, Newburyport, MA

August 16, 2013

It will all come out in the wash

Bill Plante's North Shore
Newburyport Daily News

---- — If there’s one reality facing us all, it’s the degradation of our environment, and we should do what we can to protect it.

I was reminded of that this week by two concurrent events.

One was the replacement of our old clotheslines with new ones.

The other was a delightful email summary of all that clotheslines once brought to the healthy comfort of civilization.

I was tempted to think as I read on that we of a certain age are likely to be the last of those who will know of their benefits.

I am coming on to being nearly a century old, and we have always had clotheslines in one abode or another.

So I called up “clotheslines” on my computer and was swamped with evidence that no, they may be broadly unwelcomed by those who — well, never mind — but they are available in a variety of forms for those who might want to broaden their choices for drying their laundries.

We have been among them for a very long time.

Prior to the late great war nearly everyone hung washables out of doors.

Not so now.

We have recently upgraded our out-of-door lines, but we have also had electric tumble dryers for convenience in heavy weather for many years.

Doing our laundry is no small consideration.

Our home has housed three generations for all but three years of its substantial lifespan, and our clotheslines and electric tumble dryers have had generations of their own.

Why both, when out-of-doors drying is possible despite temperature changes?

Convenience. Time saving. Foul weather.

Hanging wet laundry in freezing weather is a choice for only those without recourse or those who welcome nature’s challenges and gifts.

Frozen cloth will dry itself through evaporation. bringing the best of refreshment to their use or storage.

Ah, but all that stretching and reaching, or more importantly, “What will my neighbors think?”

Good thoughts. but let us pray for good reasons. Average laundry hanging out of doors will save about a hundred dollars a year per family according to those who have the time and inclination to put numbers on such matters.

Not enough?

Well, how about the collective impact on the environment by cazillions of electrically fed clothes dryers?

Enough with the environment already?

OK. How about the out-of-door exercise, of reaching, and bending in air freshened by evaporation?

But what about winter weather?

Ah. That’s when freshly hung washings give their all. Frost dissipates in the moisture, leaving the clothes and whatnot dry and well scented, and the domestic fuel bill lower than it would otherwise be.

But what to do in really stormy weather?

Wooden racks in the basement serve equally well. There is a loss of out-of-door air refreshment, but in the winter it moistens dry air and reduces fuel costs.

But there isn’t enough basement room for that?

Surrender, then, and use the backup dryer without guilt, knowing you have done your very best to help extend the life of the planet.

Even as I write, our freshly laundered unmentionables toss in the wind from their new lines outside my window, and I am feeling very good about doing what we can to support the revolution.


Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His e-mail address is