Winter Laundry – Will It Dry?

snowy_laundryDuring the Energy Challenge, we discovered that our dryer is a major electricity hog (as pretty much all heat-generating electrical appliances are).  In warm, sunny weather it was pretty easy for me to get motivated to use our clothesline but I’ve found it more challenging during the winter months.  I also wasn’t sure if laundry would actually dry in sub-freezing temperatures, so I decided to do some test runs.

First test (shown in picture) – inconclusive.  Approximately 5 minutes after I hung my laundry to dry, clouds rolled in and proceeded to dump snow on my clean clothes.  I brought them inside and hung them on our indoor clothesline, where they dried after about 36 hours.

Second test – success.  It was very sunny and temperatures were hovering right around freezing so I’m still not totally sure how it would go on a really cold day.  It has been a weirdly warm winter and we haven’t had many super cold days.  Today, in fact, it was about 65 degrees out, which is just wrong for February.  The poor daffodils are sending up shoots and buds, which I have no doubt will be frozen off in another week or two when our “normal” weather resumes.  With a little luck, there will be a sunny day in the teens when I can get a definitive answer to my laundry question – will it dry?

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A Laundry List

Drying rack and hanging shirtsIt’s been a little over a month since we started air-drying our clothes and it’s going pretty well although it hasn’t worked quite like I expected. Student Doctor Green has covered the biggest issue, but I’ve learned a lot of other little things too.

  1. Shirts take up a lot of space on a drying rack, so it’s much better to put them on hangers and hang them from something
  2. Our free-standing porch swing makes a perfect something
  3. Men’s underwear is a LOT bigger than women’s underwear
  4. Things dry faster out in the sun than inside (although the humidity might change that soon)
  5. I have a lot of socks
  6. Luckily, you can fit a lot of socks on one line
  7. With a portable drying rack, I can grab it and rush inside as soon as rain threatens (which has been an issue given our recent flooding)
  8. I wash smaller loads when I have to put them all on a rack, but the environmental detergent works better with the smaller loads anyway so I think I’m still coming out ahead
  9. It takes more effort to use a drying rack than the dryer, but I make some of that back because my clothes are easier to fold and put away when they’re already hanging
  10. A nice breeze dries things faster; a big wind blows everything over (not that I would be silly enough to put out laundry on a windy day…)

So basically, a drying rack is cheap, doesn’t have too many drawbacks, and is simple enough that I haven’t been able to seriously mess things up yet!

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Drying Laundry the Green Way

Wooden Drying RackWe had some more beautiful weather this past weekend and I felt inspired to hang my laundry outside to dry. (I also learned that April 19th was National “Hanging Out” Day and wanted to jump on the bandwagon.)

I did one load of laundry and hung it out on our back deck with a few things on the railing and a few things hanging from clothes hangers off our little porch swing. It was a little less than ideal, due partly to aesthetics and partly to one practical detail. Our deck looks out onto a greenspace shared by about eight rental units, six of which are breeders and constantly producing litters of adorable puppies. I love puppies but puppies and clean laundry are usually not a good combination.

Anyway, at first I was ready to get either a crazy antenna clothes drying rack or one of those fancy retractable clotheslines. But Will and I did a little research at the local hardware store and decided to stick with a simple wooden drying rack, which was an excellent choice since it began raining as soon as we got it home. Now we can dry clothes inside or out and I can still hang things off the porch swing when the weather is nice. We’re still looking at houses so perhaps in our more permanent home we’ll get the fanciest clothesline ever but for now at least I have some motivation to avoid our electric dryer.

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Snot rags… I mean, handkerchiefs

Maggie’s noseI have been a long-time fan of the handkerchief as opposed to Kleenex but I realize there are lots of folks like Student Doctor Green who are a little grossed out by the concept of blowing your nose into a piece of cloth and sticking said piece of cloth back into your pocket. Yes, I admit, it’s a little gross but it’s not *that* gross. (Oh, and by the way, when I say “Kleenex” what I really mean is “Seventh Generation Recycled Facial Tissues.”)

I have never been a dainty nose-blower. I am much more of the honking type. I also learned early on that my nose will inevitably run when I am as far as possible from a Kleenex box. This led originally to the habit of stuffing my pockets with Kleenex in the morning and then holding onto them (fresh or used) during the day so I would always have at least some corner of dry tissue to use. Well, I also held onto my used Kleenex because there never seemed to be a good place to throw them away. It got to be a bit of a problem when I would invariably wash a pair of pants with three tissues in the pockets and discover that my clothes had been coated in a fine layer of white Kleenex dust.  This was well-covered in the recent Ode to the Humble Handkerchief.

