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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ditching the Tumble Dryer

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin and Little Green Cheese

I have a confession to make.  We had an electric tumble dryer!  It used to use to be rated at 1800 watts on the warm setting and 2200 watts on the hot setting.  Such a guzzler of electricity, and it was the cause of some very high winter electricity bills.

The good news is that it broke over a year ago when the element burnt out, and I only took it off the wall a few weeks ago and took it to the metal recyclers.

The even better news is that we did not replace it with another electric clothes dryer, even though our clothes drying needs have not changed.  We still need to dry clothes when it is raining, or cold in winter, or humid in summer.

The best news of all is that we have learnt a few tricks and tips that we can now share with you, now that we have managed to go dryer free for over a year.  Here they are.
  1. Don't replace the broken dryer.  Billions of people on the planet survive without this energy wasting device.  You will save a stack of money by avoiding the purchase, have lower electricity bills, and a much lower carbon footprint.  Even if you use GreenPower, you are still saving loads of money.
  2. Look for a good airer/clothes rack/horse that holds at least one load of washing.  We bought two for those big washing days.
  3. Use solar passive in winter to dry your clothes indoors.  We put the airers into the front room which we close off and it gets nice and toasty in there.  It drys the clothes in a day or so and you don't have to brave the elements to hang them out. 
  4. If you use a heater of some sort in the winter evenings, then place the clothes airer a safe distance away from the heat source.  Your clothes will be dry by morning.
  5. Plan ahead.  If you know the kids need their school uniforms for Monday, then do a quick load on eco-mode (don't forget the soap nuts) and load up the airer on Friday night.  They will be dry by Sunday.
  6. String up some cord beneath an under cover outdoors area, preferably one that gets a good breeze.  Your laundry will be dry in a day, even when it is wet outside.   If it is sunny, then use the hills hoist if you have one.
  7. Install a retractable clothes line in your laundry using the space that used to be taken up by the dryer!
  8. Celebrate your successful transition from clothes dryer addict to green, clean, laundry machine.
Here are some pictures of our laundry drying techniques.  Simple yet effective.
    Clothes Airer
    Undercover clothes line

    Retractable indoor clothes line (in)

    Retractable indoor clothes line (out)
    I give most of the credit to my wife Kim, who could have just told me to go and buy a new one when our old dryer broke, but it was her idea to try life without the electric dryer, so I did not suggest otherwise.  Well done to her for going against the grain of the normal societal trend.

    Dry clothes the natural way is the only way to go.  Our electricity bill has never been so low in winter, and our clothes last longer and don't have that static cling you get from using a dryer.

    Have any of you ditched the dryer and switched to indoor or outdoor methods?


    Dani said...

    Gavin - we ditched our tumble drier 2 1/2 years ago. We ONLY line dry, and if it's raining, and I HAVE to do a load of washing, then I hang it in my laundry - under the cupboards. We have a small fridge and a chest freezer in that small room - the heat of the two motors dries the clothing within 24 hours - perhaps 36 hours for jeans and thick jerseys. (To see what I'm talking about please go to and look at the first photo on that page.)

    But, couldn't agree more - if everyone with an outside area 50% of the world's inhabitants used outside clothes line, imagine how much grid power would be saved ;)

    Yart said...

    It has been almost 12 years since I used a dryer. When we bought the house we had an electric dryer but no plug... There was a gas line though. So instead of spending money on a new dryer or an electric line to be run I have been hanging the clothes either outside in good weather or in the basement in the winter.

    Frugal Living UK said...

    No dryer here either and never even think about it, would not consider buying one as I happily have dried clothes without this power and money guzzler for years. Lots of people use them when it is not even necessary. I have even heard of a woman who said that she dried her clothes in the dryer even on a boiling hot day, because it was 'common to hang the clothes out'. Some people never cease to amaze.

    LindaG said...

    Our retirement property does not have a dryer. I hang the wash on the front porch (!) putting up and taking down the clothes line each trip. (We currently live in another state and must travel a couple times a year to mow.)

