Mind Like Water

Why you should air dry your clothes

Back when I was looking for some easy ways to cut down our electricity bill for our apartment in Ann Arbor, I decided to try hanging up our clothes instead of drying them in the dryer (there's a reason why you can't buy an energy-star certified dryer). It's not a huge money saver (I think I read somewhere it's about $.50/load).

I guess I'm not exactly a stranger to hanging up clothes-- my mom has done it for years, and that's how my madre dried my clothes when I lived in Spain. I actually really liked the feel of my clothes after they'd air dried in the hot Spanish sun— it reminded me of freshly starched linens at the restaurant where I worked as a kid.

My biggest concern with hanging up clothes was that it seemed like a lot of extra work in an already annoying process. I guess I just haven't really enjoying doing laundry in the past.

I ended up buying a fancy clothes hanger on Amazon that has a lot of horizontal space (those hangers that look like stacked X shapes aren't actually very good for air drying, because you're laying wet clothes on top of other wet clothes, so they don't air out as well. The more surface area open to the air, the better.

The funny thing was, once I started hanging up my clothes, I found I acutally enjoyed doing laundry. It was relaxing in a way; my old laundry habits essentially consisted in trying to get 5 or 6 loads of clothes through as fast as possible, since we were usually out of clean clothes and I wanted to delay the next big laundry job as long as possible.

When you air dry, you don't really have room for more than one load per day. Clothes (at least in my basement) take almost a full day to dry, so that means I can do a max of one load per day. What used to be a process of "get this over with as fast as possible" turned into a short, daily process that didn't really matter how long it took, because I could only do one load.

It also, in a way, saves me an extra step: sorting clothes. Since everything's laid out on the hangar, I can easy just grab my own laundry, or my wife's, and throw it into a separate hamper to take
upstairs. No more dumping a big hamper on the ground and sorting through it!

Some tips:

You'll have to find a good place in your house for air drying. In the winter, my basement was perfect: not too cold, steps from the washer,
and, most importantly: right next to our gas heater which gives off
enough heat to dry even a 100% cotton sweatshirt or jeans in 24 hours. I haven't done this in the summer yet, but I suspect it might be better to lug the wet clothes upstairs and hang them up in our bedroom in front of the window. The basement will probably be too damp and cool, and since we're not running the heater, I won't have any source of heat for the
hard-to-dry stuff.

Speaking of hard to dry stuff, hang those closest to your heat source (ideally, the sun) and the easy-to-try stuff that wicks really well, hang farthest away (sports clothes, camping clothes, etc. are usually really good at wicking moisture, so they dry fast).

Sheets can be awkward to hang up (they don't fit on my regular hanger so I had to string up a line in the rafters of the basement) and take longer to dry. If you can't get those out in the hot sun, you might want to throw those in your dryer. Sometimes frugality isn't as important as having fresh, dry sheets!