Thursday, 6 November 2014

5 Things To Consider Before Giving Up Your Dryer

An early attempt after a few days.
Well it’s been about a month since we bought our folding drying rack and swore off using our electric dryer. It was pretty touch and go at the start, but because of the great tips and success stories that I read in the comments section, I kept with it.

We’re no where near experts yet, but I thought I’d share what we've learned so far about hanging your clothes to dry. Hopefully I can prevent a few newbie mistakes and give the veterans a little chuckle.


1. October Is Not An Easy Month To Stop Using Your Dryer


In the summer you can put your clothes to dry outside in the warm breezes. In the winter your furnace keeps the air in your home circulating and dry. In October, well you’re going to have to work a little harder to dry your clothes.

I seemed to have picked the perfect time to get the biggest challenge. The weather conspired against me to create the perfect conditions for poor air flow and circulation.

We had rain for 5 days that first week. So, I had written off any possibility of hanging the clothes outside to dry.

There were only 4 days in our first month where the temperature was warm enough for us to open the windows. But, it was warm enough that the furnace rarely came on. So the house stayed pretty shut up and stale.

Add in the poor circulation on the second floor of our house and the bathroom without a shower fan next to our bedroom with the drying rack and you can imagine that why things were taking three or four days to dry.

Our carpet was getting wet. Everything was getting wet. We slept on damp pillows. It wasn't great.

But then one day we opened the windows and the clothes started to actually get dry. Then one day it stopped raining and we put the clothes outside and we shaved days off our drying time.

One day we were drying out clothes outside, but it started to rain. So we brought the rack inside and put it over an air vent in front our sliding doors. It got sun and airflow, so it worked well there too!

Lesson: pay attention to your weather forecast and avoid doing laundry on rainy, damp days. Dry your clothes outside when possible. Open windows when drying clothes inside or put your drying rack over a floor vent.


2. A Drying Rack Won’t Dry ALL of your Clothes At Once Very Well


When we took our first load out of the wash, we noticed that there was a forgotten load of laundry in the dryer already. The clothes were mostly dry, so we decided to throw both loads onto the drying rack. Every article of clothing from two loads of laundry went on the drying rack.

Every rung had something on it. Sometimes the clothes were scrunched up to hang more than one thing on a rung. Sweaters were laid over top. Our small item hanger dangled from the bottom with the socks touching the carpet. The drying rack was FULL.

A couple days later and you couldn't tell which clothes had started wet and which had started almost dry. We ended up putting away the less damp clothes and hoping the rest would stop being wet soon.

I had the idea that a second drying rack would help, but I didn't want to spend any more money on a project that appeared to be failing. So we looked around and found some wonderful multi purpose drying racks:
  • The shower curtain rod: great for hanging our small item hanger, lighter things on hangers, socks, and a sheet.
  • Our closet rod: great for finishing drying collars on shirts and for holding clothes when someone is using the shower.
  • The Laundry Basket: the rim of the bin is great for laying out little toddler socks and odds and ends.
  • Our plastic outdoor chairs: great for holding thicker things that dry slower when the good spots are taken on the drying rack. Bonus that the back was built for aeration.
  • The Barbecue: a surprisingly quick sweater dryer.
Moving items off the main drying rack has meant that we've spread around the moisture inside and that we can play around with different strategies for loading the drying rack.

Our current set up on the main drying rack is dress shirts on hangers on one end, pants on the other, shirts in the middle and toddler clothes and under things down below. Socks hang along the edge. I'm expecting us to try quite a few strategies out before picking our favourite.

We check on things often to try to speed up the drying process. We turn the rack to make best use of the breeze (and pick up anything that’s been blown away). We take dry items off right away and rearrange what’s left. We also flip clothes to get them to dry evenly.

I feel like we’re making do with what we have now, but I do have a few things that I think would make the process a little quicker.
  • We fold clothes over the rungs on our drying rack and the folded over part is the last to dry. I’d like to get some clothespins that would work on the drying rack so things could hang without being folded.
  • We can hang our dress shirts on our rack now but they take up a lot of real estate. So, I’d like a drying rack made for clothes on hangers .
  • Our rack is really awkward to squeeze through our sliding doors to get outside. So an umbrella clothesline that stays outside would be great.

