Finally, A Laundry Line!

the laundry line

And just in time for the rain too!

No, actually, it’s been raining all along. It rains all the time here, at least in the months since we arrived. Probably one out of every two days. Short rains, but hard. The kind that soak you to the bone in 5 seconds flat. It’s an infuriating place to hang laundry because, on the one hand, it’s so damn hot it seems completely absurd to use the dryer. But on the other hand, even if you’re home and paying attention, by the time you hear the rain, jump out of your chair, race for the back door (have I explained how our house is 6 miles long?) grabbing the laundry basket on your way, and get the clothes off the line, they’ll be 12 times more soaked than when you hung them up in the first place. Not to mention the clothes on your own back.

Nevertheless, I have been intending to hang a laundry line since we got here. Bought the damn line ages ago, but then wasn’t sure where to hang it. We share our yard with our neighbor, a very nice, tolerant middle aged single man who keeps his side of the yard extremely neat. We of course immediately filled our side with chairs, table, giant plastic kiddie pool, shovels, buckets, bath toys, and actually the chain link fence worked pretty well to hang clothes on… ghetto style. I didn’t want the laundry line, which would probably have clothes on it 90% of the time, to be in our way, let alone in his way.

But yesterday I finally got down to business– figured a spot, got some eye screws and hung the clothes line. Yippie!

If you are new to all this sustainable living hoopla, I recommend starting with a laundry line. It’s probably the single best bang for your buck as far as energy and money output to good for the world outcome. No research, books, mail order equipment or special tools necessary. Just get some rope or heavy string and find a place to hang it. Bear in mind that it will stretch– hang it extra high, and tie it up with a knot you can undo, so you can take the slack out later.

Clothes dryers are huge power hogs, and America is just about the only country in the world where they are considered almost a right of citizenship. Somehow most of the rest of the world gets by with hanging their clothes to dry. Even many households in Britain which do have a dryer consider it for occasional use, and still hang most of their clothes.

You can hang your clothes dry anywhere. I lived with a family in Talkeetna, Alaska one winter who demonstrated the truth in this. At 40 below zero, we were hanging clothes outside on the line. In two days, most of the moisture had been sucked out of them (freeze-dried), we stacked the stiff boards of clothes up and brought them inside for the final dry by the woodstove.

If you live in a wet place, you may have to use indoor racks. That’s what the Brits do. They have these ingenious racks on a rope and pulley system, that they lower down to fill with clothes, then pulley up towards the ceiling to dry, where it’s warmer and out of the way. In America, you’ll be lucky to find a decent folding floor rack. My mother-in-law has a truly superb one, 6 feet tall, and gorgeously sturdy. I don’t think it’s the same one, but there’s a pretty darn big one on Lehman’s (a great supplier of non-electric and simpler living tools) and here’s a link to the Urban Clothesline for all kinds of drying apparatus, indoor and outdoor.

But like I said, you don’t need anything fancy. Start with the basics, and build from there. If it’s too wet to hang outside, and you’re not ready to fork over $80 + shipping for a rack, string up a line in your basement, bathroom, or living room! If all else fails, drape them around on your furniture and impress your friends with your commitment to green ethics!

On the note of laundry, washing your clothes doesn’t have to break the meter either. And no, I don’t mean you have to peel up your knickers and find a river rock. The energy use comparative listed above shows washers as being slightly worse than dryers. This really surprised me, until I looked into it just a little and found that that was washing with hot water. Cold, or even just warm, is a huge improvement. Nothing really needs to be washed on hot. At home in Cordova I used warm, because the cold from our faucet there was really and truly cold! But here in New Orleans I’ve been using cold for everything, because cold isn’t very cold. I even wash the new babe’s diapers on cold. Seems to be working fine. Then I line dry them in the sun. (I wasn’t that hard core with diapers before. In Cordova, it took 4 days at least to dry diapers, and at that point I was worried something might start growing in them!)

Now’s the time to start pissing off your neighbors and impressing your friends with your very own ratty-tat laundry line. Join the Revolution!