Recently a neighbors clothes dryer died and in passing, she casually mentioned to me, “I don’t know how you do this every day!” And by this, she meant air drying all our laundry outdoors on our patio lines. My simple to answer: Gladly.
You see, our family purposely and intentionally does not own a dryer. This is despite living in one of the most humid states in the union, Mississippi. A state where we go from wet, gloomy early Spring days, to humid, hazy days of Summer, straight into hurricane season each Fall. Even with this in mind, I still feel that air drying our clothing is completely manageable, and I dare say I personally find it liberating to be dryer-free.
Mind you, this was not always the case. When we moved into our house five years ago, we celebrated our move by purchasing a brand new washer and dryer set. An expensive set with all the bells and whistles. This set was both a source of pride for my husband and myself as we were able to purchase the set debt-free with cash. We loved our washer and dryer. This was of course until a year ago, when in the course of a later Spring thunderstorm, our washer and dryer set was rendered useless due to a rogue electric current a mere six days after our set’s extended warranty expired. A week later, and after two repairmen informed us that our set would cost more to repair than replace, my husband and I were devastated and without a washer or a dryer.
The bright side to this defeatist moment? It was at that time I started my journey into minimalism, so when it came time to price out a new set it dawned on me to think small, smaller, and smallest when it came to buying major household appliances.
After much research, my husband and I settled on a small compact Haier washer, a washer that can be tucked away into a cabinet, closet, or cupboard. A washer whose gray water could be harvested to water our flower beds, and was also energy saving, which would help us decrease our overall carbon footprint and lower our energy consumption bills, and could be housed indoors in our small galley kitchen.
This did leave us with one issue. What about a dryer? While our washer did have a compact dryer available from Haier, it was not a matching unit and cost one and would cost one and a half times the cost of our washer. So we simply opted to not buy the dryer. We socked the money into our savings account we had previously budgeted for a dryer and decided to put up an outdoor drying line instead. Our idea? Should we ever change our minds we could always buy the dryer down the road. And a year later that day has yet to come.
Let’s also consider one of the other great reasons we opted to not purchase a new dryer, pure economics. Let’s run the numbers a bit to find out. According to the National Energy Commission, the average dryer uses 3.3-kilowatt hours of energy and estimates an average of 11 cents per kilowatt hour. And as an average load of clothes takes about 45 minutes in the dryer to complete, this makes each load of laundry $0.36 per load, per day to dry. A cost of $131.40 per year, assuming you only dry one load of laundry per day This figure does not include both peak and non-peak hours that dryers remain plugged in while not in use.
Not having a dryer saved us more than $262.80 the first year alone, which completely reimbursed our family the cost of our washing machine. This was a zero waste victory if I do say so myself.
Not owning a dryer also helped me to sharpen my homemaking skills as well. For the first few seasons of now owning a dryer, I learned new methods for keeping my laundry piles tamed. For example, in knowing that it takes two days to dry heavier fabrics such as denim to fully dry, should a family member need that item of clothing, I would simply need to allow enough time for drying that item. As my husband needs denim pants each week for Dress-Down Friday’s, I wash his denim on Tuesday’s to ensure they are always ready to be prepped for Friday mornings on Thursday nights.
I also found that I no longer needed to wash towels, hand towels, robes, or bed sheets daily, and could instead opt for weekly washing. By this same token, heavier cool-weather layering pieces such as winter sweaters, blazers, and scarves can be worn three or more times before needing to be washed. And as for quilts, these linens would only need to be laundered seasonally in lieu of each month. With the exception of bath mats and reusable kitchen towels, very little household laundry needed to be washed daily.
I quickly came to realize that living sans a dryer, and the overall concept of zero waste laundering is more about time management skills and planning, and not on energy dependency.
So you may be thinking how do I actually dry everything? Well, as previously mentioned we do have an outdoor 3-segment clothes line. To construct our lines, we used a bundled laundry cord purchased from our local hardware store for under $10.00, attached it to a board on one side of our patio and the other side of the patio to a previously unused patio swing bracket, using six large eyelet screw hooks. Bearing in mind that each line measures 24-feet long, and when using the three lines for a laundry session, I can fit nine loads of clothes out to dry.
Bearing in mind that each line measures 24-feet long, and when using the three lines for a laundry session, I can fit nine loads of clothes out to dry. Each line is very sturdy, and monthly my husband readjusts the lines for me to make sure they stay taught.
Now in the Wintertime, or during periods of rainy weather, I dry clothes indoors. We have two drying racks. One rack is a standard, wooden accordion rack and the other a taller umbrella rack. These racks work well, and when opened up fully take up only six square feet of floor space, and when adjusted down store neatly in a closet.
When I need to dry indoors, I place my clothing racks in my dining room or storage room, both rooms with large windows, and the placed clothing is generally dry the same day I wash. For my husband’s work shirts or any item that needs to hang to dry, I put them on hangers and hang them from the arch of our dining room. They also dry the same day as well.
For our family, one full load will take up one drying rack with the addition of shirts hanging on the arch, so I always make a point of washing one or two small loads of laundry daily to keep laundry piles at a minimum. Hanging clothing this way also helps to all but eliminate the need for ironing these items as well which is a huge bonus!
Another reason I love not having a dryer? Sun bleaching! Since becoming a minimalist with a zero waste household, eliminating toxic chemicals from our home is always a top priority in my book. As a result, I have replaced chlorine bleach, color-safe bleach, and oxygen-based laundry additives with vinegar and baking soda laundry bombs for white loads. I have found that this method works well, but for extra bacteria-killing and brightening power, nothing beats the sun. Just leaving my reusable kitchen towels on the line for a few hours in the sun leaves them not only smelling fresh but looking their best as well!
And what’s my favorite reason for not owning a dryer? Not owning a dryer gives me intentional periods of peace during my day. For when I’m hanging out my laundry, especially in the crispness of the Fall, I am able to leave the confines of my home office. I’m also to walk outdoors, fell the warmth of the sun on my skin, soak up a few minutes of natural, life-affirming vitamin k, and take time out of my day to just breath in nature. Just those modest ten minutes in nature are renewing to my entire being.
So I say all that to say this: Not owning a dryer helps us as a family lead a more sustainable, budget-friendly, peace-filled life. We are able to live a fuller live with fewer major appliances, lower our carbon footprint, and have fewer personal streams of consciousness and productivity interrupted by the buzz of an ended dryer cycle. I am one step closer to mastering my minutes. And that brings me nothing but joy!
So everyone, do you or someone you know hang their laundry out to dry? Please feel free to share any tips for better drying or managing the family laundry with us all as well.
Here’s to more sustainable homes and lives,