Seventh Generation Staffers Line Dry Their Laundry | Seventh Generation
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Seventh Generation Staffers Line Dry Their Laundry

Author: Seventh Generation

To support our friend Alex Lee at Project Laundry List and spread the word about line drying, we asked members of the Seventh Generation community to dry their laundry on the line! Here’s a report from the first week.
And here's how you can join in the Seventh Generation 7 Day Laundry Challenge to save energy and money!

Seventh Gener Lara hanging laundry
Our first week of line-drying started off a bit washed out – by rain. So we decided to hang our clothes in the bathroom using hangers and a folding rack that we already had for our "delicates". It was surprisingly simple our clothes dried overnight. It was much more fun later in the week though, when we were finally able to hang a load outside after the weather cleared up. It gave us a another reason to hang out in the yard with the cats, and we felt proud to be showing our "colors" to the neighbors, because it meant we were saving energy. The cold washing part was easy – we never use warm water in our machine--you don't need to! Now we know you don't need to use the dryer either.

Seventh Gen staffer Deb shows her line-drying with pride.
Growing up, our family didn't have a dryer so when I bought my house, I chose not to buy one. In the warm months, we dry our clothes outside; in the cold months, we dry them inside on two very large racks. There is nothing like the fresh smell of clothes that have been dried outside. I wash the clothes in the early morning and hang them outside before leaving for work. It's a nice Zen-like practice to start my day. A few days during the winter we freshen our down comforter and pillows by hanging them outside for the day. The benefits are two-fold -- the freezing temperatures help kill dust mites and in the middle of winter, we get to experience the fresh smell of clothes hung outside.


The drying rack was my grandparents so someone in the family has been using it for probably 75 years.

Seventh Gen staffer Alis with her shower-rod drying rack
Ever since I can remember, laundry hanging outside in the summer, whether at our city home in Montreal or our country house in Stowe, was pretty typical. The stiffness of the towels felt so natural and the smell of our clothes, so clean. My mum could not let a sunny weekend day go by without stripping everyone's bed and doing the laundry. Just a few weeks ago I spent the night at my parents' and as I climbed into bed, felt my toes touch a wooden clothes peg. For now in my apartment, I am limited to the shower rod in my bathroom, or the drying rack in the living room, but one of the first things I will do next time I live in a house is a hang a clothesline outside.


Some clothes lines come with fancy pulleys or hooks. Ours is a single rope tied to two trees in our yard. Easy as can be. One of those trees was a weed that I decided not to mow one day. Years later, the tree is still a weed but a 15-foot weed that we use to help dry our t-shirts, blankets, towels and undergarments. We especially love being able to dry big things like comforters and heavy blankets, and avoid all that time in our dryer.

I've used a kilowatt meter to find out what most of the appliances in my house uses but dryers use that big 220v plug so I can't meter its usage. Even so, I'm sure it takes a lot to do the work that a dryer does.

Since our almost one-year-old Jazmine has arrived our laundry count has gone way up and includes all kinds of fun stuff like one-piece tee-shirts, bibs, tiny little stockings and most importantly cloth diapers. Seventh Generation has awesome, chlorine-free diapers that perform great and we use these along with cloth diapers. We feel strongly that cloth diapers are a good option if you can do it and if you live in an area that doesn't have any concerns about water shortages. There is the argument that cloth diapers take resources to constantly clean but we balance our diaper usage between both disposable and cloth diapers, usually cloth when we’re around the house and disposable when we’re out and about.

Dave R.

We found that although it seemed daunting to go without using the dryer, once we made the decision it wasn't hard to do at all. It does require a little bit of planning ahead and being aware of the weather but hasn't been an inconvenience. It's actually been nice to have a reason to get outside in the yard for a few minutes to hang the laundry. We all feel good knowing that we're taking even this small step to reduce our energy use, and we love the fresh smell of our clothes from being out in the breeze and sun.


