Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Crunchy air-dried patience

Here's a picture of laundry patience:  clothes hanging up in my family's garage.

The "patience" part isn't that air-drying clothes takes a long time -- that's not the part of of laundry maintenance I want to talk about.  No, the "patience" part of this story is that it took my family almost two decades to get to the point of air drying our clothes.

It's not entirely true that this is the first time we've consistently air-dried our laundry.   Back in 2009, when my husband was in Iraq for a whole year, I co-opted little N-son to be my laundry helper, and we hung every item from every load of laundry that year.  Between boycotting the dryer and unplugging the TV for a year, we cut our household electricity expenses from upwards of $50/month down to $25/month.  So I know whereof I speak when I say that the dryer sends our money up in smoke, or at least up in warm, humid air.

But my husband is the Lord of the Laundry, and he doesn't particularly like my Darwinian approach to cleaning clothes (Darwinian in the sense  that I figure only the fittest clothes deserve to survive the washing machine; if something shrinks or turns color there, it didn't earn its place in my closet anyway.)  So I've been excluded from the laundry area -- not only from the washer, but also the dryer.

My husband does air dry delicate clothes, including most of his bike outfits.  He owned a large wooden drying rack when we got married, and early on in our marriage, I bought him (at his request) a second giant rack.  So it's not lack of supplies or knowledge that has kept us from air drying.

No, it's the crunchiness factor.  My "don't drive them crazy" directive means I don't nag my husband to conserve both money and the environment by making the painfully obvious choice to air dry clothes, but somehow my subtle opinion has become apparent anyway.  (Right?).   It is possible I sort of tease him about his frivolous dryer habit, but if that is so, I get equal teasing back about the alternative, which is wearing clothes that feel like cardboard.  Given the choice between wearing the figurative hair shirt of crunchy clothes, on the one side, or stylin' those soft outfits, on the other side, my classy husband chooses style.  And since he's the Lord of the Laundry, what he says, goes.

So imagine my surprise when, early this summer, I saw the drying racks come out of the basement into the yard, and then I saw actual clothes on them.  And not even spandex clothes, but cotton clothes.  And then I saw towels on the racks, too!

What had gotten into my husband?  Not that I'm complaining, mind you -- no, not at all. But I didn't know what wonderful turn of events had caused my husband to decide to air dry clothes now, after two decades of dedicated dryer devotion.

I asked him about this cautiously, not wanting to frighten him back into the machine.  It turns out that part of the reason for this new frugal-venture is our old frugal-venture: we have no air conditioning.  He decided that running the dryer just made the house too hot.  And the basement is too humid to air-dry clothes, which is why he moved into the yard.  A bit more experimenting moved the laundry into the garage, where it's protected from rain (as well as from a neighborhood skunk), and where the temperatures are high enough to bake the clothes into dryness overnight.  In fact, he likes this so much that I set up a long rod (formerly, one of my neighbor's curtain rods, which I trash-picked on one of my morning runs) that he uses to hang shirts on plastic hangars.

After nearly a summer of air-drying clothes, what does my husband think of this?  Well, he's realized that nobody in the house "seems to mind cardboard shirts" (his observation).  He might switch back to the dryer once the temperatures drop a bit more, but I think he'll be more inclined to take the air-dry option than in the past.

So that's how I "convinced" my husband to adopt this frugal habit:  I waited 20 years.


  1. When I lived alone, I air-dried most or all of my clothes (saved so much on laundry quarters!). Now, we go about 50% since my husband owns a number of those wrinkle release clothes that really need to be dried.

    One great benefit to drying indoors in the winter is the added humidity. Definitely helps our apartment feel less dry. Plus, clothes dry overnight for sure and sometimes faster; I rarely need the speed of the dryer.

    In terms of the crunchiness, I honestly don't even notice. I shake my shirts once or twice before I fold them, and I think they're just as soft. Maybe it's because I don't dry in the sun but instead do so inside.

    1. My friend who moved here from Erie said that the wind off the lakes helped to keep the crunchiness away -- maybe that's sort of like your shaking the clothes. At any rate, I don't mind the momentary stiffness -- once the clothes are on my body, they feel the same as machine-dried clothes. (But frugal-er!)