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Ditch the dryer

July 3rd, 2015 · No Comments

Line dry your clothes year round

Over the last few years I’ve noticed more and more of my Annex neighbours embracing the drying line over the electric dryer. It’s one of life’s simple pleasures to just admire clothes swaying in the wind on a warm summer day.

I hope that more and more of my neighbours are also embracing the indoor drying rack. It makes so little sense to create heat in an electric dryer only to vent that warm moist air outside.

Meanwhile, cold air heated up by our furnaces creates an uncomfortably dry environment that we have to find ways to humidify. While one appliance rejects heat and moisture, we employ another appliance to create both. This is what I call a waste of energy.

Instead, we could simply line dry our clothes indoors. We save energy in the form of heating and we get a bonus natural humidifier. Our clothes are happier because there’s less wear and tear on them from being heated and tumbled, and our electric bills are happier (perhaps not the electric utility, but you will be happier with the lower bill).

A bonus for anyone with cats is an instant kitty fort as your sheets get draped over an array of chairs.

Dryers also necessitate the use of dryer sheets or some other form of static control. These dryer sheets are the source of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), some of which are known to cause cancer and other adverse health effects. That “fresh scent” is actually a mixture of chemicals containing about 25 VOCs (as measured by one study).

By ditching the dryer, we can eliminate one more cause of chemical pollution in our homes. (In truth most “fresh” smelling cleaners are chemical stews of not-so-healthy things, so I really don’t recommend chemical masks for odours of any sort.)

For big heavy items such as coats, pillows, and comforters where line drying isn’t practical, try replacing chemical-laced dryer sheets with a good old-fashioned tennis ball or two.

This will keep the clothes soft and fluffy without nearly the same amount of chemical release. Keep the heat moderate on the dryer too so that the fibres in the clothes aren’t abused as much and will tend to last longer. We often forget how much clothes are a burden to the environment. Everything from growing the fibres (cotton) to mining them out of wells, or in our case tar sands, imparts a large footprint.

Dying our garments with bright beautiful colours often leaves poor countries that make these products with contaminated drinking water. As attractive as a crimson red dress might be, imagine having to drink water that colour. This is the reality many people who don’t get to choose what colour dress they want to wear that evening face.

Taking care of our clothing and having it last longer means that we do less damage to the earth and to our fellow human beings.

Terri Chu is an engineer committed to practical environmentalism. This column is dedicated to helping the community reduce energy use, and help distinguish environmental truths from myths.

Send questions, comments, and ideas for future columns to Terri at terri.chu@whyshouldicare.ca.

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