I did our 1970s relic that could power a medium-sized suburban mall.

When my husband did the laundry, I couldn’t convince him to use the clothesline, and he often does the laundry.

You can see I had an excuse for every occasion. But when I really looked at what was going on, I realized a very simple fact: it actually does not work well with our schedule and house design.

Sometimes I work at home, and sometimes I work away from home. On the days I’m away, I can’t put a load of laundry into the washer because the laundry room is directly below our bedroom and my husband is often still sleeping. And even when I’m home, I can’t necessarily time things perfectly to get a load in early enough. It’s terribly inefficient and expensive to run the washer during the day, so we end up doing laundry at night. And short of my husband suddenly turning into an early bird, I don’t see this pattern changing.

So I give myself a big fat “D” on this baby steps challenge. I hope I was able to inspire someone else to pick up the habit I couldn’t stick with myself. I don’t get an “F” because hey, at least I tried. And I still do a lot of my favorite and delicate items by hand and hang them up or lay them out in the house.

Please leave your thoughts on air drying laundry in the Comments section. And if you need a laugh, click here to watch Stephen Colbert’s “news story” about a woman who scandalized her neighborhood by, you guessed it, air drying her laundry! Gasp.


  1. Julie says

    What to do you mean by :

    It's terribly inefficient and expensive to run the washer during the day, so we end up doing laundry at night.

    I mostly air-dry our clothes. Except for the bath clothes (I hope it's the correct word, I can't remember the word for serviettes right now) because I received complaints and underwear because it's too long to hang every simgle item. In the winter it's very slow because it's done in the basement. We live in Quebec. I use cold water in the washing machine.

    I never considered wether it's more expensive during the day or night.



  2. Angela says

    Julie- I guess I sort of glossed over that point, and it may not be true everywhere. Here in Los Angeles, where we are encouraged to save energy, we are actually told to use appliances before 7am or after 7pm. That goes for dishwashers, washers, and dryers. It's not mandatory, but it is definitely reflected in our utility bill. Kudos to you for hanging out laundry in Quebec!

    I only wash with cold water unless there is something really soiled.

    Thanks for commenting. I am not saying I'm proud of this failure, I just try to be honest on my blog and report on everything that works for me and what doesn't. Some things end up falling by the wayside when they don't become an ingrained habit. I do the best I can.

  3. MsNovemberTuesday (aka Iris) says

    I love the ease of a dryer but miss the smell of clothes dried outside. In my last house I air dried everything all the time either out side on the line or in the basement on the lines I rigged up! This house has neither the room to set it up inside to the extent beyond room for undies nor a line outside and it drives me nuts. I do plan on setting one up outside but can't until I have the cash and know where the deck is going, ug!

  4. katrina says

    I don't have a dryer (which is quite comman in Australia) I used to when I had babies and cloth nappies but it gave up in protest after that. I use the line all the time or when it is way to wet or they need finishing off inside – I have a big wood clothes horse and a smaller wire one that the clothes go onto (family of 4 adults)and that works quite well for us. I think it will slowing come in here that certain times of day will cost less in electricity – already our hot water services run at an off peak time but that is on a seperate meter and doesn't count for the rest of the house but I have heard whispers that it will be coming to our electricity bills shortly

  5. Hiptobeme says

    I think I read that Katy has a large space that she uses for INDOOR drying, if that makes you feel any better. This may change with her bathroom reno though. Check with her on that, I may be wrong. Also, at least you tried! i live in a condo, so I'm not allowed and there's no space for it. I may buy one of those indoor racks for the summer. It does get very hot here and things dry quickly. That will save some energy, at least.

  6. Catherine @ The Vegan Good Life says

    Thanks for your honesty, Angela. I have a one-bedroom apartment in New Jersey and hang dry everything year round using a drying rack in my bedroom, on bathroom towel racks and on hangers on the shower curtain rod.

    I save $1.50 with each load (I think when you have to insert the money, and more important, once you stop), the financial aspect is an incentive. In Italy, less than 4% own a dryer, and I think if energy was as expensive here, people would shift their behavior.

    More than financial, I’ve come to view it as an act of environmentalism, exercise and meditation.

    I LOVE Project Laundry List: http://www.laundrylist.org/

  7. Beth says

    Okay. I'm going to buy clothslines to install in my garage tomorrow. This is one challenge that I can face and win! It's hot here year round. My clothes would probably dry faster hanging than in the garage!

    We are on a program that allows us to use energy at a much, much lower cost if we stick to after 7pm and before noon. I also am on an equalizer program. I pay the same each month, but every year they reassess. My goal is to get my power bill down to $150 per month. Right now, based on last year's average, I'm at 225. Not good.

    Thanks for a challenge that I can accept Auntie!


  8. Anne says

    Air drying is a good idea. (And all there was when I was young, but that was also when most married women stayed at home. Guess that dates me.) So, my current plan is to relax and air dry what and when I can and use the dryer when I can't and/or the weather doesn't cooperate and/or I don't feel like it. Even a few items hung here and there to air dry can shorten dryer use and save a little money and a little of the environment. Think of air drying as a luxury. When you can afford to do it, it makes you feel great!

