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Jul 22

Dump Your Dryer and Rack Up the Savings

Clothes_line_with_pegs_nearbyWell, summer is in full swing here in the great state of Oregon, and as usual, I’m looking for new opportunities to save money on my electricity bill.  A few weeks ago, our old clothes  dryer started making a (really annoying) high pitched squeal while running and I just haven’t bothered to put on the appliance repairman hat yet.  My first idea was to just never get my clothes dirty again.  After that fantasy came and went, I thought that, given the great weather,  I might use this summer as an opportunity to learn more about air drying my laundry and kicking that dryer to the curb once and for all.

How much can I save?

Before I started, though, I needed to know just how much I could save for my efforts.  After wrestling my dryer around in the basement for a few minutes, I wiped the sweat from my brow and discovered that the little plate that states all the electrical characteristics of my machine was inside the door.  Oh well, I got a little extra exercise. Turns out, our behemoth in the basement uses 5600 watts! I typically do one load of laundry a week.  The drying time for each load is, conveniently, about an hour.

Assuming a few odd loads here and there, we’ll say I do 60 loads of laundry every year. That’s 336 kwh (kilowatt hours) per year used to dry laundry  (5600 ÷ 1000)*60.  Multiply that number by my utility rate (about $0.11 per kwh) and I come up with a whopping $37 annual savings if I air dry every single load.  If you’re thinking, “Hmm, is that it? $37 a year?,” I thought the same thing.  Is it really worth the trouble? Try to remember that I am only 1 person – 1 person that does laundry rather infrequently.  If you handle laundry for the typical American family, you’ll likely save somewhere closer to $500. Now that’s more like it! If you want to get into the real nitty-gritty, the folks over at Project Laundry List offer a pretty interesting and rather comprehensive Excel calculator that you can download here.

As you can see, air drying the laundry won’t be a very lucrative venture for me, but it very well could be for you.  This just reinforces the fact that the ideas and solutions that I address here at Frugally Green are not one-size-fits-all. Everyone’s situation is different and lots of ideas can be implemented to varying degrees.  Decide what’s best for you and pursue with fervor!

How do I get started?

So, for the last month, I’ve kept a brief journal of my effort to resist the dryer and air dry my clothes.  I’ll share a few lessons I’ve learned along the way as well as some tips I’ve compiled from around the internet to help make your transition to air drying a little less rocky.

Week 1 - Not a warm or windy day. Hung the clothes out under the covered porch and took off to run other errands. Kind of nice not having to wait for the dryer to stop to prevent wrinkles. Took everything down about 6 hours later when it was “mostly” dry.  Socks, underwear, and towels were all a bit…um…crunchy? Will have to figure out a solution for that.

Week 2 – Did not air dry this week.  Feeling guilty.  Came home from a camping trip Sunday evening and needed some of my dirty clothes for work the next day. Looks like budgeting drying time will have to move up the priority list a bit. Next week, if it’s nice out, I’ll try drying in the sunlight to see if that improves things.

Week 3 – Perfect weather.  Hung the clothes out on the fence behind the house. The sun and a steady wind dried them out much quicker – probably only about 2 hour, though I wasn’t timing. Read an article saying that drying in the sun can fade colors.  Tip: turn clothes inside out while drying to prevent this. Bought a bottle of fabric softener for the wash.  It helped a little bit with the “crunchiness,” but I’m still not totally satisfied.

Week 4 - Not satisfied with the stiffness of my clothing, I posted a question in the comments of a related post over on one of my favorite blogs, Get Rich Slowly. Several of the awesome readers there suggested I try tumbling them in the dryer for 5-10 minutes on low heat once they’re almost dry.  Gave this a shot and bingo! No more stiff, crunchy socks.

After a month, I think I’ve finally got this figured out.  Feel free to learn much faster now that you know some of the tips I didn’t.

More useful tricks

Here are a few more tips and tricks I’ve picked up a long the way that you might find useful in your adventure to ditch your dryer:

  • Hang immediately after washing – The quicker your clothes come out of the washing machine, the more wrinkle free they will be after drying.  Consider turning down the speed of your spin cycle if your washer allows.  It will take a bit longer to fully dry, but will also help tremendously with wrinkles.
  • Buy (or build) an indoor hanging rack – Most indoor racks today can hold an entire load of laundry. Drying indoors will take longer than outdoors, but probably not if it’s raining! They’ll also provide some humidity if your house tends to dry out in the winter.  I’ve seen many for sale on my local Craigslist and at garage sales around town.
  • Substitute vinegar for fabric softener – I’m going to start doing this as soon as I use up the bottle of softener I already bought. Vinegar is a lot cheaper and leaves no smell once dry.  It’s a great substitute if you’re sensitive to perfumes.  Vinegar can also play a vital role in many other aspects of your laundry care.  Read about them here.

Go forth and dry with the breeze!

Do you air dry your laundry already?  Have any other tips Frugally Green readers might find useful?

9 comments

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  1. Beth

    Great site, Tyler! I like your angle about how green and saving money go hand in hand.

    I life in an apartment building where the dryer costs $1.50 for a small load, so it’s easy to see the savings. I also save on clothes because they look newer longer when they don’t go in the dryer. (Over-drying damages fibers, elastic, etc).

    My tip would be to keep an eye on the humidity, not just the weather. I try to wait for relatively dry days so my laundry will dry faster. I also bought one of those devices that tells me how humid my apartment is. When the number drops, it’s a good day to hang-dry!

