Laundry Time

It has been a while since I wrote about laundry. One of my first green changes was to stop using my dryer. I figured that it took a lot of energy to roll that big drum thousands of times to dry each load, as well as to heat the thing up so that it was blowing a steady stream of hot air all the while. I thought about my big five appliances that sucked up electricity in my house – fridge, oven, dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer – and decided that forgoing the use of the dryer was by far the easiest and most practical.

So I have been air drying all our clothes for about 4 months now. I have learned some things along the way, and changed it up a bit, so I thought I would share my experiences:

The first change I made was to switch from just air drying clothes, to air drying everything – towels, cloths, sheets, blankets – you name it. Most of it is no problem and I can’t even tell that it has been air-dried. The towels are a different story. Let’s just say that we don’t have fluffy soft towels in our house anymore. Ours are a bit more – crunchy. When I started this process, I would put the towels in the dryer to “fluff up” after they are already dry, but now I just don’t bother. The benefit of crunchy towels is that they are super easy to fold (think straight as a board) and also, they are super absorbent when you are getting out the shower. They also may or may not have additional exfoliating properties…

The second change has to do with how I to hang the clothes to dry. At first I would just take them straight out of the washer and hang them on the rack. However I found that some things, especially 100% woven cotton items, would come out wrinkly. So now I lay each shirt out on top of my washer, still wet, and smooth it out a bit, then put the next one on top of it, smooth that one out, and then the next one – and so I go, layering and smoothing, layering and smoothing, until the entire load is smoothed out, with all the items stacked up on top of each other like this (these are kids clothes):

Once I am done stacking and smoothing, I hang them on the dry rack. When they are dry, they are so nice and smooth – it is like I actually ironed them (which is something I never, ever do). They are nicer than if they had just spent 1 hour in the dryer. There are no wrinkles, not even on the wrinkle-culprit items. Folding is really fast, since the garment is straight, smooth and ready to go.

The third change is the laundry soap I use. As part of my Nothing New challenge, I wanted to force myself to attempt to make some homemade cleaners from ingredients I can understand, with the hopes that I would be shielding my family and the environment from harmful chemicals, as well as reducing the amount of plastic container garbage I generate. I tried making dishwasher soap and liquid dish soap, with disastrous results. But my laundry soap making was a resounding success.

Google indicated that making powdered soap was the way to go, as the homemade liquid stuff was difficult to manage, required large plastic buckets, and came out really gloppy. The powdered soap is easily mixed, stores easily in small containers, and is easy to use. So I tried Tipnut’s recipe #4, and later, her recipe #9. Here is the review:

Recipe #4
2 cups finely grated bar Soap (I used Sunlight soap)
1 cup Washing Soda
1 cup Borax
 – Mix together, store in airtight container and use 2 tablespoons per load

Since it contains more borax overall, there is more whitening power for your whites. However, it is not as colour fast for your darks – so the odd white sock mixed into a dark load will come out looking more dingy than I would have otherwise noticed. However in general, I have not noticed any colours or darks fading, in fact I think there is less fading, since the clothes are not being tumbled around in a dryer for an hour, wearing out by rubbing against all the other clothes.

Recipe #9
3 parts Borax
2 parts Baking Soda
2 parts Washing Soda
2 parts finely grated Bar soap (I used Sunlight)
 – Mix together, store in airtight container and use 1/8 cup per load

Since it contains less borax, it has less whitening power. However, the baking soda is very good at softening, which is a bonus for air dried clothes.

So now I use Recipe #4 for my whites, and Recipe #9 for everything else. I would say it cleans just about as good. Some stains get missed – perhaps one item out of 5 loads per week I will be disappointed with, which is not bad at all.

The fourth and most important change is my attitude towards doing laundry. I used to not enjoy it. I used to fold 5 loads a week, sitting on the floor in front of the TV, slightly annoyed that I had to do this chore. Now I do all the hanging and folding downstairs in the laundry room. I am away from everything that is going on in the house; I am alone with my thoughts. I have a new-found appreciation for the clothes we purchase, wear, wash and maintain. I  try to be mindful of that as I am handling the clothes, smoothing them so that they will dry nicely, keep their shape, last a long time… I find this peaceful. If I am feeling anxious or upset about something, 10 minutes downstairs smoothing wet clothes and hanging them up is just what I need to get centred again. I am not sure why – perhaps now this work has more purpose than it had before, and therefore is more rewarding than the same work was without that purpose.  Whatever the reason – I find it more therapeutic.

Overall, the laundry process does take a bit longer, but I make up some of the time with fast and easy folding. Overall it is more enjoyable than my previous method. I don’t think I will ever go back.

How about you – any laundry tips to share?

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10 thoughts on “Laundry Time

  1. I have crunchy towels, too! But California is generally conducive to line drying, so mine smell like sunshine, which more than makes up for the sneaking suspicion that I might just be drying myself off with a plank. I quite like hanging up laundry. Some of my best blog entries are fermenting in my head as I do so. 🙂

  2. Most Australians line dry, usually a whole lotta sun here too. Like jennifer said, I also love the smell of sunshiney washing. My towels are so crunchy they could line up to fold themselves.
    I’ve been trying out soap nuts the last few months and have been happy with them as a substitute laundry soap. Super cheap too.

    • We had the pleasure of visiting your fine country about 5 years ago, before we had kids. We stayed with some friends, and quickly discovered that nobody uses dryers! One of our Canadian friends was engaged to an Australian girl, and she said it was hilarious trying to teach him how to line dry. It is so interesting, the differences. Obviously we are a bit behind you guys in this department, as 97% of the people here use dryers 97% of the time. Sub-arctic temperatures for half the year are no excuse – clothes dry really fast indoors in the winter! Like 12 – 24 hours! This is the first weekend that the temps have been consistently above freezing and I am really noticing that things are taking more time to dry… No excuses!!

  3. We will have a clothesline outside from our house to the garage. Our neighbours will marvel at our hippie-ness — rain barrels, compost bins, vegetable gardens, shirts and towels flapping in the breeze, playing guitars around campfires and generally living outdoors. Our tenants are so lovely and so on board with steps towards sustainability. Our shirts and pants will mingle on the clothesline and they will water the garden when we’re away.

    It’ll be a good summer.

  4. Yep, it’s all about attitude isn’t it. I enjoy hanging out clothes, but it’s the folding after that I haven’t yet learnt to love. Hence there’s almost always a huge pile waiting for folding.

    Like cityhippyfarm girl, i’ve been using soap nuts recently. I like them.

  5. Great post! I love your method of stacking and smoothing shirts before hanging them and can’t wait to try that out myself! Also, it’s good to hear that doing laundry has become a peaceful activity for you. I’m not there yet, mainly because living in an apartment with no backyard or basement for laundry lines means that things like bed linens have to go in the drier!

    I will admit that folding clothes (that dried on the small rack I have) is an activity I secretly take great pleasure in. 🙂

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