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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Air Drying Laundry

One way to save money, both by reducing energy expenditure and by reducing the wear and tear on your clothing and your electric dryer, is to air dry your laundry.

It's very good to have a clothesline set up in your back your backyard, but if you're like me, and live in an apartment, setting up your own outdoor clothesline isn't very practical. I've seen pictures of apartment city dwellers using their small balcony railings to dry their clean, wet laundry--but I what would I do if my unmentionables blew away?

When I lived in a studio apartment with radiator heat, I would dry my laundry spread over the top of the laundry basket or some other contrived rack, with the basket set atop the radiator cover. The laundry room was on a different floor, and I found the trips up and down and having to guard my laundry very tiring. This make-do innovation reduced the time I spent on laundry significantly! Also, the laundry dried quickly that way because the radiator always blasted heat with no way to adjust it! Why feed quarters into an automatic clothes dryer, then? :-)

Now, even though I currently have a washer/dryer in my apartment, I use a wooden clothes drying rack with vinyl covered horizontal wooden rods. Bought many years ago at a garage sale for $3, this clothes drying rack has served me well. I think they are around $10 new in the stores--still very much worth the purchase price, in terms of cost savings over the years. More on that below.

I have tried the wooden racks without the vinyl covering, but unfortunately, the rack became warped and mildewed after several uses because the moisture invaded the wood too much. The vinyl covering realy protects the wooden rods well.

Speaking of humidity, a clothes drying rack is a wonderful way to bring humidity back into our modern, overly-dry aired homes.

Everything, including sheets, blankets, towels, sweaters, and denim items, can be dried on this type of rack. However, these things can be very heavy on the rack straight out of the washing machine. Usually, I partially dry the very heavy things in the electric dryer, and then put them on the wooden rack to finish drying. However, this isn't necessary. If you have two wooden clothes drying racks, you can spread the weight across the two of them, and two should bear the load just fine.

Or if you have more than one person in your household, I am sure you will want more than one :-) This might be a good way to get children involved in caring for their clothing and helping their families with the household chores. Perhaps each child or each children's room could have its own clothes drying rack. They fold up and can be tucked away in a closet when not in use.

Another way I air-dry my laundry when I have a lot--too much for the one clothes drying rack I have--is to place the blouses, tops, skirts, and dresses on hangers and hang them on my shower curtain rod. They are usually completely dry within 12 to 24 hours, and then they are very easy to iron quickly (if necessary) and put away in my closet! Many times, items do not need ironing, if dried this way, though--even better!

If it's not too windy outside, and you have a clothesline, you could also use hangers to hang your clothing on the line.

I think I remember reading in Amy Dacyzyn's Tightwad Gazette book, that it cost around $0.44 (c. 1991) to dry a full load of laundry in the electric dryer. I wash about four loads of laundry per week. Using the 1991 number, that's a savings of over $90 per year (or almost $500 every 5 years), just from this one little habit. Of course, if you must do more than four loads a week, you will save even more! Plus the clothes last much longer, and you don't have to buy and maintain a humidifier.

I don't know about you, but I would rather spend that money in other ways!

What are some of your favorite ways to save money with laundry or make your clothing dollars stretch? Has anyone else read the Tightwad Gazette? It's one of my favorite books! :-)

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