Well, 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?