Dry Clothes, Humid Air
In the winter, when we're running the central heating in our house, the humidity level really drops. Drying laundry indoors saves me from running a humidifier to make the house more comfortable. Increasing the humidity may save you some cash on your heating bill, too, as moisture makes people feel warmer. Even if you don’t have central air, you may notice your home becoming uncomfortably dry thanks to leaks in the foundation and around windows that let in dry outdoor air. Fifty percent humidity is generally considered optimal, and anything below 30 percent will be dry enough to make your skin and mucous membranes dry, which can make you more susceptible to infections like swine flu.
Conversely, if you live in a very well sealed home or you have moisture problems like mildew or condensation, the indoor air may already be humid. In which case, you shouldn't dry more than a few items at a time indoors to keep from adding to the problem.
If you have an out-of-the-way area where the air is dry, such as an unheated and well-ventilated porch, garage, or shed, consider drying laundry there. Use a small electric fan to increase air movement if your space is short on cross-ventilation.
No need to worry if you're short on indoor space or have a moisture problem; just keep using an outdoor clothesline. Clothing dries fine in cool weather. You will be happier, though, if you dress for success. I wear my dishwashing gloves when I’m hanging out wet laundry—I still get a good grip, and my hands stay dry and thus much warmer when the temperatures drop into the 50s or 40s or lower. You can even dry laundry outside when it is below freezing. The items will freeze, but the ice crystals slowly dissipate into the dry winter air. Sometimes I hang just the large items outside if I’m short on inside drying space. It takes a few seconds to hang a couple of big towels and pairs of jeans, and they are easy to handle even wearing my insulated outdoor gloves.
Want even more info? Project Laundry List is a super resource for drying tips, reliable laundry-drying supplies, and advice on fighting city hall or a homeowners’ association, if outdoor lines are verboten in your neck of the woods.
Farm gal, library worker, and all-around money-pincher Jean Nick shares advice for green thrifty living every Thursday on Rodale.com.