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Pegwing picture
I've been line-drying my clothes...for as long as I can remember. I've never owned a clothes dryer. In the summer, the clothes have the sweet smell of the countryside (where I live) and in the winter, I dry my clothes next to the more-than-warm woodstove (which we heat with). I wouldn't have it any other way.
rachiti picture
In college I had a choice to big bucks to have my clothes destroyed quickly by superheated dryers or air dry them in my closet. My mother always hung our clothes out to dry when I was younger, but I live in an apartment & my outdoor allergies would make line drying counterproductive to my health. ssooo...I hang my wet clothes in my closet. Separate pieces so that air can pass between them. Use heavy duty hangers for jeans or hang them on over-the-door hooks. Even undies can be hung a few pairs to a hanger in this manner. Not only does it help the environment & reduce the effects of hot air (think of what a hair dryer does to your hair), but it also saves time. No rehanging them once they're dry...everyone wins :)
1potato2 picture
I read some time ago that the clothes dryer not only consumes its own energy, it also puts a double burden on the heating/cooling system of the house by drawing hot or cold outside air into the house to replace the moist air it vents to the outdoors. Another reason to use a clothesline! I strongly suspect the increase in allergies recently has a lot to do with our unnatural lifestyles. Before electricity, people for countless generations had no choice but to dry clothes outside, and somehow survived. Our teenage children have grown up as we did with clothes dried outside (starting with their diapers!), and so far they seem to be immune to the effects of pollen. We've lived in Japan and Italy where clothesline use is the norm--pretty much every residential balcony in downtown Tokyo has a built-in pole for hanging clothes! That tells me how much electricity the clothes dryer uses, because it is the one electrical appliance which the Japanese absolutely refuse to purchase or use (the cost of electricity is very high in Japan). We were astonished when we moved to an "environmental" community in Illinois upon our return to the U.S., and our neighbor complained when we put up our clothesline! Fortunately, people are getting a bit more conscious these past years and we've seen a few other clotheslines go up in our community since then. For people who feel shy about hanging underwear outside, in Japan everyone uses very convenient contraptions which are hung from the clothesline with a hook and which have a large number of clothespins attached to allow many small items to be hung in a compact area, so they are not strung out for all eyes to see. We brought a couple back with us from Japan but I'm sure they can be found online, or in Japanese stores such as Mitsuwa in this country.
shearwater picture
I also live in an apartment complex that doesn't allow outdoor line drying. With the cost of energy and damage to the environment seeing your neighbors clothes hanging out doesn't seem such a travesty. I did get my landlord to agree at least to allow me to stand my folding clothes rack on my balcony. I also spoke to my state senator. Pennsylvania is one state that is considering following the example of other states and passing a law that would allow ALL people to hang their laundry outside regardless of local laws and unreasonable landlords. I urge everyone to ask their state senator and representative to support a similar law for their state. We should all be free to fly our pants in the wind for everyone to see!
jendeldeo picture
We use cloth diapers and hang our laundry outside on a large folding rack. Sometimes the diapers and diaper covers come out of the machine with stains, which remain after machine drying. However, if we face the stains toward the sun when we dry outside then they ALWAYS disappear, whether on white fabric or colored. Also, if the laundry stays in the washing machine a few hours too long it smells all mildewy, right? Yuck. And a machine dryer doesn't make that go away. But drying in the sun does. Yay!
sdionne picture
We just hung a clothes line the other day! I'm very excited about it! I've been using a drying rack but with only one I have to keep the loads small.
Lina B picture
Lina B
For those in chilly climes: Buy an inexpensive diverter that allows you to send your hot, humid clothes-dryer air either inside or outside. In winter, divert the air inside and save on heating bills--and humidify the air.
CloverSM picture
I live in central Illinois and just wanted folks who live where it gets cold to know that you can still hang your clothes out all year long. I know it sounds crazy, but they freeze dry, so to speak. My Grandmother always did it that way. You can tell they're dry when they start to wave in the breeze and look like clothes again! My Grandmother always said it made your whites whiter too, but I'm not sure about that.
Lina B picture
Lina B
The 2006 Energy Bill passed by the Florida legislature specifically SUPERCEDES any other restrictions, such as condo or homeowners regulations or deed restrictions. From FL Statute 163.04 Energy devices based on renewable resources.-- (2) A deed restriction, covenant, declaration, or similar binding agreement may not prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting solar collectors, clotheslines, or other energy devices based on renewable resources from being installed on buildings erected on the lots or parcels covered by the deed restriction, covenant, declaration, or binding agreement.
