One of the easiest things a homestead can do to save energy is put up a clothesline. Clothes that are dried on a line smell better and will have less chemicals in them because you will not have to use a dryer sheet (to see how to use even less chemicals in your laundry read my article on homemade laundry detergent). You can dry laundry outside almost year-round. As long as the temperature is not below freezing the laundry will (eventually) dry. Although, it might take a while to do so! Of course, you can also not dry laundry outside when it is raining.
Show me the Money: Clothesline Savings
I'm a numbers kind of person. So, how much money will you save by using a clothesline? I have an electric dryer that takes about 45 minutes to dry a load of laundry. My electric rate is $0.19/kwh. According to this calculator, that means it costs me $0.63 per load to dry my clothes.On average I clean six loads of laundry per week so my weekly cost is $3.78. My clothesline, pins, and bag cost $47.78 so I will recover that cost in just under 3 months and then I will be saving $16.38/month.
Time Spent Drying Your Clothes on a Line Take
There is always a trade-off! I find it very relaxing to hang laundry, but it does take longer than throwing it in a clothes dryer. I timed myself over the course of a week and I averaged 7 minutes a load to hang my laundry and 2 minutes to take it off the line. This comes out to an additional 9 minutes a load, or 54 minutes a week. This means I am “paying myself” $4.20/hour to hang my laundry. That is not a great wage, but there aren't too many jobs out there that I could do in 9 minute spurts.
What Type Of Clothesline do you Want
- A retractable clothesline has a post with a line that rolls out and attaches to a hook when you are using it and rolls back in when you are done. The pros to this type of clothesline is that it is out of the way when you are not using it. The cons are that you have to pull it out whenever you do need to use it and the constant in and out action will eventually make retracting it much harder, or even impossible. I have also found that the weight on the lines of this type of a clothes dryer can sometimes put strain on the ability for it to retract.
- An umbrella style clothesline has strings that form an umbrella shape. This is the type of clothesline that I chose. The pros are that it is always ready to go (some styles do fold down if you would like it to) and there is no retraction mechanism that can break. The cons are you have to have the space to have it constantly available.
- You can always go with a clothesline string! This is the cheapest option. It does require that you have a place and a way to attach it.
Other Laundry Supplies You Will Need
You will need clothespins if you are planning on drying your laundry outside. You can find all kinds of clothespins, but the cheapest and most reliable option is the wooden clothespins. Fifty wooden clothespins will run you about $4-$5 on Amazon. Plastic clothespins are more expensive and generally break easier. Plastic pins come in some great colors though so if that will make hanging the laundry more fun for you then go for it! A large load of laundry takes 75-100 pins (although I found a large load of diapers/wipes takes closer to 125-150).
I did find some clothespins at the dollar store! While I was pretty excited to double my pin stash, over half of them were broken just over a week later (and they continue to break). They work in a pinch, but
I also have a clothespin bag. This is not necessary, but I do find that it makes hanging the laundry faster.
Arizona Clothesline Specific Tips
My area of Arizona (Marana, just outside of Tucson) is very dusty. I bought an outdoor artificial turf rug and nailed it down under the clothesline. This allows me to set down my laundry basket and not worry about getting dust or dirt on the clothes. If the kids drop an item it doesn't have to be re-washed.
For the same reason, it is also a good idea to have the clothesline close to your house. Having it protected on one side will cut down on the dust.