There’s an invention that can cut your energy use, reduce the risk of a house fire, and make your favorite clothes last longer.
Is it an eco-friendly miracle? A groundbreaking new product? Nope. It’s the simple clothesline.
Humble string can cut your utility bill by 6%, according to Project Laundry List, an advocacy organization. And, since each dryer load emits an average of 2.2 pounds of CO2 pollution, switching to line-drying can help the environment too.
Though rarely used in the U.S. today, it wasn’t long ago that clotheslines frequented windowsills and backyards. The first electric clothes dryer wasn’t invented until 1915, and it didn’t become popular until much later. But now over 90 percent of U.S. households have a dryer. Project Laundry calculated that “if all Americans who currently do not use a clothesline started to use one for ten months of the year, we could avoid 12 million metric tons of carbon dioxide… annually.”
Carbon reductions aside, there are other hidden benefits like improved safety. Line-drying reduces the risk of house fires, because clothes dryers are a large source of appliance-induced blazes. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that dryers cause about 15,600 structure fires, 15 deaths, and 400 injuries per year. Alternatively, the biggest risk of a clothesline is perhaps a wayward rainstorm.
Unfortunately, it’s not always simple to string up a line. Many housing associations and communities ban the use of outdoor clotheslines for aesthetic reasons. Several organizations, like Project Laundry, are working to overturn these measures with state legislation, and efforts have succeeded in Vermont and Utah. But there are still many battles to be fought.
So what can you do to make washing day a little greener?
If your state or neighborhood allows it, try stringing up a line. It can be as easy as tying a piece of rope between two trees, or you can purchase a pre-made drying rack. Laundry dried outdoors smells wonderful and it’s naturally disinfected by the sun.
Is the weather outside frightful? Set up a drying rack indoors. Bonus: it will humidify your house in the winter, killing two appliances at once.
Ever looked for an ENERGY STAR clothes dryer? They don’t exist. But with an ENERGY STAR washing machine, you can reduce water usage and drying time.
Does your housing association ban outdoor clothes drying? Fight for your right to dry clothes with the sun through Project Laundry’s Action Center.
Care2: Clotheslines Banned in Thousands of U.S. Communities
DoItYourself.com: Build a Clothes Line in 6 Steps
New York Times Green Blog: Readers Air Their (Clean) Laundry
National Fire Protection Association: Dryers & Washing Machines, Facts & Figures