Five Minute Finances #10: Buy Some Clothespins And A Rope

Five Minute FinancesFive Minute Finances is a series of tips on how you can save significant money or reorganize your financial life in just five minutes. These tips appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on The Simple Dollar.

An average clothes dryer is a real energy hog; it uses 5,000 watts. Let’s say it takes 50 minutes of use for you to do a load of laundry, and you do an average of eight loads a week (quite reasonable for a small family). This adds up to about 150 kilowatt hours, or $15 a month, or $180 a year. That’s a lot of cash, and it isn’t hard to trim some of it down with a piece of long nylon rope and some clothespins.

That’s right, I’m recommending doing what my parents used to do and I often do: hang up your clothes to dry. A few hours out on the line on a breezy day can dry a load of clothes and often leave them smelling fresher than in the dryer (especially if you live in a fairly rural area). It doesn’t take long, either; just about five minutes to hang up a load of laundry and maybe a minute or two to take them down, which isn’t all that much longer than it takes to load and unload the dryer, plus the folding is quicker if you fold them straight off of the line (they’re already ready to fold, no unraveling).

All you need is a big pile of clothespins, a long nylon rope, and a place to hang it up. You can even do it indoors if you have a place that catches a bit of a breeze and the climate is such that you can leave a window open for a while. Tying them up is easy, just use two half hitches on each end (make a loop around a pole, put the end of the rope through the loop, pull it tight, and repeat once.

How much does it save? Every load of clothes takes about 4.2 kWh in an average dryer. With electric prices averaging about $0.09 nationwide right now, you’ll save about $0.40 per load for every one you hang out, plus the laundry smells substantially better. It only takes an extra few minutes to handle a load – and not even that much if you have access to a proper clothesline. If you live in an apartment and only have access to a coin-based machine, your savings from using a clothesline can be quite tremendous. Want another reason? This is definitely the environmentally friendly way to dry your clothes.

Seems like too much effort. It’s really not, especially if you work it into your schedule. Toss a load in the washing machine first thing in the morning, then hang up a load before you leave for work. In the evening, you have a wonderful, fresh smelling, clean load of laundry to fold up, you saved some money, and you did something environmentally sound.

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  1. janewilk says:

    You know, I wish we could take this advice. But our neighborhood association has a no-clothesline code written into the rules and regs! You wouldn’t believe some of the things there are rules against in this neighborhood…

  2. James says:

    How about when it rains while you’re at work? (Weather is unpredictable, after all.) Then you gotta do the laundry all over again. More electricity, water, and detergent. And time, of course. I’m happy to pay the $15/month for my dryer.

  3. Jamie says:

    I’d also add that using a dryer is hard on your clothes and wears them out more quickly. Your clothes will last longer if you hang them out to dry so you’ll save on clothing costs too.

  4. Tkriger says:

    Living in an Apartment, I would love to do this, as it would save $1 in quarters for the dryer, my concern is my pants for work. I don’t like to Iron, so I time it so I get down to the dryer as soon as its done and hang them up right away to minimize wrinkles.

    How bad would dress pants get wrinkled hanging out to dry?

  5. Bonnie says:

    1- contact your neighborhood association. If there’s a groundswell of support- usually a supermajority can change assn regs.

    2- you can dry clothes indoors, as well, in a well-ventilated or sunny space (this could be esp good in a dry, dry winter!)

    3- @tkriger: I think you answered this yourself- if you hang them out to remove wrinkles, how could drying them hanging out create more? :)

  6. Crys says:

    We do this a lot in the summer (not so much in the winter), but the only complaint I have is stiffness in the fabric.

  7. Its overall a good idea to conserve energy. Combined with the energy-saving bulbs and turning off equipment on stand-by (ie. TV, speakers, DVD-players and such) you can really save a lot of money, not to mention the environment.

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  9. Amy says:

    Ditto on the stiffness, which is why I haven’t been hanging mine out in the summers. When I was growing up we always hung out our clothes, from April to November in Michigan! And I remember best the stiff-as-cardboard towels, though the sheets smelled wonderful.

    This summer I’m planning to hang my clothes out more often, and toss them in the dryer for 10 minutes to soften up. We’ll see how it goes.

  10. Karen Porter says:

    I can’t tell you how often I hung clothes on the line outside growing up (and no it wasn’t in the front yard in view of all the neighbors–that’s tasteless and tacky). We hung our clothes outside partly because we did not have the finances to splurge on a dryer and partly because it was just the way mom wanted to do it I guess. Many times also we went to the laundromat (which was not fun–I’d rather hang clothes than spend time in a crowded and very hot laundromat. That’s torture).

    So as an experienced clothes line hanger I’ll tell you two of the downfalls of this method (besides dashing to beat the rain at times): 1) If you don’t have an open area without trees, stuff from the trees will fall on your clothes and stain them sometimes; 2) if you have allergy sensitivities to things outside such as tree pollen, oak/pine trees, azaleas, etc., this pollen may blow onto your clothes on a windy day.

    On the other hand, the dryer probably does wear out and definitely shrinks my clothes at times. So there are pros and cons to both methods (beyond energy bill considerations).

