Doing Laundry Au Naturel – Part 1

The Demise of the Dryer

They are militant and they may be waging war in your quiet suburban neighbourhood. Government executives, federal legislators and housing developers are starting to sit up and take notice. Who are these freedom fighters and just what is their cause? They are the champions of the humble clothesline and they are fighting for the “Right to Dry”.

Maybe you are asking yourself why anyone would want to dry their clothing outside if they have access to a perfectly good dryer. When it comes to convenience, there is no contest. You simply can’t beat the convenience and time savings of a dryer. The most commonly cited reasons for using an outside clothesline as opposed to a dryer include lower energy consumption and reduction of one’s carbon footprint, hygiene, garment longevity, preference, a pleasant odour, as well as stress-relief. In parts 1 & 2 of this series entitled, “Doing Laundry Au Naturel”, we will examine the pros and cons of both a clothesline and a dryer.

How Practical is a Dryer?

Many anti-dryer arguments may be completely valid, but as can often be the case with all-or-nothing thinking, we risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater so to speak. Let’s face it; trekking out to a clothesline through 3 feet of snow in -15º C is not only uncomfortable but impractical, trying to do so in -40º C is downright hazardous to the health (not to mention the utter futility of trying to hang “sheet-cicles” out to dry). While increasing the humidity in your home by hanging laundry in your house during winter is a good idea, some people have space constraints that make this an unreasonable practice as well.

Dryers & Energy Consumption

Climate considerations aside, what about environmental responsibility? Who wouldn’t want to reduce their energy consumption and pay less for their gas or electricity? While not everyone may care about those things, they are very important to many people. Project Laundry List has estimated that in the United States it costs between 30 and 40 cents to dry a load of laundry in an electric dryer and approximately 15 – 40 cents per load in a gas dryer. So, unless you are married to MacGyver, you accept that you will have to pay for the privilege of operating a dryer.

Garment Longevity & Dryers

Is garment longevity really affected by using a dryer instead of hanging your clothing out to dry on a clothesline? A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans concluded that repeatedly drying cotton garments in a dryer at high heat resulted in damage to cotton fibres and caused at least a “25% reduction in fabric strength”. (Science Daily) The mechanical tumbling action of the dryer further compromised the integrity of cotton fabric. While the study did not include cotton blends, the study’s lead author, Young-Sook Lee Buisson, Ph.D, surmised that cottons “blended with polyester would suffer less damage in a dryer” because of the more robust nature of polyester fibres. (Science Daily)

To learn about the germicidal effects of hanging your laundry outside versus using a dryer, stay tuned for part 2 of “Doing Laundry Au Naturel”.

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