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Cleaning Matters logo small July/August 2010


The Drying Dilemma

The pros and cons of line drying vs. machine drying

Concerns for the environment, with the accompanying movement toward energy conservation, have caused many people to reevaluate a host of activities, including the way we do laundry. As a result, the old-fashioned clothesline is having renewed popularity.

The arguments in favor of line drying are not quite as clear-cut as they seem, says Nancy Bock, Vice President of Consumer Education at the American Cleaning Institute. Line drying certainly means a reduction in energy consumption; but there are trade-offs. The increased use of cold- and warm-water wash cycles means that some bacteria may not be destroyed during the laundering process. This is of particular concern with items such as diapers, underwear and sheets and towels. Machine-drying will help reduce lingering bacteria; line drying won't.

Line drying is best when done on a warm, sunny day – which makes it a "weather permitting" practice. In addition, 60 million Americans live in approximately 300,000 community associations (mobile home parks, retirement communities, gated communities, condominiums, etc.). The majority of these restrict or ban the clothesline. Items can be line-dried indoors but, in order to avoid musty odors and mold, it must be done in an area where there is good air circulation.

Wrinkling – and the resultant need for ironing – is another concern. Using the wrinkle-free or permanent press setting and/or removing clothes immediately from the dryer cuts down significantly on the need for ironing. Line drying leaves some items stiff, wrinkled and in need of ironing – which negates some of the energy savings.

Here are some tips for getting maximum results from your dryer while minimizing energy consumption:

  • Avoid over-drying. Not only will this save energy, but it will also save wear and tear on your clothes. If available, use the moisture sensor option. This feature automatically shuts off the machine when clothes are dry.
  • Utilize retained heat. Drying two loads (or more) in a row will cut down on individual drying time.
  • Clean the lint filter after every load. It will improve air circulation and increase the efficiency of the dryer. If you use dryer sheets, scrub the filter at least once a month, to remove the film these sheets leave behind. An old toothbrush is a great scrubbing tool.
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