Drying Clothes Indoors: What's the Greenest Method?

Image credit: Munts Family

I once very publicly confessed my laziness in putting up a clothes line, and the battles over clothes lines and property values are well publicized by now. But whether you are an avid outdoor drier, or you wouldn't be seen dead hanging your undies up in public, all too often the issue of clothes drying is presented as either the line, or the dryer. But there are other options. The trouble is, some of them might be even worse than the dryer, from an ecological perspective.As a student back in rainy-old England, it always amused me how the radiators in my shared house would be constantly covered in a layer of washing. Socks, underwear, bed sheets—it was kind of rare to see a radiator that wasn't adorned with someone's laundry. I do remember wondering what kind of effect that had on our heating bills.

For the most part, this arrangement worked well. (We were students. We weren't particularly house proud.) But come spring, when the radiators weren't on as much, a decidedly musty smell would fill the air—and sometimes it would stick around on our clothes too.

All that might be more information than the average reader would want to know about my laundry arrangements. But I bring it up because there is a heated (sorry) debate around drying laundry indoors going on over at The Guardian right now. And I am kind of surprised at some of the ideas being suggested.

A confused reader was concerned about the environmental cost of a mechanical dryer, and wrote to ask whether there were greener options now that her clothes horse was too small for a growing family. She ponders whether buying an A-rated (Energy Star-equivalent) dryer is the best option, or getting a second hand one. But she also considers some more unconventional options—buying a dehumidifier, or even turning up the heating when it is not needed and opening up the windows!

Now I am all for avoiding the dryer when you need to. But I suspect that using your central heating system as a proxy dryer is a false economy. And turning up the heat and opening the windows has just got to be a bad idea whichever way you look at it. Right?

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