Lesson: spread your clothes around to make sure each one can take advantage of whatever airflow you have. Put away clothes when they’re dry to give more space to the still wet clothes and flip clothes to get them to dry evenly.


3. You May Fall Out of Love with Some of your Favourite Pieces


Looking back it seems like that first load of laundry that we line dried was all sweaters, jeans, and ruched cotton tops and took forever to dry.

There were some early stand outs though. A pair of fleece pajama pants and a sweater pullover that turned out to be 100% polyester. They practically came out of the wash dry!

I once wanted to start a cloth diaper company. So, I've learned that natural fabrics absorb water and take longer to dry than synthetics that just trap water. How I didn't apply this knowledge to clothing? Who knows.

A month into our experiment and I've noticed that we've starting to change how we dress because now that we don’t just throw everything into the dryer.

I've been wearing more of my thin tee shirts under a hoodie or cardigans that can go between washes longer. If I have a choice, I reach for the poly blends instead of the 100% cotton options.

I've also noticed that My Mr. has cut back on the number of times he wears a sweater over his dress shirt at work. He’s also been skipping the after work jeans and going straight to PJs.

Lesson: you can save a lot of drying time by picking clothes made of thin fast drying materials.


4. Your Laundry Habits Will Change


The drying rack near the sliding doors and floor vent.
It didn't take us very long into the experiment before we started to run out of clothes.

Here’s why:

We could generally get away with doing our laundry once a week. So, we only needed 8 outfits. One for each day of the week, plus one for laundry day.

After we stopped using our dryer and needed three or four days to dry each load of laundry we needed at least 12 outfits instead of 8.

Four laundry day outfits while our clothes are drying.  Four outfits to make it through our whites drying.  Four more outfits for the next clothes laundry day.

It seems like the first thing we run out of are socks. We usually get socks as gifts for Christmas, especially fancy socks for him. Throughout the year we've been throwing away pairs with holes (No, I don’t darn our socks.) I know it’s time for laundry when I start wearing his socks because in a couple of days both of us will have to go barefoot!

To get to the next laundry day as we're learning to speed up drying our clothes, we've been more conscious to make sure clothes we wear once and that aren't dirty don’t end up in the laundry pile.

Lesson: it can take a while for clothes to dry, so give yourself some extra buffer days to get your laundry done to avoid running out of clothes. You may need a few more essentials to make it through a longer laundry cycle.


5. Your Spouse May Not Be As Excited About Your Laundry Experiments


I’ll let you in on a secret. We've used our dryer twice since we said we’d unplug it. Okay, I'm glad I got that off my chest.

The first time we used the dryer was for a full load when I was out of town visiting a new mom. The second time was for a pair of work pants in the morning while I was still asleep.

I can’t really blame my better half. I could immediately see his side of things. He can’t go to work naked and the laundry wasn't getting done fast enough. I'm not sure I would have done any different.

But he wasn't seeing my side. So after the second indiscretion, we had a little talk.

Sometimes we fantasize about moving to a European city. We think that our home would be smaller, we would consume less, we would conserve more, we wouldn't need a car and our washer / dryer combination would be in our kitchen. I don’t know laundry plays a role in my fantasy lifestyle, but there it is.

He realized that I was trying to bring a little of our dream life into our real life. Surely our idealized selves in Sweden would never use an electric dryer! Now he’s completely on board.

Actually, we probably owe our successes so far to him. He’s the one that starts a load early in the morning during off-peak electricity time. He’s the one who put the sheets in the wash when I was stalling because I didn't know how we’d manage. He’s the one that discovered you can still dry clothes outside even if it’s cold outside.

Now that we’re working together the laundry is moving along much faster and we’re only getting dangerously low on clothes rather than having nothing left to wear. We still have a ways to go.

Lesson: ask for help if you need it, things are a lot easier when you’re both on the same side.


Conclusion


When we first started this no-dryer experiment I was expecting it to be an easy ride. I wasn't prepared for clothes to stay wet for four days. We've learned from our early mistakes and today I am proud to say that we've dried two loads of clothes in 48 hours! I wasn't expecting to be drying out laundry outside in November, but it’s turned out to be the best option until our furnace is running more over the winter.


What About You?


Do you have any suggestions to improve our system?

Do you dry your laundry outside during the winter?

What’s holding you back from ditching your dryer?



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