So while we’re on the subject, has anyone checked out the tumble-dryer posts over at Bean Sprouts? Read through the comments on the last two, “Tumble Dryer” and “Tumble Dryer Again,” and you’ll meet scads of people who don’t own dryers. As I said in a comment, my bet is that most of them are British, not American or Canadian. Over here, if you live in a house it’s got a dryer, and if you live in an apartment, you probably wash AND dry your clothes at a laundromat.*
Sometime this summer I discovered that #1 son almost never uses a dryer. Inspired, I’ve been trying to wean myself from dependence on the thing, as it's a veritable energy-sink, and have dried more and more clothes on racks. (There are no radiators in this house, just hot air vents, so what I’m coming to see as the British Dryer Alternative (BDA) isn’t really an option.)
One of the comments on the Bean Sprouts posts said that unfortunately an iron appeared to be indispensable unless you wanted to go around looking like an American. (Horrors!) Like others, I’ve discovered that five minutes in the dryer removes most wrinkles, or at least gets shirts to a point acceptable here in Bozeman, where standards are even lower than in the rest of Wrinkled America, thank heavens.** After the five-minute stint, shirts go on hangars hung on a pipe, and so do a lot of T-shirts, since rack-space is at a premium.
To my surprise, even down quilts do fine on a rack as long as they get pummeled with tennis balls for a few minutes in the dryer first. They do need to be flapped and fluffed (with enthusiasm) once dry, but that’s it. I suppose that in a more humid climate they might mildew or mold before they dry, but in Montana, that’s, well, not too much of a problem.***
Drying on racks does entail some sacrifices, of course, but in these hard times someone has to step up to the plate. For example, there’s only drying space for one load, so I’ve had to give up the idea of getting all the laundry done in one day. Since this is merely an idea, having little relationship to or impact upon reality, it hasn’t been too hard to let it go.
The time required to hang clothes can be more of an issue. If I still had little kids, or if I had a full-time job out of the house, I probably couldn’t do this, and if I had any sense I probably wouldn’t, but at the moment it feels worth the time it takes. Having a radio in the basement helps a lot.
For the first time this weekend I did not use the dryer to dry at least one load. I did use it for touch-ups: twice for an anti-wrinkle treatment, and once to remove the blue blanket fuzz from an entire load of dark clothes. (Note to self: NEVER again buy a washer without a lint trap.) (P.S.: Do not wash a wool blanket with anything else unless you plan to use the dryer.) Four loads, big ones, all dried in the basement on hangars and racks.
I don’t consider myself cured of Dryer Addiction, just in recovery. If I keep working the steps (wash only one load a day, keep the radio playing, and so on) I may be able to stay clean.
* When my husband and I bought our first washer and dryer (they’re always sold as sets here), we exchanged some chagrined looks and a few comments to match. We knew we’d left behind any pretensions to an alternative life-style, any claims to hippy-dom, and probably any hope of redemption as well. We were going main-stream. We were becoming middle class—in the worst way: dull, conventional, normal. It was scary.
Not that we’d dried our clothes on a line before that; no, we went to the local laundromat, where we washed and dried everything. In approximately ten years of that, it never occurred to me to take the wet clothes home and dry them there. We were the only people I know who used cloth diapers through two children, and I felt quite virtuous about those diapers (almost all at the laundromat stage), and almost betrayed when someone suggested that the energy required to wash and dry them might be almost as much of a hit to the environment as dumping disposables in a land fill.
** And then there are husband Steve’s standards, which are even more relaxed. Which is why I am doing his laundry instead of the other way around. He was officially banned from washing clothes after he put a wool sweater in the dryer. One of our sons, both teen-agers at the time, held it up afterwards and commented, “So, we’ve got toddlers in the house now?”
To be fair, I must admit that I have shrunk far more sweaters than he, but never so—efficiently.
*** The biggest problem here is getting them into the dang washer: I push and shove and wrastle them down, but they hold so much air that parts keep popping up above the water line. So I squeeze out air, push them down again, and lie in wait for them to pop back up. It’s quite a little dance we do.