  9. Karen Hicks says

    Air drying is great but can be a challenge. One way that we have found to ease the burden and the guilt (and the excuses! LOL) of using the dryer is to get an indoor wooden rack. We hang up items that are thick such as denim and bath towels to air dry over night and then throw them in the dryer first thing in the morning to complete the drying process. That way we are using less energy because it doesn't take as long in the dryer and the appliance doesn't have to work as hard! Hey it works!

  10. Vicki says

    I use a compromise method, similar to the last comment. I have a fairly large laundry room. One wall has a 4'rod for empty hangers and another wall has a 6'rod across from the washer/dryer. I put regular clothing in the dryer for about 10minutes, then take them out and hang on hangers on the 6'rod. They usually completely dry overnight, and mostly without wrinkles. This drastically reduces the need to iron most items. I do one load almost daily, but if I do two, the rod will hold all of it. The clothes do dry faster though if they are more spread out. I hang my (female) underwear immediately on hangers and never put those in the dryer. The only items I dry completely are socks, my husband's underwear, towels, and sheets. If I had more space (hmmm….must think about this more), I might air dry those also.

  11. Laura says

    I would love to air dry more, but all it's done here since I got a clothesline for Mother's Day is rain, rain, rain and then rain some more! I think I've been able to hang out clothes for drying less than 10 times since May 9. It's very frustrating as my plan was to do a load every morning and get it out. We don't have space in the house either for drying so that's out.

    I still use the dryer for jeans and towels, but that's just one load a week for each. Everything but whites get washed in cold water.

    The kids aren't all that happy yet about their stuff getting line-dried ("it's too stiff"; "It's scratchy") but they're adjusting.

  12. Susan says

    Miss Nov Tuesday…if you can't install something outside till you know where your deck is going, make it portable! You will need an umbrella type clothesline, a five gallon bucket and some cement. Mix the cement and put it in the bucket, along with the bottom part of the umbrella clothesline (or a pvc pipe, if you want to save the bottom part for your permanent installation). When you want to do laundry, lug the bucket out, insert the clothesline and voila! Can also be installed in garages. Here is what one looks like: they are also pretty cheap!


  13. Angela says

    Thanks so much for all your comments and suggestions!

    I'm happy that so many of you already air dry your laundry, and hooray to those of you who plan on starting – yay Beth!

    I am just reporting, not proud of my failure. I think I will try a compromise like some of you suggested. We already hang out sheets and blankets outside and intimates and delicates inside, and I'll try to keep adding to that.

    I am much more concerned about this as an environmental one than a financial one. It's just that the costs reflect the energy usage in our area, as they should. It feels wrong to be running appliances in the middle of the day. So I'll have to make a point of at least one early day a week to do laundry and hang it out.

  14. TIGHTWAD says

    Thanks for the reminder! Now that the weather is improving I'm going to follow suite and start air drying as well! Emma @ Tightwad

  15. Margit says

    I live in Norway, by the Arctic Circle next to the ocean. I have never had a dryer, and even when my 4 kids were small I airdried all our laundry. (Many times indoors when the snowstorms rage!)I have always had a fulltime job, so all it takes is a little planning. And of course; you have to accept that clothes can be worn two days in a row without washing!
    Good luck!

  16. Angela says

    Margit- I know that almost the entire rest of the world doesn't use a dryer! It is SO excessive and such a luxury we have grown used to here in the States. We spent five weeks in London in '08 and of course they didn't have a dryer and we got used to hanging our clothes out there. It rains quite a bit, so they had a system set up in their 2nd bathroom. I would have to get my husband on board to set up something like that. I can't think of anywhere that would work in our house. I hang underwear, camisoles, and delicate shirts in the bathroom, and I'm thinking maybe I will get a little stand that folds up that I used to use when I was single and had to go to the laundromat.

    Thanks for commenting. If you can hang out your laundry at the Arctic Circle, I am quite shamed that I can't manage to do it in sunny California!

  17. Mary Q Contrarie says

    You know what is important is that you are willing to try new things. Here is what I do. It may or may not give you some ideas for when you are ready to try again.

    I use laundry drying racks and I air dry everything. I did not replace my dryer a couple years ago when it broke. I start my washer about 7 o'clock right before supper. This way there is a load done by the time I get the kitchen cleaned up. I then set up a rack right in the MIDDLE of my kitchen and hang the first load on it. This also keeps us from late night snacking which is unhealthy. So it is an added perk. If I need to do a second load I wash it after the first one. This is the time when we normally watch the news, a movie or just relax with a good book. When that second load is done I set up my second rack right in the MIDDLE of the living room signaling it is time for bed. When I get up in the morning both loads are dry and just need put away.

    This system really works great for my house. It keeps the laundry out of the way. I am not dependent on the weather. I also I figure I am saving over $100 per year.

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