Laundry blowing in the breeze on a summer’s day is as quintessentially British as it gets. I rank it up there with strawberries and cream, Wimbledon and afternoon tea! British people, myself included love to hang their washing outside on the line at every opportunity they can get. Sunny, dry and windy days mean one thing – it’s time to put the washing out!
Pegging out the laundry is best done on a sunny and dry day but most people will take advantage of a cloudy day too as long as it’s not going to start raining. If washing has been put out on a cloudy day people will go about their day with one eye always on the weather ready to dash home at a moments notice to bring in the laundry to save it from a ‘re-washing’ on the line! I am ever optimistic that it will not rain and have been caught out on countless occasions just to get the washing out!
For me getting the laundry on the line is ever so slightly addictive. On a perfect drying day, once I have washed the clothes that were waiting in the basket I will be searching the house for other items I can wash too. Mattress covers, winter coats and rugs will all get their turn on the line to take advantage of the good weather. It may be asked what is so addictive about hanging out the laundry? Well for me there are a number of reasons that I have for not being able to resist putting the washing out.
The most important reason is the incredible way the laundry will smell after a day hanging outside. There is something incredible about the fragrance of freshly washed clothes and bedding that have been dried outside. On occasion you will find me and my daughters with our heads buried in the clean and dry laundry pile breathing in this very smell. If you can get the bedding on your bed the same day it has dried then it’s heavenly.
Making the most of the unpredictable British weather. I have found that British people tend to not want to use their tumble dryers as much as the Americans I know. Therefore using the dry days to get the washing out cannot be passed by. The British weather in summer is so varied that any dry day is a day to hang the washing out. If not the washing will likely end up on a drying rack in the spare bedroom and spread across radiators to dry out! The actual physical activity of hanging the washing out for me is therapeutic. Mostly I’ll be on my own outside in the peace and quiet, alone with my thoughts. For me it is a way to have time to think, plan and relax. I have a set way in which I like to peg out the washing which was taught to me by my mum. I follow her ‘instructions’ on how to peg up different items for the best result and I will teach my girls the same technique! I have been known to re peg washing hung out by my husband just so it looks right!
Hanging out the washing to dry outside is a very sustainable way to do one of our most frequent chores. It will reduce your electricity consumption considerably and reduce the toll on the environment. In today’s world being able to swap to a more eco friendly method is surely a good change to make. Drying outdoors will reduce how much you spend on your energy bills, after all wind and solar power is free to us all. Tumble drying can be harsh on fabric and line drying is said to help prolong the life of your clothes. Add to this the therapeutic benefits of being outside and I feel it’s hard to argue against. Maybe perhaps the job will take a little longer but I think for me the benefits are worth it!
Here in the United States we are very lucky to have a laundry room with room for folding and hanging items. It is great as all the laundry can be hidden away in one room and as the houses here do not have radiators there’s no option to decorate every radiator with the wet laundry! Tumble drying seems to be the default setting here for drying laundry. I have not seen any washing lines in gardens either hidden away or for the neighbours to see. In Arkansas the high humidity in summer means that sometimes despite the heat the laundry will not dry fully. If it is a less humid day then the laundry will dry incredibly quickly. One thing that drying outdoors here does not create is the amazing English country garden fragrance I love! The lack of fragrance may be due in part to the fact that I feel the UK laundry detergent smells infinitely better than the American equivalents and the fragrance stays on the laundry so much longer.
I was intrigued by the transatlantic difference as to why so few people hang their laundry out in the US. My reading shows that there’s a lot more to it than people being shy to hang their washing out in public! Apparently in the past clotheslines used to be a common feature in most backyards. However, people became concerned that using clothes pegs (or clothes pins as they are called in the US) to hang laundry on lines outside was unsightly and was obstructing the views of others. Some condominium associations and home owners associations still ban clotheslines altogether. Some states had state wide clothesline bans which were lifted in 2012 although it still seems that there are still places where you are not free to dry your laundry outside today.
You may be thinking after reading my analysis of drying laundry outside what I do now whilst I’m living in a country where line drying is not that common anymore. Well, I have a clothes rack discretely hidden in my garden that is not visible to anyone but us. I try to dry outside as much as possible but on especially humid days will am known to use the tumble dryer. Everything is good in moderation!