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In the Bronx of my youth (which was, admittedly, plenty of years ago), every home had a clothesline, from back porch to garage, from a shed to a tree, from a tenement window to a pole . . . No matter the season, if it wasn’t raining, the wash was out. And when it wasn’t out, it was in, on a few lines strung creatively around the “boiler room.”
The convenience of gas and electric clothes dryers have almost put the old-school “wind-and-solar” clotheslines out of business, but for some of us, the fresh smell and the earth-friendly (and 100% free) energy have kept the clothesline au courant.
So, is a clothesline really better than a gas or electric dryer? Yes, and let us count the ways:
- Of course, using a clothesline saves money and spares the climate by saving energy.
- That fresh air smell on your sheets and towels just can’t be replicated by chemical fabric softeners or perfumed detergents.
- The sun is a natural bleach, and will fade stains on your white and light-colored linens and clothing.
- Sunlight has natural antibacterial properties, something to feel good about especially if you wash in energy-saving cold water.
- Your clothes and linens will last longer when they’re not regularly pummeled and roasted in a dryer. (Just check that lint trap!)
- Not using your home clothes dryer in hot weather helps keep your home cooler, saving on air conditioning expense and energy.
Your “Right to Dry”?
In just about every other place in the world, hanging wash on a line to dry—all year round—is the norm. But here in the U.S., some villages, condominiums, rental properties or Home Owners Associations (HOAs) forbid outdoor drying of clothes as unsightly, and a threat to property values.
Environmental advocates, however, have managed to get 19 states to enact “Right to Dry” legislation, which overrides any local or residential clothesline ban. Alas, New York State is not among the Right to Dry states, yet, so residents need to check with their local government, condo, landlord, or HOA to make sure that they can legally hang wash outside.
But homeowners in Nyack, South Nyack and Upper Nyack can rejoice. There’s no ordinance against hanging the wash outside to dry. Just don’t hang it in the street, and you’re good.
The Clotheslines of Nyack
Here’s how (and why) some of your neighbors hang out the wash.
As someone who grew up hanging clothes out on a line, I’m all for it! The practice is still very common in the UK and Europe. Why pay for electricity when you can use the free natural drying power of sunshine and airflow?! — Andrew Goodwillie, Village of South Nyack, Sustainability Coordinator
My clothesline “dryer” serves me year round, almost. Just an hour or two on a nice day is all it takes. Helps conserve energy vis-a-vis environment and cost. And nothing beats the fresh air smell. — Lilo Kassel
Clothesline? Always, and the whites come out so well. Not to mention how great laundry smells when line dried. — Candice Robins
Do it yourself
Want to try clothesline drying where you live? Hardware stores carry clothesline materials, and there are space-saving umbrella-style clothes dryers, as well as portable racks that can be used indoors and out. Check out these clever ideas for all sorts of spaces. And there’s always YouTube University for DIY do-ers.
- “Sheets Flap and Towels Hang Out” ( 5/29/09, New York Times)
- “A Fine Line: The Art of the Clothesline” (8/7/12, Museum of the City of New York)
- Clothesline Bans Void in 19 States (Sightline Institute)
- “Your clothes dryer is a huge energy waster” (6/12/14, Grist)
- “Drying for Freedom” (Documentary film, 2012)
Earth Matters, a weekly feature that focuses on conservation, sustainability, recycling and healthy living, is sponsored by Maria Luisa Boutique, and Strawtown Studio. Read Earth Matters every Wednesday on Nyack News And Views, or sign up for the Earth Matters mailing list.