  11. Karen Porter says:

    I can’t tell you how often I hung clothes on the line outside growing up (and no it wasn’t in the front yard in view of all the neighbors–that’s tasteless and tacky). We hung our clothes outside because we did not have the finances to purchase a dryer. Many times also we went to the laundromat (which was not fun–I’d rather hang clothes than spend time in a crowded and very hot laundromat. That’s torture).

    So as an experienced clothes line hanger I’ll tell you two of the downfalls of this method (besides dashing to beat the rain at times): 1) If you don’t have an open area without trees, stuff from the trees will fall on your clothes and stain them sometimes; 2) if you have allergy sensitivities to things outside such as tree pollen, oak/pine trees, azaleas, etc., this pollen may blow onto your clothes on a windy day.

    On the other hand, the dryer probably does wear out and definitely shrinks my clothes at times. So there are pros and cons to both methods (beyond energy bill considerations).

  12. Debbie says:

    You can hang clothes inside even with no sun–it might take 24 hours to dry a load though. Keeping a ceiling fan or box fan on helps. Outside I find that clothes do not smell nice at all, but more like a wet dog smells when he comes inside.

    Still, on a windy day, your clothes can be dry by the time the next load is out. It’s very cool. You can add fabric softener (or vinegar) to the rinse cycle to help with stiffness issues, or just dry the things that tend to get stiff (towels and pants) in the dryer.

    Definitely hang-dry anything with elastic (undies, socks, swimsuits) because they will last much longer; heat breaks down elastic. There are great drying racks, plastic-coated even, that will hold an entire load of laundry. Or you could install a bar over your dryer with hangers for short things (shirts) and small things you can clothespin to the bottom of the hanger (undies, socks).

  13. Amanda says:

    You don’t have to wash your clothes again if it rains while they’re outside. Rain is just water! We just leave them until they dry again.

    To combat the stiffness, we put our laundry in the dryer for about 10 minutes after line drying. It makes them significantly softer, and still saves us (two-person household) about $10 a month.

  14. Dwight says:

    How the hell does anyone do 8 loads of laundry a week? Another money/energy saving tip would be to do less laundry overall.

  15. David says:

    I’m going to assume Dwight doesn’t have child(ren)?

  16. Mike says:

    Actually, I was wondering about the “eight loads a week” myself, since it seemed really high. (My fiancee and I only do about two loads every two weeks.)

    Maybe it has to do with different washer sizes? So one person’s “load” might be two loads for a different machine.

  17. Kelly says:

    I hang laundry out all the time, winter, spring, summer and fall (I live in a warm weather climate). Especially sheets and towels. Throw your towels in the dryer for a couple of minutes before you put them away. I got my most recent clothes line at the Dollar Tree. It holds two twin sheet sets and comforters.

    Also if I only had 8 loads of laundry a week to do I would be jumping for joy!

  18. AndyR says:

    Probably too late to get noticed by anyone but you, but…

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention gas dryers. Far more efficient and does a better job than electric in getting things dry.

    (For those of us in the People’s Republic of California for whom line drying is not an option).

  19. HR says:

    8 loads a week would be a godsind for us. We have
    6 kids, one if them special needs and one just an infant. we wash at least 3 loads a day. I hang out what I can, but most goes in the dryer.

  20. M3 says:

    Just started hanging my clothes to dry and found this site looking for a way to figure the cost savings. My solution for stiff clothing is actually twofold – one: make certain you are not using too much laundry soap (directions all call for way more than you need) and two: Downey Wrinkle Releaser (which we already used on clothes that sat too long in the dryer) solves the stiffness problem. As other posters recommended, air dry for 10 minutes fluffs the towels. Finally, 8 loads a week would be awesome…I do at least 16 (including sheets and towels) every week.

  21. Anna says:

    I love hang-drying my laundry out here in CA, but I’m moving to Iowa next month. Can you hang-dry clothes inside in the winter? Does a drying rack work well? Anybody in harsh climates have advice on this?

  22. Danielle says:

    Yeah…the towels can get a little stiff but it gently exfoliates as you dry! Voila! Instant beauty treatment.

  23. laura says:

    We live in Montana–definitely a problem hanging out clothes in winter at times. I run clothes through the dryer for 5 minutes then immediately sort out the ones that need hanging. We have a wood stove and I’ve hung a clothes line (from sturdy hooks) in the ceiling around the stove. with a couple of drying racks, I can dry 2 loads of clothes a day, as well as add valuable moisture to a dry environment. Of course, on sunny days you can hang out a load of jeans and they’ll freeze dry–of course, you’ll have to pay attention to the weather forecast for the day! With 4 in our family, we do around 6-8 loads a week. We also hang up the towels after use and reuse them a couple of times before washing.

  24. Danielle says:

    My favorite thing about line drying clothes is that it is the most cost effective way of stain treating clothes that I have found yet… especially for anything that was stained a red color. I’ve also found that line drying clothes doesn’t set stains so I can wash things again and stain treat them the second time around if the sun wasn’t enough to get out the stain.

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