New-generation washing lines are finding their way into tiny apartments as well as traditional backyards.
By Ruth Nichol. Pictures: Jeff McEwan
IT takes only one shrunken T-shirt to teach you that not everything can be chucked into the clothes dryer. Besides, there is something comforting about the smell of clean washing fresh from the line. It's cheaper, too. According to Consumer magazine it costs between 56 and 66 cents to dry a five kilogram load of washing in a dryer. And, as Wellington woman Rochelle Duncan discovered during three months without a clothesline, line-drying can be less time-consuming. "The old line had to come down when the garden was being dug up so we could move our garage," says the mother of two young children. "We used two clotheshorses, both inside and outside, and we had to finish drying the washing in the dryer most nights. With a clothesline, you can hang out two or three loads of washing and then forget about it. I think the clothes come in fresher and it's better for the environment."
The replacement line went up last weekend, a fold-down model fitted to two wooden posts. They had planned to get a traditional rotary line, but regretfully decided against it when they realised it would take up too much room -- and be visible from their newly renovated dining room.
"I do like the fact that, with a rotary line, you can stand in one spot -- our backyard gets quite muddy and it's a nuisance having to walk around in it."
Line drying may have gone out of fashion in many countries -- you rarely see clotheslines in the United States, for example -- but it gets the thumbs up from the experts. Cheryl Mendelson, an American philosopher and lawyer turned guru of the domestic arts, endorses it in her 1999 tome Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House.
"For those who have the option, outdoor line drying gives the freshest result and would be my preference for all those clothes and linens for which it is suitable," she writes.
She even provides illustrated instructions on how to hang washing, though her suggested method for T-shirts -- with the pegs on the hem -- may raise a few eyebrows. I prefer my mother's method, in which you fold the garment over the line and place the pegs under the arms. While this occasionally leads to fading along the fold-line, it also prevents hem-stretch and ensures that any peg marks are hidden when the garment is being worn.
Wherever you put your pegs, Mendelson points out that hanging out your washing carefully and folding it as soon as it comes in minimises, or even negates, the need for ironing.
According to Wellington clothesline installer and repairman Randall Stainton -- aka the AA Clothesline Man -- rotary lines are best for drying. "Because they circulate, every part of the wind is catching the clothesline, even in a light breeze. Fold-out and extendable lines only get the wind in one direction."
Mr Stainton, an authorised service agent for Australian clothesline manufacturer Hills, says many people are wedded to their old rotaries, preferring to get them repaired rather than replaced. "They want to keep the line they had when they first got married."
However, smaller section sizes, a growing interest in landscape design -- which often rules out putting up a large, circular, steel-and-wire structure -- and an increase in apartment living mean that other types of lines are taking over from the old hoist models.
Often, these are indoor lines, installed because body corporate rules forbid the hanging of clothes outside. It was for this reason that Wellington property consultant Barry Spencer recently installed locally made Aire-Lines in the bathrooms of two of his 12 inner-city apartments. The concertina-style lines, made of rust-resistant anodised aluminium and stainless steel, glide on and off wall-mounted brackets, which means they can be moved to different positions -- including outdoors -- or removed altogether. They have been such as success that he plans to install them in all the apartments -- including his own.
"We don't like using the dryer -- not everything can go in the dryer, and there's the economy factor as well. We have been using a clotheshorse; in modern well-insulated apartments everything dries inside in about 24 hours, even in the middle of winter, but they do take up a lot of room."
Australian inventor Barry de Boer responded to the need for a movable -- and removable -- clothesline with Versaline, which also slides into wall brackets and can be rolled up when not in use. "A lot of people have bought them for Sydney apartments which have rules regarding fixed clotheslines," he says.
Like Ms Duncan, Wellington architect Richard Wright lost his old clothesline in a house renovation -- or, in his case, a complete house rebuild. Instead, his family uses the old timber airing rack, suspended from the laundry ceiling with a rope and pulley, recycled from the house which previously occupied the section. It means they dry their clothes indoors, rather than outside, but he says that any extra moisture it generates is not an issue in a dry, well-insulated home.
Though he admits to owning a clothes dryer, as an architect with a commitment to ecologically sustainable design, he prefers not to use it -- and he certainly has no time for modern housing developments with restrictive rules about washing lines. "You can get a good-looking product and still get good function, without having to use electrical appliances."
"LINE of the TIMES." Asia Africa Intelligence Wire 13 Aug. 2005. Popular Magazines. Web. 20 Dec. 2009.
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