    If I get started early enough, everything pretty much dries in a day, unless it rains.
    I told him I would like a clothes line in the back yard when we get moved. I don't think we'll have a dryer once we move.

    But I have to ask, what the heck is a hills hoist?

    Hopewell said...

    We went more than two years without one. I have one now (it came with the house) but I always dry heavy stuff outdoors on the porch railing or over the washer/drier in the house. I admit it's pure convenience to use it--and it DOES cost!

    CallieK said...

    We line dry all our laundry year round- outside in the spring, summer and autumn and we have an inside line in the sunporch and a drying rack that moves around for winter and rainy days. We still have an apt sized dryer but it's probably been used less than 5 times in the last four years.

    Jyotsna said...

    We never bought a new dryer when we moved into our house. I've thought about it, as a back up because we have two wet season's a year, but so far we haven't.

    I try not to wash clothing a frequently and plan to wash it on a day where it will dry fast. I'm a mom to three kids, and so far that works for us. I do miss drying towels in a dryer, but we have learned to fluff or shake out the towels. It helps a bit.


    kymber said...

    we have been living at our little cottage now for almost 11 months without a WASHER nor a DRYER! we do all of our clothes by hand and in the yard.

    however, we plan on getting a washer in the next month or so - a second hand one. and we will use it only during the winter months. and hang the clothes to dry on the clothesline.

    and during spring, summer and fall we will continue to hand wash and line dry the clothes - we actually like doing the laundry by hand!

    (p.s. - once we have enough "fancy/town" clothes that are dirty - we plan to go into town and use the laundromat. but we wear our fancy/town clothes 2 or 3 times so we really don't have a load for the laundromat yet!)

    Ros said...

    Hi Gavin Our last dryer broke down quite a few years ago and we never replaced it. You really do get use to not having a dryer. It just takes a little bit of re-organization when it comes to laundry. Ros

    Lauren S said...

    We use the one in our rental house only for towels - I hate crunchy towels! I dry everything else on an expandable rack I set in the bathtub, since we don't have a clothesline.

    Marijke and Sander said...

    Only when we were living in the tiniest little apartment did we use a dryer, but even then did I try to dry as much clothes as we could hanging them over the railing of the balcony. But do you know that the building co-op quite often has rules that doesn’t allow it? It would make the building look messy!

    Now my husband and I have to fight over the shed on rainy days. His handy-man projects VS clothes I want to dry there...
    But I prefer drying them outside, I put some (AU) native mint bushes around the lines so the towels and sheets get scented when they flap against it. This would also work with rosemary or lavender. Drying outside in the sun also means many stains get bleached out by the sun, the whites look much better to. Dark fancy clothes I hang in the shade or shed, so they keep their colour for longer.

    Lotte said...

    Great post, Gavin!

    In the lead up to the birth of our first child, 3.5 years ago, we bought a dryer, thinking we would need it desperately once she was born.

    I'm pleased to say that it has only been used a handful of times. I do still like to have it, though, as being Brisbane, when it rains, it's humid, disgusting rain and trying to dry stuff indoors results in mildew everywhere (this has been a huge problem for us). During the floods in January, I only used the drier once... and that was because we were all down to our last undies!

    I much prefer the feel of line dried clothes. Even if nappies can be a little 'crisp' to put on the baby, they soften up within 15 minutes of being on their little soft bottoms :-)

    Tania said...

    We got rid of our energy sucking dryer about 5 years ago and haven't looked back. I thought it was just so wasteful. We've managed with outdoor drying and indoor drying on clothes horses, chairs etc with 5 in the family and cloth nappies also.

    Sue xx said...

    I'm feeling a little smug(gish) as I haven't used the dryer once this fact at 6 years old it is still nearly new. In previous years I may have used 3-4 times per winter and then only to finish drying slightly damp items that have been on the patio all day.

    The Younger Rachael said...

    I've been line drying over the past few weeks -- trying to develop a new habit. But it was so wet this morning, the days are cool, and I had 4 or 5 loads to do, so I used the dryer. I'm working on it though!

