19. July 2012 · Comments Off on Major Mom’s “Back to Basics” Campaign: 30 Days (Almost) Dryer-Free! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Scenes like this grace the countryside throughout Lancaster County, and it got me thinking about line-drying our own clothes.

Just before I left for vacation in June, we got a power bill and it was a doozie! The weather had been warm so the air conditioner had been running at full-tilt, but as I always do after a higher-than-normal electric bill, I start to look for where to trim the excess power consumption:

  • Close my garage door: I have a habit of leaving our garage door open.  The morning sun comes screaming in heating up the space.  This makes our garage fridge work harder.
  • Turn off extra lights.  MOST of our house uses CFL lightbulbs, but not all of them.  The bathrooms have many incandescent bulbs and we need to be better about turning them off.
  • Don’t use my big oven when I can use my toaster oven to do the same job.  If I’m just baking chicken breasts, I can pop them in our smaller toaster oven, which does the same job in a smaller space.

But the biggest — or at least a top 3 — culprit is probably our clothes dryer.  I saw a couple friends take part in a 30-Day Dryer Challenge earlier this year and at the time I thought to myself “No!  Never!”, but after (a) this past power bill and (b) driving through the back roads of Lancaster County on a laundry day, I began to mellow to the thought.

This website offers a lot of statistics and tips about home electricity use. Pay no attention to creepy Mr. Electricity on the left-hand side. I’m not sold on the clothes washer using more energy than the dryer — I rarely use hot water to wash. I have a “sanitary” cycle on my washer which raises the wash water to 200F to kill germs on linens. I only use it every second or third washing for our bedding. Otherwise, I wash with warm and cold water.

I didn’t formally commit to a 30-Day Challenge, but I did think I could change our clothes dryer habits.

When I was in West Virginia, my Dad took Dave and me to Costco and I found this awesome drying rack (which appears to not be for sale at Costco anymore).  It turns out this can hold a whole load of the kids’ laundry!

Dave and I got home on June 20th and I’ve only needed to use the dryer four times in the past 30 days.  And really it’s more like 37 days because we didn’t use the dryer while on vacation, of course.  And that was due to bad weather keeping me from hanging the clothes outside.

For the most part, it isn’t any more difficult to drape my clothing on those racks than it is to move it from my washer to my dryer. It’s probably an additional 5 minutes per load of laundry. In trying to simplify my life, I don’t mind this.

I can now fold the clothes as I take them off the drying racks and I can even pick the the clothes off the racks in the order I choose: pants, then shirts, then pajamas, then underclothing, then socks. (That’s the order I always fold our clothing, actually…largest to smallest items.)

The kids can help — they’ve only been home a few days, so I’ve yet to send them outside with a load, but if my sister can enlist her sons’ help with their clothesline, I think my kids will be inspired also.

My only complaint about this method is that the towels come in pretty stiff after hanging outside. I have to admit that the trip through the dryer, especially with one of those “Bounce” sheets, makes a far softer product. But no one else seems to mind…or at least they aren’t complaining to me vocally.

I don’t have enough features in my backyard to string up a clothesline, but one day I want one of those Amish-style ones that rises high over the lawn so the boys can still play…

I haven’t received the latest electric bill yet. It’s been very hot here so I am fearing that the cost savings from not using the dryer might get sucked into additional air conditioning costs. I’ll let you know!