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Sunday, April 15, 2007


I'm just starting to go back over some old posts and comments I wanted to address re: the global warming and climate change conversations that have been going on, but a more recent topic came up that's sort of distracted me. *L*

On one of the lists I'm one, the subject of clotheslines as a way to combat global warming came up. Co-incidentally, it came up on one of the news and editorial sites I regularly read.

A lot of it was quite nostalgic for me. Reading someone else's memories of doing laundry with Grandma, using the wringer washer and hanging the clothes on the line, reminded me of my own childhood. We used an old wringer washer too, and had no drier. We never found cats in the corners of our fitted sheets, though. *L* Love the image that brings to mind!

While many fond memories were brought up as I read these comments and articles, a tiny voice in my head pointed out that they were really quite romanticized. *L* Doing laundry the old way was a lot of work! The old wringer washers had to be manually filled and drained (though draining, at least, was a lot more convenient). They were also quite dangerous - especially those wringers. As a child, I loved putting the clothes through the wringers, but I also remember the danger warnings from my mother, and her hovering close by as I did it. Looking back through the eyes of a parent, I am wondering just how much I scared my mother with my fearless "helping!" LOL

We had a great set up for lines. My dad designed and built it, even to welding together the various metal posts and cross pieces. It was three lines actually, on pulleys. He'd built a platform we could stand on (and being the practical sort, the space underneath became a dog house). From there, we could load all three lines from the one spot, without having to lug the basket of laundry around the yard. For the most part, it was excellent.

There were, of course, exceptions. Winter was always a problem. We usually had to hang clothes in the basement (we did try hanging them outside at least once - the memory of my parents and older siblings bringing in the sheets and clothes, frozen stiff, is still funny). There wasn't much room in the basement, and they took forever to dry. I remember only too well the discomfort of having to wear damp clothes to school - especially while waiting for the bus! - all too well! *L* Today, my parents now have a modern washer, but they still hang their clothes to dry. They do have a drier. Where they got it from, I have no idea - it's quite ancient, and it's probably a good thing they don't use it!

Before we moved out here, we lived for about 3 years without a drier. For the first year, it worked out quite well. We had only the one line, strung between the house and a huge spruce tree in the back yard. About the only complaint is that ants, attracted to the sap on the tree, would end up on our clothes. When the weather was nice, clothes dried on the line much faster than in a machine. Sure, the towels felt a bit like sandpaper, and things tended to be quite stiff, but we got used to it.

Clothes pins turned out to be an unexpected problem. I didn't remember them being a problem when I was a kid. The wooden ones I'd originally bought began to weather and break apart fairly quickly. I discovered a few too many pieces the hard way - with the lawnmower! I then tried plastic ones. The first type I tried weren't all that strong and would fall apart when used on heavier or thicker items, like jeans. Most pieces to find with the lawnmower. Another type I'd found seemed to work well. They were very strong, and the wide design made them a lot more comfortable to use. I quickly discovered that the sun seemed to weaken the plastic, and they started snapping in my fingers as I was hanging clothes! I ended up going back to wooden ones.

We couldn't use the line in the winter. With how the snow accumulated in our back yard, we just didn't have access to most of it. That and we had to park our car close to the house, under the rest of the line, to plug it in. So we hung our clothes inside. We had a major advantage there. The house we lived in was quite huge, with one big open room that's larger than some houses. Along with a large folding drying rack, I was able to put up 2 lines in one corner and, since they weren't particularly long, a third line that ran the length of the room - about 30-34 feet. That one could be unhooked at one end to get it out of the way when it wasn't being used. We could hang three big loads in there! Pretty much all of it would dry over night, too.

It was the last two summers we were there that things became a problem. These were pretty miserable summers. The first wasn't as bad; I think we used the outside line perhaps half a dozen times. The rest of the time, we had to use the inside lines because of rain. The last summer we were there, however, was one of those summers that didn't happen. I used the outside line 3 times - maybe. It was a summer of near constant rains and flooding all over the province. Many people never got their gardens in that year. I had intended to put one in that summer, but when it still hadn't warmed up enough to plant by June, I gave up on the idea. A lot of farmers were never able to plant that year, either. The fishermen had a great season, though. ;-)

The problem with hanging the clothes inside in the summer, however, was humidity. In the winter, the house got extremely dry (dry enough that a panel in one of our old fashioned wooden doors suddenly cracked with a sound like a gunshot. I discovered the cause of the noise some time later, when I realized I could see sunlight through the door!). The drying laundry helped add a bit of humidity.

We had the opposite problem in the summer. The house was built before the invention of weeping tile. As soon as the ground thawed, water would start puddling in the basement. Some of the cleanest, coldest water I've ever seen, too. It meant our washing machine was raised up on a pallet, while our hot water tank, pressure pump and furnace were kept out of the water with bricks. I'd set up boards to walk on so I could get from the stairs to the washing machine without walking in water. Wood for the furnace had to be kept off the floor, too, and that summer, we needed to use it! The sump pump was sure kept busy.

Add in the unusual amount of rain we had, and the humidity was so high it took three days for clothes to dry with a dehumidifier running 24 hrs a day. Well, almost. Once the tank was full, it would automatically stop. Hopefully, I'd notice the lack of noise fairly quickly and empty it. Sometimes, though, the float hadn't gone into the tank properly when I put it back, and I'd walk in to discover water all over the floor. The tank held about a gallon, and had to be emptied at least once a day - and that was on days without laundry hanging. I remember having to empty that thing twice a day when the laundry was up.

One thing's for sure - we weren't saving any energy by not having a drier that year! *L*

Now, being in an apartment, we've got coin operated laundry and no space to hang things. We do have a large balcony, but it's not usable for something like that. Too many people above us think nothing of throwing lit cigarette butts, matches and other stuff off their balconies, and this stuff frequently blows into ours. It'd be handy to have the choice to hang clothes again. It would sure save us money! I have to admit, though, it's nice to have soft towels again.


  1. A lot of my clothes say "hang to dry" on the label, and I just hang them up in the closet and let them dry there. They dry the same day, overnight at the worst. It sure makes for a quick load of laundry.

    I've been bugging my hubby for a backyard clothesline for a long time, to hang up towels, sheets, sleeping bags, comforters, etc. I didn't realize that they might end up stiff!

  2. You have enough air circulation in your closet to do that? Wow. *L* I sometimes do that with certain shirts Dh has that alwyas come out somewhat damp from the drier. I'm not about to add more time (at 25 cents for an extra 8 minutes) to the drier for only 1 or 2 shirts, but I wouldn't be able to get away with hanging something that's actually wet.

    Terry cloth towels were always the roughest, though some shirt fabrics also got more rough than others. Jeans sure could get pretty stiff. Sheets and comforters wouldn't be much a problem, though. The materials they are usually made of do better. I don't know about sleeping bags, though - ours were dry clean only.


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