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Switching dryers for clotheslines could save money

It's a prohibition I've never quite understood, the ban on outdoor clotheslines.
A now-deceased Putnam County developer prohibited their use in her upscale subdivision, explaining to me she despised seeing clothes drying outside.
Yet almost in the next breath, she said, "I love the smell of line-dried bed sheets."
A contradiction, I thought. 
Meanwhile I continued to hang our laundry, as neatly as possible, in my not-so-upscale development.
Or, when the weather refused to cooperate, on one of my drying racks.
According to financial blogger Megan Russell in her 2013 comparison of different costs of drying laundry, cheaper drying racks cost about $30 and typically break after seven to 10 years. 
My recollection is I paid $5 for the wooden rack I still use after almost 40 years.
It came to me used, acquired from our small Oregon weekly where it was used to hang and dry black-and-white film. The publisher had finally purchased an electric film dryer and sold me the rack.
We later moved it across country, bringing it first to one house and then another in Kanawha County, and now to our retirement home further north. 
True it shows its age. It leans. We've mended a couple bars with tape. But it still stands. 
The smaller rack by the washing machine is about 20 years old, but I don't recall the price.
A couple years ago we splurged. We purchased a wooden Amish-made rack in Pennsylvania, paying about $50, and as a result I use the Oregon rack less frequently.  But I haven't retired it.
I've followed in my mother's footsteps. She dried clothes outside or, in poor weather, in the basement. 
The home my parents built in 1957, one of the first in a new middle-class subdivision that also had standards restricting outdoor clotheslines.
The rules there permitted temporary ones such as the pole kind that could be folded and removed when not in use. 
Mom invested in one of those and Dad placed the receptacle in the middle of the backyard. Mom used it. And left it. It became a permanent fixture in the yard and I doubt there were ever complaints. Neighbors who moved later built in an adjacent, more upscale subdivision had clotheslines. 
Mom also had lines strung in the laundry room for inclement weather.
She, of course grew up when there were no automatic washers or dryers. By the 1950s she had both.
So do I, but I like hanging clothes, preferably outside but in very cold or rainy weather on the racks. 
Blogger Russell does not. But before she revealed that, she compared costs. In detail. Minutely so. 
She not only computes the costs and lifespan of electric and rack dryer, but of the initial price and anticipated life of clothesline and clothes pins. She looks at costs of fabric softener, increased wear on clothes in a dryer and of electricity per load for a clothes drying OR for dehumidifying the house in hot weather with racks of drying clothes. Oh yes, she even prices vinegar used by some in the laundry to soften line-dried clothes. 
She does leave out physical activity and (presumably) fresh air outside.
"With line drying outside costing only $0.18 per load (if that), which, for the average American family, is $62.10 per year ($5.18 per month), you could save up to $155.25 per year if you line dried your clothes outside instead of in the dryer.
"However, if you're like my two person family, doing two loads of laundry every two weeks, it costs you $24.96 - $32.76 per year to dry your laundry in the dryer ($2.08 - $2.73 per month). To line dry with the same frequency would cost $5.72 - $9.36 per year ($0.48 - $0.78 per month). Suddenly, the savings by switching to line drying is not so substantial. At the most, you could save $27.04 per year.
"So here's the question I face, is it worth having a constant eye on the weather channel, an 30 extra minutes of work hanging up all of my laundry outside and up to eight hours of inconvenience waiting for my clothes to dry to save $2.25 per month? For me, it is not. For others, it might be.
The cost of drying clothes outside ranges from $0.11 to $0.18, inside drying on a rack ranges from $0.10 to $0.61, and the dryer ranges from $0.48 to $0.63.
Personally, I've been one of the others, even before retirement.
Contact writer Evadna Bartlett at


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