Are People Who Use Clotheslines Poor…or Frugal?

Late 19th century advertisement for laundry st...
Sorry, we don’t look like this when hanging clothes — in fact, my husband hangs clothes in the morning for me! Image via Wikipedia

Do your neighbors think you’re nuts, poor, or just plain old frugal if you hang your clothes out to dry?

When we moved to our Fairfield neighborhood nineteen years ago, I often snickered at the people down the road who hung their laundry outside. I called them the “Ozzie & Harriet” couple. How quaint (ie: ridiculous) to have a clothesline, I thought. And I used to snicker with another neighbor about how hilarious it was to see the family’s underwear on the line. Well…the joke’s on me, because we’ve now had a clothesline in our backyard for about two or three years, and we love it. That’s why we were so happy to see that The Connecticut Post ran an article, “Green Households Giving the Clothesline a Second Look.”

Homeowners pay lip service to saving energy…

In a nutshell, the article says that only 5 percent of American households today hang laundry (in other countries, over 50 percent of people air-dry laundry), that some people don’t even know what a clothesline looks like, and that most people don’t know how to find a clotheseline and pulley system or how to set it up. Well, my husband easily found a clothesline–pulleys and all– in Home Depot and set it up rather quickly–one post, one tree, a clothesline system, hammer, screws, and there you go–it’s up and running.

(As an aside, it’s pretty funny to find a Febreze oil scent product that offers “the wonderful scent of linens and towels right off the clothesline.”)

What makes me crazy is that people associate clotheslines with poor people here in the United States. (Same thing with coupons, though study after study proves that people with incomes over $70,000 regularly use coupons and people with incomes under $30,000 rarely use coupons.) In fact, clotheslines are considered a “nuisance” and are banned in certain neighborhoods and homeowner assocations. Greenwich, CT, for example, inevitably banned clotheslines in senior housing apartments because they posed a “threat” to people running through the yard who become tangled in garments. However there are a few areas around Connecticut that do restrict clotheslines–mostly in multi-unit housing complexes.

The $64,000 question….how much  money do we save by using a clothesline?

But, as the reporter grappled with–it’s tough to put a dollar amount on the money you save by air-drying clothes versus using the dryer. The article says it costs about .30 to .40 cents to run one dryer load and that based on that, it would save a family about $100 a year. My husband and I were discussing the fact that we seem to save a heck of a lot more than $100 a year by hanging laundry. We notice the increase in our U.I. bill in the winter when we use our dryer more. But we aren’t quite sure of the exact amount of money we are saving, but it’s enough to keep us hanging clothes without thinking twice.

And, by the way, for those out there who will say “I don’t have time to hang clothes…” it takes ten minutes to hang a full line of laundry in the morning, and about five minutes to pull the clothes off at the end of the day. Plus, it’s good excercise for the arms!

~Marilyn, TFF

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9 thoughts on “Are People Who Use Clotheslines Poor…or Frugal?

  1. I read this article with interest. I live in Australia and I have always line dried my clothes but we are the country of the Hills Hoist!!. I lived in the US for two years in the early 90’s and was amazed of the cupboard that was my laundry with washer and drier but no clothes lines outside. This was Arizona so the weather was perfect for line drying but talking to my US friends made me think that this was socially unacceptable . . . so I grew veggies instead. Still line drying even though it gets to -8c we have a clothes rack in the house. I believe I have saved thousands over the years – love this site

  2. Line dryer here. Several in town do have them (we’re pretty environmentally aware here, even before it was PC). I have a “summer towel” setting on my dryer: 25 minutes, then I line dry them. Soft and fluffy (I do use liquid softener out of preference on them). Another factor to consider is that machine dryer wears out and shrinks your clothes. As far as leaving out all day-there is shade in the morning, sun at noon, shade again at dusk. In the Summer, stuff dries in a few hours, so it can come down quickly.

  3. I do hang some laundry outdoors but I don’t recommend leaving them out on the line all day, unless your clothesline is in a north facing area. The sun can really do a number on your clothes — fading your colored clothes and even your towels.

    1. Thanks for the tip! …and I forgot to mention that our family is not a big fan of air-dried towels. Too crunchy. But, if we did dry towels in the electric dryer all the time, that would eat up a lot of electricity so we put up with the crunchy towels more often than not. ~Marilyn, TFF

      1. I would put those crunch towels in the dryer on fluff with no heat. Takes about five minutes.

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