Sustainable Living: Should You Hang-Dry Your Clothes Instead of Using Your Dryer?

In our Sustainable Apartment Life series, we look at how tenants and homeowners are changing their apartments to be more sustainable.

Sustainable Living: Should You Hang-Dry Your Clothes Instead of Using Your Dryer

If you want to be environmentally friendly and take steps to adopt an energy-efficient lifestyle, hang-drying your clothes could be an excellent way to start. But is doing so right for you, or will sticking to the traditional dryer prove better for you in your first apartment? Read on to decide.

What you should buy to start hang-drying

In most households, dryers are one of the most energy-consuming appliances. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that electronics, cooking appliances, and streaming devices, along with dryers, account for 21 percent of home energy. If you have a dryer but decide to hang dry your clothes, your electric bill will be considerably lower. Plus, a portable drying rack isn’t expensive, and if you choose to line-dry your clothes outside, clothespins are very affordable. Additionally, the sun’s ultraviolet rays can disinfect water and damp laundry.

What kinds of clothes/linens you can line dry

It’s best to check your clothes’ labels for their care instructions, but some clothing materials will always last longer when you hang them to dry instead of using a dryer. Polyester or spandex, for example, can start to stretch and deteriorate when dried on high-heat settings. Denim can also wear down faster or possibly shrink in dryers, plus most denim clothes come with instructions that encourage inside-out hang-drying. Wool and other delicates should also be laid out or hung to dry. 

Towels, sheets, and cloth napkins are all safe to dry on the clothesline or clothes rack. These items, though, tend to be dryer-safe if you don’t feel like hang-drying them. In general, you can hang-dry any fabric or clothing item, but there are some items you should never put in a drier.

Why you should hang dry

Line-drying laundry helps to protect the environment by cutting back on fossil fuel use. Air-drying clothes instead can reduce the average household’s carbon footprint by about 2,400 pounds per year.

Hang-drying also eliminates the risk of house fires. According to a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) report, dryer vents can become clogged with lint, causing about 3,000 house fires every year among the 89 million clothes dryers in the United States.

What if I don’t have a washer or dryer?

If you don’t have a washer or dryer, you most likely go to the laundromat. Using a washer and dryer at a laundromat may be more convenient and less time-consuming than hang-drying your washed clothes at home. Additionally, dryers can make your clothes softer, but they can weaken some fibers faster than does air-drying. It may take longer to hang dry your clothes, but you don’t have to immediately fold hang-dried clothes to prevent wrinkles, unlike with dryer use. If you air-dry your laundry on a hanging rack or clothesline, you can come back to fold your clothes at your convenience.

Decreasing your dryer usage or completely switching to hang-drying your clothes has environmental, financial, and safety benefits. If you like to use your dryer, you can prolong your dryer’s efficiency by line-drying some, but not all, of your clothes. In doing so, you’re still being eco-friendlier than if you were just using your drier – even small changes can be more sustainable.

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