Taking the dryer out of the laundry equation is a great way to incorporate a green process into your household. Hanging your laundry out to dry, or drying it using a collapsible rack, not only makes the fabrics last longer, but it also requires no additional energy use whatsoever -- except your own, that is. Drying whites and linens in the sun also helps make them brighter, without having to resort to chlorine bleach or alternative whitening agents.
If you find the prospect of hanging laundry out to dry a little daunting, or feel as if you're too busy to try it, try starting small. Perhaps begin with air drying fabrics that don't wrinkle very much, such as synthetics and synthetic blends. More delicate items like wools, silks, and silk blends should always be air dried. Another trick to cut down on dryer time is to put things like towels in the dryer just long enough to fluff them up a bit, then hang them up to continue drying. Using indoor racks or clotheslines also humidifies your indoor air, which may come in handy in the winter. Bonus!
Washers and dryers have a lot of effect on the environment since both machines use energy, and, of course, the washer uses quite a bit of water. In fact, household appliance usage accounts for 20 percent of our overall energy use at home, with washers, dryers, and refrigerators at the top of that list. On average, a typical load of laundry in the washing machine costs about 12 cents in energy (at the current, wildly fluctuating oil prices), and drying that same load will cost nearly three times as much.
Hanging your clothes out to dry is far more economical and energy efficient, but the reality is that it's not practical in many parts of the country during the winter months. Air drying indoors is possible, of course -- but again, sometimes it's not practical. On the other hand, you might opt for line drying outdoors and not be allowed to do so. Around the country, housing covenants, zoning laws, and landlords sometimes won't allow people to put up a clothesline -- usually for aesthetic reasons. But many green-minded residents are fighting back. Read more about it at Project Laundry List, www.laundrylist.org.