dbscandy picture
@Orkaren: Thank you for your post. I, too, live in FL and my city of Cape Coral outlaws line drying; HOWEVER, this news of home associations and wasting of natural resources may fuel my argument with the city to change their tune. In the meantime, I have a screened lanai which catches a great breeze, so that is my outdoor drying. Keeps the birdy decorations at bay. too.
bonniefff picture
my mom line dry our laundry back in the 50's. and when me and my sister got married we did the same. i been doing this for 39 years now. and i thought my 3 boys to do the same, and my sister did the same with her girls. we do not used the dryer unless we need to.maybe 10 times we used it in a year. and we wash the laundry in cold water.we use a Clothes rack when it rains. and my boys do there own laundry, 2 of the boys still live at home. B.F FROM KNOXVILLE, TN
Joan Carr picture
Joan Carr
As a child my mother always hung the clothes out and as we grew older and stronger we did it. I have a portable clothes line and have had one for 48 years. Unlike my mother though I do not use it in Winter. We have rain most of the time or snow and ice. So I use the dryer but as soon as it is warm enough out goes the clothes line and I always feel great about not having to use electricity to dry my clothes. I do also use Seventh generation laundry detergent and I am buying more eco-friendly products as I see them in the store. jctime2
Loves houseboats picture
Loves houseboats
I've been line drying my clothes every chance I get since 1995. My clothes last better, and I figure I've saved some serious plus lots less CO2 into the atmosphere. Cold water wash works great, too.
orkaren picture
I live in a deed restricted community that prohibits clotheslines. Luckily a couple years ago the state of Florida (where I live) passed a law the prohibits home owners associations from restricting anything that preserves natural resources with clotheslines specifically mentioned in the law. Now I can openly line dry my clothes every weekend.
Francineinthe206 picture
I learned long ago that you can save a bundle on your electric bill by line-drying clothes. As an added bonus, the sun makes a perfect, chemical-free "bleach." Maybe it's all in my head, but I seem to sleep better on sun-dried sheets. There are only a few things I'll throw in the dryer these days!
lemerts picture
I lived in the country in northern Minnesota for quite a few years and hung just about everything out on the line. I even hung my sheets outside in the dead of winter and "freeze dried" them. Nothing better than the smell of sheets after they've been hung out! Unfortunately, I live in an apartment complex now so there is no more line drying, only the folding rack for some things.
littlejuan picture
I live in the south where it is wet and full of allergens. I will sometimes put line dryed clothing in the dryer for a few minutes to eliminate the pollen/allergens. I am not sure how people dealt with allergies before dryers, though, to give any more advice! It is really aggrivating when the sunny weather turns to rain within minutes, but I am getting used to it. :o) I have found that bees are attracted to the clothes, so shake them off before folding!!!
Trista Durchik picture
Trista Durchik
As silly as it sounds, the last 2 neighborhoods I have lived in have a "No laundry lines" rule! One neighbor received a letter because she had one up in her garage...and left the door open. I use a drying rack, but can't actually line dry. Once again, image over anything else!! sad...
ksquared picture
Due to allergys(molds/pollens)and asthma,line drying isn't an option(doctors directive).Indoor line drying isn't an option-mold spores love wet laundry.... I would like to have a greener option than using my energy star dryer,but I haven't yet found one. Usually the green choice is the healthy choice too,but for allergy/asthma suffers,not this time.:(
nmrolls picture
In an effort to keep our electric bill low in the summer, and encourage the use of the backyard clothes line, I made a deal with my family. If they want to run the air conditioning this summer, then they must use the clothesline. It is an even swap, dryer for AC. I love using the line because it conjures up all sorts of childhood memories of hours spent hanging, folding, and carting laundry back to the house. Yes, it saves electricity, but it really is deeper than that for me. These are memories that my kids will have for the rest of their lives, even if they don't appreciate it now. So, want to stay cool this summer? Dump the dryer and step outside with a basket of wet clothes and a glass of iced tea!
WeHateLaundry picture
When I was little my grandmother would dedicate Saturday as Laundry Day! She would wash all the clothing and then we would hang them on the line to dry. It was so much fun.
laundrylist picture
Is there no kill-o-watt meter for the dryer on the market? I was struck by these thoughtful posts. Clotheslines are a cultural norm in Montreal and New England. The drying rack that has seen seventy years of service or more is a testament to that old New England thrift.