Monday, January 21, 2008


Denizens of many suburban neighbourhoods like to create their own artificial reality. Neighbourhood bylaws against certain house colors and designs are the norm in many of these so-called 'planned' communities. Many people who live in drought stricken areas of the country are still unable to plant ecologically sensitive groundcover or wildflowers instead of your typical golf-green and pesticide enriched lawn.

One common neighbourhood, and in some cases municipal bylaw involves a ban on outdoor clothes drying. Proponents of these rules maintain that such clotheslines are unsightly, or that they look "cheap" and thus lower property values. For the most part I would think those who feel this way are just elitist snobs but that is just my opinion. Several years ago during the height of California's energy shortage, the Dooonesbury comic strip incorporated the debate into a storyline.

Today the government of Ontario announced thier intention to bring forward a long overdue piece of legislation that would provide owners of all freestanding detached homes, semi-detached, and rowhouses the right to dry clothes outdoors on a line. This law would effectively overide any existing municipal or neighbourhood bylaws. Hopefully other Provinces and even jurisdictions in the USA can work on enacting similar legislation.

I've been a big fan out line drying clothes for a long time (and was prevented by doing so at my house in Kitchener due to a neighbourhood bylaw). Since moving out to a small rural community I try to do it whenever the weather permits but I'll admit I don't dry underwear on the line. I know that may seem kind of silly, I guess I'm just shy.

Some handy tips for drying clothes on the line:

1. Use a liquid fabric softener in the wash. This will help make the clothes feel no different when you put them on after line drying then if you used that energy hog in your laundry room.

2. Hang shirts from the tail (fold over the bottom 2-3 inches) to avoid little marks at the shoulders that you would have to spend time ironing out before wearing.

3. Fold sheets in half and then hang with just a few inches over the line where you pin. This will reduce wrinkles.

4. Towels should be folded over the line at about the 1/3 point (1/3 on one side of the line, 2/3 on the other and pinned across the top).

5. Hang delicate items on clothes hangers and then attach the hanger to the line. This is especially useful for knitted items that you want to hold their shape.

One final tip: After line drying you can always just give your clothes 5 minutes in the energy hog. This works great if you forgot fabric softener or if heavy items like jeans and towels are still a bit damp in places. It also can reduce wrinkles and saves you time by avoiding the iron.

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