Numerous traditional customs have been left behind in a world of advanced technology and convenience. Among them is the practice of air drying laundry, where damp garments are hung outdoors or indoors to dry naturally. The rise of electric dryers has understandably led to a decline in the popularity of this age-old tradition.
Long gone are pegs and windy days
Nevertheless, a few individuals have embraced this time-honored method in the face of mounting environmental concerns and a quest for cost-effectiveness. Let’s face it – if it worked for Grandma, it surely should work for us. Let’s examine the advantages and disadvantages of air-drying laundry to ascertain if anyone still partakes in this practice.
Here are a few pros to air-drying your laundry
According to experts, air-drying laundry outdoors offers numerous other benefits besides the pleasant scent. Air-drying is a common practice for many people worldwide, indoors and outdoors, as highlighted by Elena Karpova, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro who specializes in textile and apparel sustainability. She personally relies on her dryer only in rare cases, considering it an emergency measure. Karpova emphasizes the importance of forming a habit of air-drying as a way to reap its advantages. By consciously adopting this practice, individuals can make a positive impact on both the environment and the longevity of their garments.
Environmental consciousness: Opting for air-drying is a more environmentally friendly approach. Electric dryers contribute to carbon emissions and consume a significant amount of energy. By embracing air-drying, individuals can actively participate in reducing their carbon footprint and promoting a greener planet.
Extended garment lifespan: Air-drying is gentler than electric dryers’ high heat. Exposing clothes to excessive heat can cause them to shrink, fade, or deteriorate quickly. Air-drying helps preserve the integrity of fabrics, extending the lifespan of clothing items and reducing the need for frequent replacements.
Economic savings: Air-drying laundry offers a significant advantage in terms of cost-effectiveness. Electric dryers consume substantial household energy, resulting in higher electricity bills. Individuals can reduce their energy consumption and save money over time by choosing to air-dry clothes.
Natural freshness: Air-drying allows clothes to benefit from natural airflow and exposure to sunlight. This natural process helps eliminate odors and infuses garments with a fresh scent. Achieving the same level of natural freshness with electric dryers and chemically-laden dryer sheets can be challenging.
Laundry could benefit from a little sun
According to experts, hanging laundry outdoors to dry takes advantage of natural air circulation and sunlight. In addition to the pleasant scent, exposure to the sun can have additional benefits for fabrics. Elena Karpova explains that sunlight can provide antimicrobial effects and contribute to the whitening of fabrics. These natural effects of sunlight further enhance the advantages of air-drying laundry outdoors.
While there are a handful of benefits, nothing is perfect. Here are some cons when air-drying your clothes outside.
Time-consuming: Air-drying is a more time-consuming method compared to using an electric dryer. Drying clothes naturally can take several hours or even days, depending on the weather and fabric type. This can be a drawback for individuals with busy schedules and limited time available for laundry tasks.
Stiffness and wrinkling: Air-drying may make clothes feel stiffer than the softness achieved with a dryer. Additionally, garments are more prone to wrinkling without the tumbling action of a dryer. Extra effort, such as ironing or using fabric softeners, may be required to remove wrinkles and restore the desired smoothness.
Space requirements: Sufficient space is necessary for air-drying laundry. Hanging clothes indoors may require drying racks, clotheslines, or dedicated areas, which can be challenging for individuals living in small apartments or lacking outdoor spaces. Limited space availability can discourage people from considering air-drying as a viable option for their laundry needs.
Weather dependency: Air-drying laundry is highly reliant on favorable weather conditions. Unpredictable weather patterns, rain, high humidity, or lack of sunlight can significantly prolong the drying time and make air-drying inconvenient. This can pose a challenge, especially for individuals living in regions with inconsistent weather.
Allergens: Experts caution that items left outside during air-drying can potentially accumulate allergens like pollen or attract insects. Elena Karpova suggests shaking the items before bringing them indoors to minimize these issues.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that certain municipalities and homeowners associations may have regulations or restrictions regarding the setup of clotheslines. These rules can vary, and individuals should familiarize themselves with such limitations before considering outdoor air-drying.
So what are you planning on doing now that you have the facts?
According to Joyner Martinez and other experts, it’s not necessary to air-dry all types of laundry. Instead, they suggest focusing on air-drying items that are washed frequently, such as workout clothing or underwear. Martinez personally air dries around half to three-quarters of a laundry load and uses the dryer for the remaining portion.
She explains that a smaller amount of clothing will dry more quickly, reducing overall drying time. This approach saves energy and reduces emissions and helps preserve the quality of fabrics by exposing them to less time in the dryer. By selectively air-drying certain items, individuals can still enjoy the benefits while maintaining convenience.
As sustainability and resource conservation remain important, exploring alternative methods like air-drying laundry or cloth napkins can contribute to a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Whether one fully embraces the traditional practice or not, understanding the pros and cons of air-drying laundry empowers individuals to make informed decisions that align with their values and priorities.
Keep Reading: Grandma’s Rules for Hanging Out the Laundry
- “Why should you air dry your laundry? Let’s count the ways..” Washington Post. Allyson Chiu. May 14, 2023.
- “Does Anyone Still Air Dry Their Laundry?” Southern Living. Emma Phelps. March 29, 2023.