  2. Smiherines

    I think has been your most relatable (sp?) article for me so far. While I think hang drying should be done I definitely think hanging your unmentionables on a shared fence in your back yard and then having said unmentionables fall to the pavement as soon as the wind picks up was a bit ridiculous. I definately see the possible benefits of having a drying rack indoors(if you have the space for it) or possibly one outside if you have adequate space and some privacy. The bummer is you’ll still have to opt for a dryer to get reasonably soft clothes I suppose. Anyways it’s a lovely picture; hanging my linens on clotheslines with pins, a breeze flowing gently, sun shining…ahh

  3. Michael Thomas

    Beth,

    Thanks for the compliment! And thanks again for the tip about humidity! Would you mind me asking how you are hanging your laundry indoors? Do you have a rack? A line? Where did you get it and have you run into any “issues” like excessive humidity drying indoors? Since I just recently started air drying, I haven’t thought this far yet, but I know I will need to soon as Fall and Winter are always just around the corner! I think Frugally Green readers would really appreciate your expertise.

  4. Michael Thomas

    Smitherines,

    I have no shame! You should know that by now! :)

  5. A Sirk

    Not only will you save money on your electric bill, you’ll save money on replacing worn out clothing. Washing and drying clothes wears them out just as wearing them does. Hanging clothes on the line eliminates the friction and the stress on the fibers that a dryer creates. Your clothes will last much longer.

  6. Debbie M

    I followed your link from Simple Dollar.

    I hang my clothes on an indoor rack because I don’t like the “fresh” smell of line-dried laundry (it smells like dogs who’ve been playing outside to me).

    I can answer some of the questions you had for Beth.

    What to hang the laundry on – I have two clothes racks (I dry about a load per day). I recommend the ones with painted or plastic-coated bars because the plain wood ones can get a little mildewy. I have one of each, and they have both lasted over a decade.

    I’ve also heard of people hanging things on hangers and then hanging them on the bathtub rod. I’ve also heard of people suspending an additional rod over the center of their bathtub.

    Where to get drying racks – You can get these at normal housewares stores like Target and Walmart. They look sort of like giant wine racks that collapse down into a simple-to-carry shape.

    Any issues like excessive humidity drying indoors? – Two issues. First, if you keep the rack too close to a wall (like 3 inches away), you might start growing mildew on the wall.

    Second, it can take a really long time for clothes to dry in the winter. But you can drastically reduce the drying time if you put the rack under a ceiling fan set on high. (I assume that using a box fan would also work.) You can also reduce drying time somewhat by flipping the clothes over when the tops are dry to expose the still-damp side. If you do both these things, then even on a cold damp day, even towels can be dry in 24 hours.

    On the other hand, if you hang things on an outdoor line on a sunny, breezy day, your clothes can dry just as fast as they do in the dryer (or maybe two dryer loads if you have jeans and towels).

    Other hints: smooth out your clothes before hanging them and they’ll dry with fewer wrinkles.

    And the crunchiness seems icky when you first touch something, but once you put it on, it feels fine. It’s not like wearing an overly starched shirt or anything.

    And I find that anything with elastic or spandex (swim suites, undies) lasts a lot longer than it used to, probably because heat breaks down those fibers.

    Also, there’s no chance of forgetting not to put something in the dryer and having it shrink.

    What I hate is how some of my clothes attract lint from the other clothes. That’s the thing that would tempt me to stick my clothes in a dryer for a few minutes at the end, but I don’t have a dryer.

  7. Michael Thomas

    Wow Debbie,

    Thanks for that awesome reply! As the rain sets in again as Fall comes here in Oregon, I’ll be referring back to your advice for indoor drying. That was really helpful with lots of useful advice. Thank you!

  8. Debbie M

    You’re welcome. Glad to help.

  9. Use Of Wooden Hangers

    First of all, wooden hanger is better for clothing. Compared with a wire hanger; you can find a wooden hanger is designed for all of your clothing. Because of the special clips for slacks and skirts; wooden hangers would significantly prevent wrinkles, which would reduce your amount of ironing and extend the life of your clothing. What is more, wooden hanger is better for winter coats. Winter coats are heavy and will put a great deal of weight on your hanger which can result in damage or breakage of the hanger. Thin hangers shouldn’t even be considered and wooden hanger is a better choice. Secondly, wooden hanger is easy to work with. Because of the difference of structure and material, wire hangers are supple and will bend under the weight of the clothing they are holding. A wooden hanger just will not do that under any circumstance. In addition, wooden clothes hangers tend to be a better choice in the sense that they could support a complete outfit. Instead of using a separate hanger for every element of an outfit, it is convenient to hang all pieces on one hanger. This results in a better usage of your closet space. A wooden hanger will ensure that your clothing lasts significantly longer than if you use a wire hanger. This is important if your wardrobe includes fine articles of clothing. Thirdly, wooden hanger is economical and practical. As wooden hangers will endure plenty longer than synthetic hangers such as plastic and you do not need to constantly replace them. This results in a reduction of your time and your cash. What is more, you get the bonus feature of fancy wooden hangers. It is human nature that you are not willing to hang up your best suit on a plastic or wire hanger. Special clothes deserve the style of a wooden hanger.A wooden hanger is better for clothing and also does a better job of preventing wrinkles and keeping clothing looking nicer than a wire hanger.

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