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Healthy Home Basics - Drying Your Laundry

By HHI Staff

Most people automatically think of drying their clothes in a dryer but, surprisingly, there are more options than that. Of course, you’ll want to choose the method most appropriate for each particular article of clothing.


The two main methods of air-drying are hang-drying and flat-drying. Each has a number of possible approaches and methods. Some of these will be discussed below.


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Keep in mind that air drying a large number of items indoors can often result in excessive indoor humidity as the moisture evaporates from the clothes into the air. When the humidity indoors gets too high, mold growth is a real possibility. So, be very careful about air drying too many items indoors, especially in the winter when the moisture can condense on window frames and other cool surfaces.


Hanging clothes and other washable items outdoors to dry is not only an inexpensive way to dry them, but it also can give them a renewed freshness. This is because the air blowing through fabric fibers helps lift out odors, while at the same time the ultraviolet rays from the sun will act as a mild bleach and sanitizer.


However, if you plan to dry your items outside, be alert for the presence of unwanted outdoor odors, especially if you’re chemically sensitive. This is because smoke from burning leaves, barbecues, and fireplaces as well as traffic exhaust can quickly become absorbed by fabric fibers. You should also be alert to days with a high pollen count if you’re an allergic person, and not hang your clothing outside on those days either. In addition, everyone should make certain that his or her clothesline and clothespins are clean and in good repair so they won’t soil or damage hanging items.


Handy single-line retractable (up to usually 40 ft. long) clotheslines are commonly found in hardware stores. Although commonly used outdoors, they can be used in some locations indoors, too. Large collapsible outdoor umbrella dryers with multiple rows of concentric lines are another option for hang-drying.


For drying small hand washables indoors, you might want to purchase a solid-wood, folding, drying rack. These are made with a number of dowel rods in alternating positions so that many of your small items can be dried at the same time. Such racks are often sold in hardware stores.


Also, certain damp clothing items can be hung to dry using heavy anodized aluminum hangers. (Anodized aluminum has a protective coating.) Such hangers won’t rust or bend out of shape and can be purchased at some department stores.


A handy piece of equipment for drying hangable items is a collapsible metal rack. Some have casters, some do not. Some are tubular chromed steel, others are painted metal. Many of these can be temporarily placed in the tub, in your utility room, or outdoors on a flat surface.


For drying slacks, you might try using special pants stretchers. Slacks dried on these metal-frame devices usually don’t have to be ironed—a real plus. Once popular, then rare, pants stretchers are now becoming available again.


A number of washable items in your home, including most sweaters, are best dried by flat-drying. Of course, a very common way to do this is to lay your damp sweater, or other item, on a thick 100%-cotton terry towel that’s completely colorfast. This is fine, but sweater drying racks have real advantages over using towels.


Sweater racks usually consist of a collapsible metal frame and a stretched mesh fabric. The rack lifts the sweater up off the floor while the mesh allows the air to pass under and through the garment. This hastens drying while lessening the chance for mustiness to develop. You can buy sweater drying racks in some local department and discount stores.


Whenever you need to flat-dry an item, it’s often a good idea to use a pattern as a layout guide, to make sure it’ll retain its prewashed size and shape. To make a drying pattern, before washing simply lay the dry clothing item on a piece of heavy, plain, undyed paper. Then, draw a line around the garment with a pencil. Next, remove the item, cut the paper along the drawn line, and label the pattern as to the garment for which it was created. After your garment has been washed and placed on the drying towel or rack, you can then place the pattern on top of it and shape the clothing to match the pattern. Finally, you’ll want to remove the pattern, allow it to dry, and save it for reuse. Instead of paper patterns, some people make fabric patterns, which are not as easily damaged by moisture or repeated use.


Of course, most of your washable items can be put in an automatic clothes dryer to dry them. Certainly, automatic dryers are quick and convenient. However, if your dryer operates on natural gas or propane, there are some concerns of which you should be aware.


Some sensitive individuals using gas dryers have reported that they can’t tolerate items dried in them. Apparently their clothes absorb natural gas odors or, more likely, the by-products of combustion. (Unfortunately, modifying a gas dryer so that absolutely no combustion by-products reach what’s being dried inside is impossible.) It must be pointed out that sensitive persons can be affected by extremely minute quantities of pollutants. Therefore, if you are a very sensitive person, it is generally best to only use an electric dryer.


Sometimes, dryers don’t seem to dry efficiently. This can be because lint has built up in the outdoor vent, restricting the air flow. Dryer vent cleaning brushes can often be used safely and easily clean them. A dryer vent can also be cleaned by a company that specializes in cleaning furnace ducts.


If you’re sensitive or highly allergic, it would be wise to not use any typical fabric-softener sheets in your automatic dryer. Sometimes their synthetic fragrances and other potentially bothersome ingredients can make your dryer intolerable for some time. A better choice might be to use dryer balls or rings to fluff towels and diapers. (Experiment first before using them on a load of clothes to make sure they don’t transfer any synthetic odors to the clothes.)


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Healthy Home Basics - Drying Your Laundry:  Created on April 19th, 2010.  Last Modified on February 27th, 2011


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