Let’s hear it for the clothesline!

laundry line hanging clothes dry naturally

Question of the week:  Are clotheslines trashy or environmentally classy?

I’m on a “Right to Dry” mission, and I hope you’ll join me in making the backyard clothesline socially acceptable again.  Believe it or not, they’re against code in some neighborhoods and cities, but I think it’s high time to rethink the issue.

As my investments continue to erode and the Federal Government has gone amuck, I’ve decided to try a new approach to conserve energy and lower my monthly living expenses. I’m going to install a clothesline and retire my dryer. It’s on its last leg anyway and sounds like a train when it’s churning full-speed.

The dryer is one of our homes’ biggest energy hogs – worse than the even the refrigerator which runs 24-hours a day! Clothes washers and dryers collectively account for six percent of your annual energy bill, with the bulk of that amount coming from the dryer,” says the U.S. Department of Energy.

Each year, it consumes about 1,200 kilowatt hours of energy per household and emits 2,224 pounds of carbon dioxide.

You can figure you’re spending about a buck and a half per load.  Depending on how much laundry you do, you could hang the clothes on a line out back and finance a trip to the movies while they dry. My expense is worse than most because I use the dryer to do my ironing as well.  Just toss in a wrinkled shirt with a damp towel and in 20 minutes you’re ready to meet the Queen.

I’m going to be more responsible from now on – and for reasons other than just the energy savings. It’s about memories of a sweeter time, or so it seems from my 40-something vantage point. (Shut up now, I am TOO over 40- just not saying how much.)

There was a day in small town America when every home had a clothes line in the back yard.  You learned quickly to burn their exact locations on your brain or you would practically decapitate yourself sprinting through the neighbor’s yard during the nightly game of Hide and Seek.

I can still see my mother out back in her house dress  – women didn’t wear pants in those days – unless you were Lucille Ball.  She would hum a tune while hanging out our unmentionables for all the world to see. It never occurred for us to be embarrassed about it, because everyone was doing it.

I can still see my Daddy’s plaid golf pants dancing in the wind like Fred Astaire on speed.

My job was to retrieve the dry clothes and bring them inside.  I can still conjure up  the fresh smell of sun-dried towels. They were stiff as a board and could almost walk inside on their own,  but they smelled heavenly.  Now that I think about it, we didn’t have expensive exfoliating creams in those days – who needed it?  One swipe with one of those sandpaper-like towels, and your skin was smooth as a newborn’s.

You could drive out to the countryside on a balmy spring day and see residents hang their wet clothes right on the fence.  Those brightly colored wet clothes added a certain flair to the otherwise dreary landscape.

I’m drafting legislation to present to my senator to get the government to provide a tax write-off for everyone who installs a clothes line in their backyard. The clothespin industry will love me.  Do they still make clothespins?

On Saturday, I decided to test the waters.  I hung out my laundry on my privacy fence to dry – including the unmentionables – and took off to the movies. I was horrified when I got home to find my back door neighbor was having a huge cook-out. Oh gee.  Now I know why Monday was wash day – less likelihood the neighbors will be out sipping suds while your underwear flaps in the breeze.


Let’s retire the dryer! You can use it as a quiet place for a nap!

11 thoughts on “Let’s hear it for the clothesline!

  1. When we moved to our new house in Highland Park in 1955, I thought that we had the neatest, most modern clothesline anywhere! It was a five line retractable clothesline that we used until Daddy finally bought a dryer sometime in the 1960’s….

    Next time I’m home, I’ll go out back and see if it will still pull out….it hasn’t been used in forty years!

  2. Somehow I can’t see a clothesline in the back yard of your new home – obstructing that view of the river! Maybe you could put it in the front garden – wouldn’t that be a conversation starter for your new neighbors?!

    Yes, we had one of those that twirled around. Mother used to yell at me for swinging on it.

  3. Emily, I too remember the clothes line… I read that an iron uses an average of 1000 kilowatts of electricity an hour. I don’t know how much we pay for that, but I’m going to find out! It may be cheaper to iron in the dryer…. I hope.

  4. I thought Shirley Carley and I were the only people who still hang clothes on a clothes line to dry!

    Great column! I sent it on to my sisters and daughters.

  5. Well, now there are three of us! (When I get my line installed.) My neighbor’s fence is NOT a workable solution. I’m considering hanging them on the front porch on my porch rails – for the whole world to see!

  6. Salut!

    I remember the clothes line very well, but I can’t remember what we did about the birds? They usually create such a mess, so why don’t I remember that? Hmm, must’ve blocked it out.


  7. Great information about the power usage of gas and electric dryers. Even if you are an apartment dweller or live in a condo there are some great clothes drying racks out there that will let you air dry your laundry on a patio, porch or even inside your home.

  8. Didn’t catch what state that you’re in, but here in FL they have a rarely publicized energy conservation law. It basically states that residents of “any” community can choose energy efficient/conserving ways over using power (elec, gas, etc.) to sustain our environment and resources. I found this information while browsing on a gardening site. I’ve never seen it challenged anywhere by an HOA, etc., I’m sure it’s coming. The HOAs in South FL have been a little over zealous lately when neighbors have used alternative hardscapes and native plants in lieu of oceans of previous turf! LOL.

  9. I say lets bring’em back. The sun is free energy, and the clothes always smell so good. However, I don’t know how my wife feels about hanging the clothes out again.

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