In the Pacific Northwest summer, there is much to be said for hanging out your wash. The clothes dryer was one of the new labor saving devices of the ’50s that you may want to reconsider.  Not only are you going greener and treating your senses to the smells and sounds of nature but you may find hanging out your wash may be more labor saving than folding the wash from the dryer.

In the frequent articles on going greener, I have missed seeing the suggestion to dry your clothes on a clothesline.  A recent cartoon showed a younger “green” person wanting to hang out the clothes.  Grandma showed her how.  The final square showed the younger person shocked at how time consuming it was.

Not necessarily! Let me offer a defense of hanging out your wash — with some 21st century spins I have discovered.  But first, a statistic I read some years ago: it started with the number of homeowners associations in California.  I don’t remember the number but let’s say 53,281. Then it told of the number of California homeowners associations that ban clotheslines: 53,281! The article went on to say that the recent brownout that had caused such disruption could have been entirely avoided, if only there had been no dryers in operation!

When I mention that I hang out my clothes, the first thing I hear is how much the person to whom I am speaking loves the smell of air-dried laundry. Usually, the second thing they say has something to do with scratchy towels.

In our region hanging clothes outdoors is a dry season activity.  But we have dryers for the rest of the year.  I have found that if you put the wet laundry in your dryer for 5 minutes and then hang it immediately, the towels, jeans etc. dry soft and the wrinkles are out of the shirts.

Here are some more tips:

  • Bring your clothes hangers with your laundry and hang shirts on hangers on the clothesline.
  • Pin together the seams of each leg of jeans  and the jeans dry straight, ready to be folded with a drawer crease.
  • Pin up pairs of socks next to each other as you pull them out of the laundry basket.  When dry, all you have to do is roll the cuffs together before you take out the clothespins and they are matched and ready to go in their drawers.
  • As you take down the wash, fill a basket with the things headed to the kitchen and dining room.
  • A different basket for his. And one for hers.  Putting the clothes away is done in a flash.

Sweet smell, soft clothes, no ironing  touch-up needed ,  everything  quickly away and, as far as we have been able to determine, a savings of at least a $10 on the power bill each month.

That should be enough to make you think about where to hang that clothesline.  But I need to add the Zen of it: the time spent out in our glorious summer.  Today when I took my laundry basket to the clothes line, two deer were eating  on the other side of a stone wall.  They continued to munch as I hung the clothes and before I was done one was companionably right by the clothesline.  If it isn’t the deer, it is the birds. Taking the wash down at the end of a day as the hush of nature adds peace to your basket wins hands down over the noisy gyrations of the dryer.

© 2009 Caroline Buchanan


The Ode to a Clothesline  was written last June, an immediate response from hanging out my wash.  I just had to say it!  And I sent it off to the paper with some photos.Ihd no idea what they might do with it.

I was quite surprised the following week to find I had been given a big spread in a special monthly section, Project Home. It was first published on June, 17, 2009 by Sound Publishing, Inc. and circulated with The Islands’ Sounder, The Islands Weekly, and The Journal of the San Juans.