I’m not sure when I actually switched over to handkerchiefs. I have a collection of about twenty now and have developed strong opinions about what kind are most effective. I really like the men’s thin white handkerchiefs that are still available in some department stores. They’re small enough to fit comfortably even in the pocket of my jeans but they have enough surface area to hold up well. Bandanas are bigger and sturdier but also bulkier and I also have some hesitation about blowing my nose on a piece of cloth I might also use to tie back my hair. It’s best not to mix the two. I also have a few dainty handkerchiefs I inherited from my grandmother. They remind me of her, which is nice, but they’re really designed for gentle nose dabbing, which never seems to accomplish much. In the end, whatever kind they may be, handkerchiefs are cheaper than Kleenex (in the long run) and easy to use.

So here’s my routine. It’s early in the day and my nose is just starting to run. I pull the fresh handkerchief out of my pocket and unfold it until there are about two layers. I find a good corner, blow my nose, and then fold the handkerchief to keep the moist part in the very middle, and stick it back in my pocket. Later, I can unfold it and find a different clean spot for the next nose blow. Usually I can find a clean spot and refold carefully to keep my hands and my pocket unsullied. If I have a cold and am producing a lot of snot, it’s time to switch to Kleenex although I often keep a handerchief as backup in case I run through my Kleenex supply. At the end of the day (or maybe a couple of days, I confess) I throw the used hankie in the laundry. Easy as pie!

Will thinks the whole process is kinda gross (especially if I try to take one to bed) but he mostly just looks the other way. And he’s good at reminding me that it’s probably best to wash my hands frequently, hankie or not.

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I’m Doing Laundry!

My college roommate Erin used to say she loved to do laundry because she could feel like she was being productive the entire time the washer and dryer were running, even if she spent that time plunked on the couch in front of the TV. I must admit, I do think of her logic every time I throw in a load…

Really, though, I want to steal an idea from Student Doctor Green, a blogger in Texas who is trying to “green” her life and decided to tackle one room of her house at a time (she started with the kitchen) and do a thorough green-ness assessment. I am going to modify the concept a little and focus on tasks instead of rooms – my first target is doing laundry. Here are my green tips:

1. Do less laundry. We all have our own comfort zones but I think it’s healthy to re-evaluate them periodically. I personally only wash my bathroom towels once a week unless they smell bad. Socks, underwear, and t-shirts get washed after each wearing but sweaters, pants, and jackets are generally worn three or four times (I hang them on pegs in my bedroom during the “slightly dirty” phase) before washing. Cloth napkins, rags, and kitchen towels get hung up in the laundry room when they look or smell gross to await the next load of laundry. I recently purchased some cloth menstrual pads from etsy but I don’t quite have a routine down for those. The package suggests storing them in a bucket of water until it’s time to do laundry or washing them out by hand. I’ll keep you posted.

2. Run full loads using cold water. I tend to do two loads of laundry every two weeks unless I’ve been especially dirty. I have washed my clothes in cold water for the last five years at least and it always seems to work just fine.

3. Use environmentally sound detergents in small quantities. Read the box! It takes less detergent than you might think. I used to throw in a little extra for good measure but I tested and it didn’t make a difference so now I use the minimum amount of Biokleen or Seventh Generation or whatnot. I did get some very nice detergent from Mugwort Maggie’s but she cashed my check in November and didn’t send me the detergent (or respond to any of my e-mails) until February. Not cool. Even if you make awesome handmade products, you have to respect your customers or they will tell everyone you’re a jerk. A friend just sent me a link about soap nuts, some kind of naturally soapy nut sold by a different Maggie. I guess there are women named Maggie all over the internet doing crazy green things!

4. Dry your clothes efficiently. This means not overstuffing the dryer and maybe using some of those little dryer balls (we don’t have them yet – wedding gift perhaps?) although as Treehugger points out, they’re made out of polyvinyl chloride, which is not eco-friendly at all. It’s also important to maintain your dryer – you know, clean that lint trap! If we were really hardcore we would dry our clothes on a clothesline. I must confess, I will probably only ever get around to that one if it’s extremely convenient and I will still want certain things (underwear, towels) to have that dryer-soft feel. (On the other hand, I *hate* dryer sheets. I’d rather have the static cling.)

5. Upgrade your washer and dryer. Our rental home comes with a washer and dryer so this seems unlikely for us in the near future. We have toyed with the idea of getting a handwasher and a drying rack just to see if we could get used to the super-efficient method. Perhaps a wedding registry with Lehman’s is in order…

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