2009 comebacks: Line-drying clothes


Ever since the invention of the tumble dryer, it's been a mark of status to show the world that you don't have to air-dry your clothes anymore. Housing developments and apartment buildings around the country have banned the practice, ostensibly because seeing all those clothes is unsightly, but really because their presence made a home seem like it was worth less if its occupants couldn't afford a dryer. Within the space of a generation, hanging your clothes on the line became something that the lower classes did.

Now that we're entering a less wasteful age in which we want our stuff to last as long as possible, that stigma is dying. One group, Project Laundry List, is successfully lobbying state governments to allow you to dry your duds any way you wish. So far, Florida, Utah, and Colorado have all supported "right-to-dry" laws. Change is in the wind, along with a lot more underwear.

The fact is that hanging your clothes on a line to dry is better for them. Colors linger longer, giving your clothes a longer life. The fabric holds up longer--dryer lint, after all, is nothing but a thin layer that has been sheared from your clothes. The high heat of a dryer can also play havoc with the size of your clothes, so that something with a perfect fit comes out misshapen or, worse, six sizes smaller.

And then there's the fact that when you line-dry something, you're not eating up electricity. In terms of energy, dryers are by far the most wasteful appliance in the house, gobbling up 6% of your electric bill. The Wall Street Journal reported that eliminating the dryer portion of your laundry chores will cut an astounding 4.4 pounds of carbon emissions. One ecological watchdog calculates that as the equivalent of losing 16 square feet of natural habitat per load.