One of the first big steps I took in greener/sustainable living was to stop using the clothes dryer.
Back in 2008, as many of you know, I was living in New Zealand for a few months, decompressing. (Or balancing home-sickness with absolute love for the kiwis, whichever you like.) I was living a fairly nomadic existence for the first few weeks, and had to keep my baggage light, so I only had about one week's worth of clothes with me. Which means lots of febreeze and/or a weekly load of wash, with no time to wait for drying.
I found this to be particularly difficult to accomplish because nearly every place I stayed had no clothes dryer. I was staying with other 20-something kiwis, mooching couch/futon/floor space while looking for an opening in a flat. But no one had dryers. And the people that did, didn't use them.
WTH? For most people, this is a necessity! How did they survive??? Well gosh, they hung their clothes to dry. On racks and outdoor clothes lines. Wellington can get very very damp, and the clothes might not dry for several days. But this was just the way it was. You planned for it and moved on with your life. As I spoke with friends and flat-mates about it, they talked about the wear the dryer put on clothes, not to mention the expense of getting one and the energy costs to run it.
Now, I admit that I did not hang my clothes to dry while I was there. As I said, I didn't have a ton of clothes with me (or extra money to buy more, or to buy a rack of my own), and only one set of sheets and pjs. So quick laundry was a must, and I was lucky enough to be in a "modern" apartment with an in-frequently used dryer.
Once I got home, I really wanted to go without. To save the energy, to save wear and tear on my clothes, and to show myself that I don't have to be as reliant on modern, energy consuming technology. Able-Bodied Boy was immediately on board, and here's how we make it work...
Get a rack (or two)
Our first rack sucked, but I finally found what I wanted at Ikea - no assembly required (boo!). It folds up nicely to be out of the way when it's not being used, but opens up to hang a couple dozen items up top and plenty of room for socks and undies below. We use the not-so-great one for spillover or draping sheets & duvet covers.
The other option is to start an outdoor line for the nice-weather months. We opted not to, do to having enough space to stay indoors year-round (see below), but I/we would have absolutely no problem setting up an outdoor line if life necessitated it.
Find the space
Depending how often you'll do a load, you may need a semi-permanent spot to keep a rotation of drying going on. We are lucky enough to have a spare room where we can leave it set up all the time. Which we don't need to do, but we get lazy and/or out-of-sight-out-of-mind and leave dry laundry hanging until we're ready for the clothes, the room, or the drying space.
To maximize our space, I have started hanging wet clothes back up on their hangers and lining them up in doorways (also gives your house a fun fort-like feel when you have to stoop to get in a room under the wet clothes :) This probably isn't the best option for fabrics that will stretch out from their own wet weight, but it's another option nevertheless.
Change your schedule
Most people I know do laundry in batches, every week or so. They'll do 2-4 loads at a time and get it all out of the way. By hang-drying, you'll end up spreading that out more. You'll want at least a day for drying, so plan on no more than a load every other day. It'll be hard at first since your clothing rotation has been everything-at-once, but once you get in that rotation, you'll find that you'll have enough darks for a dark load, then your whites will have plenty, then delicates, etc.
For us, we have enough space in that room to keep sorted laundry piles. Every few days, we'll sort our in-bedroom dirty clothes into the laundry room piles. Once a pile is big (or contains some must-have) we'll throw it in the wash and then hang it up. Sometimes we have the time to do a load every few days and keep up with the folding/putting-away; sometimes the laundry gets backed up and I'll do a massive push of all the laundry over just a couple of days, maximizing all hangers and racks and the dryer (yeah yeah yeah, keep reading below about that).
This might be a blessing in disguise. If you really don't like laundry days and would rather spread out the burden, this is perfect for you! One day you'll throw a load in the wash, then hang them up an hour later. A couple of days later, pull those down, rinse, repeat.
Don't sweat the jean and towels
I first thought I could militantly transition to no dryer. NO MORE, I said. But then I put on my first no-dryer pair of jeans after toweling off with a no-dryer towel. Yeah, I'm having none of that crap. For the most part, jeans and towels end up in one load of wash (or two washes in the same day) and those items get dried in the dryer. If we hang-dry the jeans, it's not too bad - they're just a little stiff. But scratchy towels are terrible. So in the dryer they go.
I don't sweat this. 80-90% of our loads are done dryer-free. And can only think of one occasion when there was an item I needed immediately and used the dryer. The only other uses I have for the dryer are drying pillows when I wash them on occasion, and warming up a blanket on really really cold nights.
I'm really happy with this decision. It's the new normal, and I can't imagine going back to the old rotation of washer-dryer.
Have you used an outdoor line or indoor rack before? If so, are you still using it now?