    Liz said...

    We didn't replace our dryer when it died a year ago - and we made it through a Tasmanian winter doing laundry for seven of us without it. We have lines strung up in the big mudroom and in our wood shed so we can dry even the biggest sheets and towels under cover, and when they are full or if we need something quickly, we use racks inside near the fire. In fact, because it rains so often here, we've largely given up on the Hills Hoist because it doesn't matter if we forget to bring the dry washing in at night time, we know it will still be dry the next morning.

    On a few occasions when the amount of laundry overwhelmed us, we took a big load down to the laundromat and dried it there - so it's useful to still have the option, but because it's such a hassle (and an upfront expense), we treat it as a last resort rather than a convenience.

    Anonymous said...

    In the greening of our home, the tumble drier was the first 'must have' appliance to be ditched. It sits in the garage near new having only been used half a dozen times over the last 10 years. The Hills hoist in the backyard is my 'must have'. Not a pretty sight and far from being an enviable backyard accessory, it does a stirling job. It dries, sanitises, deodorises and freshens for free. in winter, partly dried clothes are hung in the garage or brought in to dry off in front of the fire. Sometimes there is barely room to move in the lounge for all the drying hoists laden with clothes. But we manage. On my wish list is a drying room or airing cupboard like you find in ski lodges, or a north facing sun room that traps the winter sun and dries the clothes. Wouldn't that be great. More useful than a 'media' room or 'parent retreat' in our modern day homes.

    Karmyn R said...

    I'd love to say I could get rid of my dryer -

    but with a family of 5 and living where it rains 8 out of 12 months, I just can't do it. (I line dry as much as I can in the summer months and just figure that will have to do)

    Anonymous said...

    humid, muggy SE US and family of five, clothes go musty and mildewed almost overnight if they aren't dry, maybe if we move to another state!

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    Pat aka Posh said...

    I haven't got rid of my electric dryer but I very seldom use it.. I grew up before they were invented so hanging clothes outside and inside was a way of life.. besides I don't even like the feel or smell of clothes dried in one. I have an American version of a Hills hoist in my backyard and when the weather is wet or cold I have ceiling mounded re-bars in my huge sewing room and I hang the clothes on hangers and hang them from the ceiling bars.. they dry over night.

    Anonymous said...

    we line dry 90+% of the time... and lived without a tumble drier until just recently... but with babies and small children, having the option of tumble drying is a godsend... especially when they're all vomiting- or toilet training etc and it's raining and you really HAVE to get stuff dry... i think there are periods in your life (when you have small children)where you just have to do the best you can and accept thst you're not going to be an environmentally friendly as you were in the past but there will be a time when you can be again in the future...

    Anonymous said...

    I lived without a heating element in my dryer for over 2 years. It actually doesn't take much more effort.

    I would air fluff the clothes for about 30 minutes and then hang them on their clothes hangers inside my home ( my home owners association doesn't allow clotheslines).

    I would hang them from my curtain rods or treadmill.

    Unfortunately I didn't have enough hangers or space to hang items to do more than 3 loads a day.

    One thing I loved was my whites that were line dried were neat as if they had been pressed.

    Sherri said...

    We ditched the washer and dryer for a few years, and found a decent little coin laundry around the corner we loved. I would save up quarters through the week or three, and then we were also make sure to rewear clothes that were not dirty, that sort of thing. In the end, I found that doing 8 to 10 loads at the coin place was fun, enjoyable and quick! In less than 2 hours we would have 3 weeks of washing done. And my daughters and I would always grab a lunch and talk, and visit, so it was sooooo wonderful.

    Now with our little farm and a lot dirtier clothing, we got a gift washer from a friend, but have no dryer. We line dry when it's nice out, and have an indoor rack for a load now and then if the weather is not too cooperative. And for the dead of winter, we just wash, load in a couple totes and head to the coin laundry for an hour of drying and folding, and of course a soda and some chat time!

    Don't need one of those nasty expensive dryers at all!!!!