Take advantage of sunshine to do your laundry

clothesline and bike
CC BY 2.0 Professor Bop

You don't need to tumble-dry clothes at this time of year. Here's why you should take your laundry outside to hang-dry in the warm sunshine.

In an article for The Guardian, Madeleine Somerville describes how much she loves doing laundry in the springtime. When the sun is out and the weather is warming up, there is something deeply satisfying about hanging out clothes to dry:

“One by one I take out our shirts and dresses, T-shirts and socks, shake out the wrinkles, attach them with clothespins, then pull the line over to pin the next one. Shaking and pinning, smoothing and pulling the line. It’s very soothing in its repetition, and only takes me about 10 minutes longer than just chucking it in the dryer.

“I feel the sun on my face and a mild, pleasant sort of ache in my arms. It’s silent and satisfying. When I’m finished I can stand back and survey my work, see what I’ve done. It’s a ritual that can’t be rushed in a time when everything feels rushed.”

I can relate to Somerville’s enthusiasm. I hang my family’s laundry all year round, using folding racks that can be set up indoors and outdoors. (Racks are convenient because you can bring them inside if it starts to rain, although a bit more finicky than a clothesline.) You will often find me with a basket of clothes under one arm and the baby under the other as I head outside to take advantage of every minute of sunlight. The baby putters around on the grass at my feet while I shake, adjust, and drape each item over the clothes rack.

There are many benefits to hanging clothes, particularly now as the weather warms up. Air-dried clothes and sheets smell divine, and the sun is an effective bleaching agent, especially for organic stains like blood and tomato, and discolored cloth diapers. Clothes also take less of a beating when they’re hung to dry, as opposed to tumbling in a dryer. Somerville explains:

“Clothes dryers shrink your clothing twice as much as air drying does, and more importantly, they can cause irreversible damage. Doubt it? The proof’s in the dryer lint. That fuzzy material lining the lint trap is made up of tiny shreds of thread from hundreds of microscopic tears in the fabric of your clothing. Over time, regular dryer use means your clothes wear out faster – that is if you haven’t already shrunk them. This accelerated wear means you have to replace your clothing sooner – another cost to you and more waste to the landfill.”

Then there’s the environmental argument. Dryers use massive amounts of energy and there are so many of them. As TreeHugger reported, “There are upward of 88 million dryers in the U.S., each emitting more than a ton of carbon dioxide per year.” Indeed, Somerville points out that, according to some estimates, if each household in the United Kingdom chose to line dry just one load of laundry every week, we could save over a million tonnes of CO2 each and every year.

Hanging laundry may seem like a gargantuan task, particularly if you have a large family and young kids, but speaking as someone with three little ones, I honestly don’t find it that bad. It’s my mandatory outdoor escape time, when I daydream with the feel of the sun on my face while working. It’s also a great opportunity to get my older two kids involved in household tasks; they often hang laundry now too.

If you don’t already have a clothesline, make a visit to your local hardware store to see what options there are.

Tags: Cleaning | Laundry | Spring

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