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Remember the days when our mothers and grandmothers pinned up the laundry on the clothesline outside? Ours was a reel line that spanned the yard and went from the patio to the nearby wooden phone pole. I remember handing the clothespins to my mom, picking out the colorful plastic ones over the too-old-fashioned wood pegs (of course, today, I think that the wooden ones are way more charming!).

And then, with the switch-over to electric clothes dryers, air drying became a thing of the past, a blight on the urban landscape even. Until very recently, there was a definite stigma attached to outdoor clotheslines, as these became icons of impoverished neighborhoods, i.e. those that couldn’t afford the mechanical dryers.

But, all things old are new again. For different reasons now, we are going back to outdoor air drying:

•    It’s economical. Clothes dryers are among the top energy users in homes today
•    It’s green. Zero greenhouse emissions!
•    Less fabric wear and tear (think of all the residue you find in the lint trap)
•    There is no static cling (and no need for toxic dryer sheets)
•    And clothing smells natural, fresh, sunshin-y…

With all those benefits on the pocketbook and the environment, it’s hard to believe that there are still communities that ban outdoor drying of any kind (there’s even a movie, Drying for Freedom, which ridicules the subject).

If you have an overzealous HOA or watchdog-type neighbors that will put up a stink over outdoor clothes drying, you may might still be in luck with a transportable rack (see the last item below). Otherwise, here are some options that were not necessarily available in our grandmothers’ time:

Minky Rota Lift Outdoor Drying Rack: Made in the UK, the Minky rotary rack is planted in the ground (with a stake) and can hold many loads of heavy laundry at once. The dryer arms close like that of an umbrella and can be covered when not in use. Available at Lowes and Amazon (check for different sizes).
Retractable Clotheslines: Moerman (another European company) makes air dryers/clotheslines in every possible configuration, including these retractable clotheslines with 1, 2 or 5 lines. The line can immediately get out of sight when it’s not laundry day. Available online at Aubuchon Hardware.
Mrs Pegg’s Handyline: This product is perfect for the apartment dweller or those with postage stamp-sized backyards. It folds flat when not needed. Probably the best to use for those with pesky community vigilantes lurking around: you can get the evidence out of sight as soon as the job is done. Buy on the Mrs Pegg’s website or Amazon.

 

Don’t forget the clothepins!

And by the way, it’s not called a blight anymore. It’s called eco-chic. So there.

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Comment by Audreyvp on August 15, 2011 at 2:36pm
Hi Rachel, I live in a city that would frown on it also, but these portable ones are just great!  Plus I just hang my sheets over my deck railing and living in Southern California they are dried in 5 minutes!

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