Haul out that clothesline

You'll do a bit for the environment, save cash - and the wash will smell nice.

Posted: August 24, 2007

Rows of colorful clothing flapping in a sunny breeze are no longer an everyday sight. Yesteryear's practice of hanging out the wash fell victim to that true object of convenience, the clothes dryer, which did the job quickly, day or night, and in any kind of weather.

But as climate-change concerns and energy awareness grow, homeowners are getting reacquainted with the clothesline. Using free solar and wind energy instead of a dryer can prevent the emission of 1,500 pounds of greenhouse gases every year, some experts estimate, while saving a family of four up to $100 a year.

The benefits don't end there. Line-dried clothing lasts longer because it's not repeatedly banging around in a tumbler, and, for the same reason, there's no static cling. Fresh air naturally sweetens clothing, towels and sheets - no perfume necessary - and the sunshine gently bleaches and whitens.

If you're new to all this, check with your municipality or housing development about any restrictions on clotheslines. Some towns allow them only in back or side yards, and they sometimes are banned in townhouse and condo communities with covenants.

Where can you buy a clothesline, you may ask? At hardware stores and home centers and on the Internet (www.clotheslineshop.com, for example). The line itself costs less than $20, but the poles, posts and hardware that go with an outdoor set-up can run up to a couple of hundred dollars, depending on what you buy. Three basic types are available: the classic, a set of T-poles sunk into the ground with multiple lines strung between them; the space-saving umbrella type, reminiscent of a spider's web, that collapses and can be removed when not in use; and the retractable line or lines that, when pulled out, secure to a distant hook.

No matter how simple or elaborate you go with your clothesline arrangement, some simple rules apply:

Shake out clothing before hanging, to diminish wrinkles.

Hang heavy items at the ends of the line, where there's the most support.

Hang shirts and tops from the hem or tail, so clothespin marks don't show. Put no-press tops and shirts on hangers and then secure to the line with clothespins.

Fold sheets in half and be sure they have room to flop out in the breeze. Drape over the line with the pockets of fitted sheets on the inside, so they won't collect falling leaves and other debris.

Hang pants and jeans with the pockets pulled out.

Consider adding vinegar to the rinse water (half cup per load) to prevent stiffness. Vinegar removes soap residues that cause stiffness, and the odor disappears as the clothing dries, so you won't smell like a pickle.

Beyond energy savings, hanging your laundry out to dry has certain other advantages.

Sun and wind spell death to mold colonies, for instance, so use a clothesline to hang out musty items - like that damp bathing suit you found under your son's bed.

For things that can't go into the dryer - rubber-backed throw rugs, extra-large blankets, car mats - the clothesline is ideal.

And sun can bleach out those ghostly gray stains that sometimes haunt clothing after washing. Just remember that too much sunshine will fade colors over time.

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