Drying clothes outside

Last updated Wednesday 30 April 2008

The wind of change could dry our washing

For the first time in 50 years, Brits are spurning tumble dryers in favour of old-fashioned line-drying: washing lines and wooden clothes pegs are flying off supermarket shelves.

Tumble dryers are the most energy intensive household applainces - nearly two thirds more than washing machines - and create 310kg of CO2 a year each on average. Drying clothes on a washing line creates no emissions and saves about 70 a year in fuel bills. Plus, drying your clothes in the fresh air doesn't risk shrinking them and shortening their lifespan.

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Photo: Drying clothes outside

Saves about 310kg of CO2 a year

1989 Bloomers are doing this

CO2 reduction 2 out of 5

Cheapness 4 out of 5

Popularity 5 out of 5

Cost Saves 70 a year

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How will it make a difference?

Pub Fact

  • Drying wet clothes around the house during a hot summer will actually cool the house down
  • Britain's dryers use 1.1 million pounds worth of electricity every day - enough energy to power 2,650 homes for a year
  • 35% of people who have tumble dryers use them all year round - regardless of whether it's sunny outside
  • Using a tumble dryer takes more energy than any other household appliance - two thirds more than washing machines

Britain's tumble dryers use more than 1.1m of electricity every day - enough energy to power 2,650 homes for a year (if they didn't have tumble dryers, that is). And the 310kg of CO2 emissions you avoid is about the same saving you get from draught-proofing your home. If you don't use a tumble dryer you will save around 70 a year on running costs.

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What's the debate?

Many modern appliances are being improved to be less harmful to the environment, and get 'A++' efficiency ratings. Although some dryers can achieve an 'A' rating, most still only achieve a 'C'.

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What's stopping me?

"The lousy British weather!"

Outdoor drying is weather dependent, true, and tumble dryers are a more reliable answer. But 35% of people who have tumble dryers use them all year round - regardless of whether it's sunny outside.

If you can't resist a quick tumble, you could think about buying a condensing dryer, or a gas-powered dryer with a heat pump, which saves energy by recycling heat.

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How do I do it?

You probably don't need to be told how to hang out washing - but:

  • If you don't have a garden for a washing line, try a clothes horse or a wooden rack on a pulley
  • Drying clothes on radiators is not recommended: it stops the heating working so well and encourages condensation, which can lead to mould growth. Dry them on a clothes horse in the bathroom, with the window slightly open for ventilation
  • If you have an airing cupboard, pin up a mini-line in there for quick-drying a few of your 'smalls'

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Baz, Shrewsbury 2009-02-05

Dear Bloomers,
It's great to see that the tumble dryer is taking a hit! But reading your postings a few issues arise.
If you dry clothes indoors, on an airer or on the radiators, you are pushing a lot of moisture into the air. This makes the air and house harder to heat (see anonomous cold house) and it will create condensation behind cupboards in corners and on windows. If you must do this, invest in a dehumidifier, it will pay for itself quickly and improve your living environment.
You could use a condensing tumble dryer, these return the heat to the room as dry heat and this contributes to the home heating.
My wife prefers to use the clothes line in the summer (Ah, remember the summer?) and when they are dry, put them on a cool tumble to fluff them up, but we still use the condensing dryer in the winter.

Hungerford89, Flintshire 2009-01-21

We try to whenever possible - but we also have a tumble dryer for wet days.
Advice: Use an outdoor line whenever the forecast is dry, especially when there's a bit of a breeze and a touch of sun. Provided you don't need the stuff ASAP, line drying is good even on dull days.

Anonymous, London 2009-01-21

We dry our clothes on the bathroom, room, and living room and we only do the laundry on low temperatures.
Although I have to say that our clothes go straight to the radiators, they never cover the top radiator because they are hung.

maria, staffs 2009-01-15

I did get rid of tumble dryer because of all the above reasons but sadly finding this is one essential. We can't do without as we have 7 kids and can't move for wet washing so we will have to get another as it's creating so much extra work. Any suggestions on the most green sort to buy?

Anonymous, London 2009-01-15

Ok, I admit it, I don't even HAVE a dryer in the new flat :-) Sometimes I miss it, the towels are not fluffy anymore, but that's about it.

The trick is: Making washing your routine. I get up and while I'm on my way to the kitchen prepare the load for the day (you can also prepare it the night before and just turn the washing machine on in the morning). When coming home from work, I hang it up. A no brainer.

By doing so, I am not behind with my laundry and therefore the clothes have enough time to dry on their own.

Anthony, Bristol 2009-01-13

I have to use a tumble dryer sometimes but would like to know when it is worth using the outdoor line. What humidity level would start to dry clothes?

Una, Liverpool 2009-01-13

Hi.I have just found your site and what a good one. Looking at the related links, referring to BBC News, record attempt fails in 2006, I think with my invention the Linehanger, this record, if attempted again would stand as a U.K. record for some time.

Anonymous 2009-01-07

Clothes smell very fresh on windy days. We have a drying rack in the kitchen, and in Winter, clothes that don't fit the drying rack dry quickly on radiators even when the thermostat is set at 16 degrees, and well enough on clothes horses.

Anonymous 2008-12-27

We're only a small family of three, so I've never seen the use of having a dryer. It takes a bit longer for the washing to dry in winter (as we have a very cold house) but we don't mind!

Anonymous 2008-11-13

I've never had a tumble dryer and have always preferred line dried clothes. I've now bought a pulley drying rack which gets the washing out of the way in the bathroom so much better than the traditional clothes horse - takes up no space at all Should be a no brainer.

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Glossary terms used on this page
CO2, or carbon dioxide, is made up of the elements carbon and oxygen. It exists quite naturally in our atmosphere, as part of the carbon cycle. Everyday processes in the plant and animal world both add CO2 to the atmosphere and take it out. However, because it is a greenhouse gas - meaning it affects the temperature of the earth - the exact level of CO2 is important. Burning fossil fuels releases CO2 into the atmosphere, hence the anxiety that extensive use of these fuels is causing climate change.
Efficiency ratings
All white goods and other household appliances sold in the UK are now required by law to carry a rating indicating their energy efficiency. Goods are graded A to G, with A the most efficient. Information on the EU-wide labelling scheme is available from the government's environment department, Defra.
Emissions are the CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) produced by energy use, usually calculated and stated as an annual tally: also referred to as your carbon footprint. Your personal emissions can be direct - such as the gas you personally use to heat your home or the petrol you burn to power your car - or indirect - meaning the energy use that has gone into the products or services you buy. The latter, such as the emissions caused by the manufacture of your new TV, or the packaging your food comes in, are also referred to as embodied emissions.
Energy intensive
An energy-intensive process uses a great deal of energy - and therefore produces high emissions - relative to its useful output. As an example, beef production, has recently been cited as an especially energy-intensive industry, while tumble dryers are energy-intensive appliances. Products that are manufactured in an energy-intensive way are also said to be 'emissions heavy'.

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