Friday, November 14, 2014

How to hang clothes to dry over the Canadian winter months

EcoYogini officially accepts the end of Autumn... but not the end of hanging clothes on the line...

As I sit here typing there is a gorgeous white fluffy blizzard happening outside my window. It's technically the second snow of the season, but the first one was so tiny and brief, a few flakes really, it doesn't even count.

Autumn and Winter are the reasons why I am so glad I live in a place that has four seasons... and a coastal city that actually gets more than rain rain rain (although... we do get out fair share of foggy rain, snain, and slush...) and yellow leaves in the fall (if you haven't experienced Nova Scotia, the gorgeous autumn colours in reds, oranges and yellows are the BEST way).

That said, despite how excited I am for this beautiful softly falling snowflake weather, today was my day off... and we had saved a bunch of laundry in case it might be sunny out. It was our laundry MO for the entire summer and fall- I hoarded our laundry like a crazy lady for weekend sunny days where we could solar dry the crap outta our clothes.

"Hanging clothes on the line" sounds so boring- when really it's SOLAR DRYING. Sigh, very hipster of me, I know.

In any case, today I had to accept that the dryer was inevitable. But I am determined to hang clothes on the line as much as possible throughout our snowy, cold, Canadian winter. Is it possible? My mom says it is... and she knows everything so it must be true. (hah, no really, it's a mom thing right?).

I already have a few tips from recent cold weather solar drying experience but before we get into that maybe you don't really understand the appeal of it in the first place...

Reasons to continue hanging clothes on the line throughout winter:
- Decreasing energy usage for drying: ok this one was obvious. As the dude at Home Depot told us when we bought our energy efficient washer and dryer: "It's not the dryer that makes these machines efficient, it's all about how little energy the washer uses and how well it rinses the clothes out so it takes LESS time to dry in the dryer". In other words- no matter how "efficient" your dryer is, it isn't.

- The clothes smell better: For years we've been hang drying on dry racks our shirts and work clothes. Unfortunately, hanging up two loads of work clothes next to each other in a room with no air circulation has resulted in some icky, mouldy smelling clothes when they get wet. Since we don't have the money to buy a whole new wardrobe, we still wear them. Nothing was working to get that smell out- hot water, fancy detergent, baking soda, vinegar. You know what did work? SOLAR DRYING. No really, after a few afternoons of hanging out in the sun our clothes no longer smell gross. Not even when we hang them inside. It's magical. I am NOT giving that up.

Last weekend we had a gorgeous, albeit a bit cold, sunny day. I managed to hang clothes on the line with (relative) success! So- here are a few tips given to me by my mom and that I figured out on my own...

1. Check the weather... and not the crappy app on your phone but the government weather forecast. In fall and winter months the weather can change... and there's a lot more precipitation than in summer months. It's important that even though it might be cold, that there be sun (and no snow, rain, fog or snain) for the day. When it gets below freezing you don't want clothes that are frozen solid... so a bit of wind (not too much!) will be handy. (Trust me, maritimers are experts when it comes to checking the weather (particularly fishermen daughters), the phone and "weather network" apps suck. The government weather forecasts are where it's at.)

2. Winter drying means considering sunrise and sunset. Currently in Nova Scotia the sun rises around 7am and sets by 5pm (4:47pm today to be exact). The sunsets earlier and earlier right up until the winter solstice. The sunset time is obviously important since it tends to get dewy and misty closer to sunset (or foggy) which is bad, BUT you also need to consider the BEST hours for optimum sun exposure time. For myself, I was averaging on getting the clothes on the line around 10:30-11am (weekends) and even got away with 1pm. Not in the winter. (Quick science blip: in the winter the earth tilts on it's axis away from the sun, meaning it has a lower trajectory across the sky).
- Hang your clothes during the prime, sun zenith  to maximize drying power.

3. Make sure you choose the best spin cycle. Delicate, low spin cycles might not be great for below freezing drying. Think about it... frozen solid shirts...

4. Don't leave your clothes out close to sunset: as previously stated it can get foggy and misty closer to sunset hours. This applied in the summer too, (which I noticed a few times I waited too long to bring them in), but the difference is the earlier sunset time. On the weekends we do stuff in the afternoon. I'm not staying home to babysit my clothes. This means that we just need to either be a) home in time to bring the clothes in or b) be aware that staying later will mean sacrificing dry clothes.

5. Once you bring the clothes in, leave them in the basket for a bit to warm up before making any decisions. The reality is that they will likely still need to go in the dryer, it will just be for a lot less than if you hadn't hung them outside to dry. That said- cold clothes can feel wetter than they actually are. Let them warm up a bit before deciding just how damp they still are.

And there you have it- being all cool and hanging your clothes on the line over the freezing winter months! I'm also accepting that I won't get in as many days as I will over the spring, summer and early fall, but some days will hopefully help with energy and smell issues. (hah).

If you have other tips for winter solar clothes drying- please leave them! (I'll need them!)


Anonymous said...

And remember - those 'inside' lines work well too - especially for small things like kitchen towels, lingerie, socks, etc. I only have a small outside line but we try hard to make good use of it. And we simply do not 'stock' laundry.... when there's a load to do, it's done....good weather or not!

Mindful Echo said...

Fabulous post! Between the rain and the snow, our line drying days are limited here in Nova Scotia!

JessicaH said...

Lee Valley Tools sells an indoor clothesline that you attach to a wall. It is accordion style - so you pull it out when you need it, and make it nearly flush to the wall when you don't. It will hold a lot of clothes!

Luddene Perry said...

I hang them in the greenhouse

Green Bean said...

Man, you guys are tough!! Here I am in California lamenting how chilly it is. That said, I loved the quote: "no matter how "efficient" your dryer is, it isn't." I have not had a clothesline since we moved into this current house (4 years!!) but, reading this, I'm thinking it is about time. Especially because I could put it, as Luddene says, it the GREENHOUSE!! Love that idea!

Eco Yogini said...

@Anon: sadly inside lines don't work so great in our house- the only place we could have it would be the basement... which is damp and dark. But then- we do have a clothes rack which we still use. :)

Mindful: i know right!

JessicaH: I remember my parents cabin having an old wooden collapsable dry rack we would hang our mittens and scarves over the wood stove... :)

Luddene: fabulous idea!

@GreenBean: haha, well after living in the interior BC and surviving two, semi-arid desert summers there, I admire anyone who can live in 40 degree plus summers :)

robbie @ going green mama said...

I need to remember these tips!!

Christy said...

Yay for solar drying! As you know, I'm on the other coast where we rarely get a dry day from November to March, so outdoor hanging to dry is really limited to the dryer months. I'm fortunate in that we have good air circulation in the upstairs of our house so we hang most of our clothes to dry inside for 8-9 months of the year.

Jenn said...

Love the tips. I use cloth diapers and "solar drying" is the best for getting the stains out. I have not dried outside since fall hit and it isn't even cold outside....I'm disappointed in myself. Thanks for the tips!! Back outside I go!

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