Do You Have The Right to Dry?

by Katy on June 4, 2009 · 25 comments


This article from the Consumer Reports website reports on a law that the state of Hawaii is looking to pass that will outlaw clothesline bans for single family homes. (I guess apartments can still restrict them?)

Here’s the crux of the article:

The Hawaii legislation comes at a time when the “right-to-dry movement” has been gaining momentum in this country, with groups like Project Laundry List promoting the environmental aspects of line drying clothes. Opponents of line drying decry the aesthetic impact of clotheslines and suggest that clotheslines can hurt property values.

Clothesline enthusiasts will tell you that hanging laundry saves electricity, reduces greenhouse-gas emissions, and leaves laundry with a fresh scent that fabric softeners and dryer sheets can’t match. Note that your savings won’t be great —the average electric clothes dryer costs about $80 to run a year—but the cumulative effect would be significant. (You’ll find any number of sites with instructions for setting up a clothesline, including these from and

It should come as no surprise that I love, love, love my clothesline and look for laundry opportunities throughout my home just so I’ll have a load to hang. Not only am I saving money and using less energy; but I’m also simply enjoying the meditative quality of the task. Hanging laundry can’t be rushed, and I find it to be a calming task, a nice break in my day.

Here’s a question though — The mechanics behind a clothesline is evaporation, which apparently can be legislated. So . . . can gravity be legislated as well? (I do have a friend who is a County Commissioner, perhaps I should check in with her to see if Multnomah County has clothesline laws either way.)

Do you have the right to use evaporation? Please share your story in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa G June 4, 2009 at 3:08 am

I’ve always found the ban on clotheslines in the USA a little weird, my sister lives in NJ and when she told me she wasn’t allowed to dry clothes outside I was surprised, who legislates on such a thing and why, surely it’s not just aesthetics? I’ve never heard of such a restriction in the UK or Europe, I’m not saying there isn’t somewhere but I’ve never heard of it, everyone has clotheslines in their gardens over here.


Jodi June 4, 2009 at 8:35 am

Every time I hang out laundry, I thank my lucky stars that I live in a real, old, neighborhood, not in some wacky subdivision with weird rules that keep me from painting my house purple (I didn’t) or hanging out my laundry to dry. And, even better, we put up our clothesline so that we can share it with our next-door neighbors; it’s right on the line of our unfenced back yard.


Sierra June 4, 2009 at 9:13 am

This is almost as hilarious as it is awful.

I’m going to go set up my clothesline for the season right now before Massachusetts jumps on that bandwagon.


Debineezer June 4, 2009 at 9:14 am

It’s aesthetics. I seem to remember that many covenant communities have these restrictions, but I don’t get why a city would bother. Like there is ANY community that couldn’t benefit from getting dryers off the grid.


Mayhem June 4, 2009 at 9:26 am

We line dry our laundry as soon as it’s warm outside. I was a little disappointed to learn that I’m probably not saving much electricity or money by not using my dryer. However, I’m still going to line dry because what drives me nuts about using the dryer in summer is the idea of heating the house (with the dryer) and cooling the house (with the AC) at the same time. Do you think I’m saving any more electricity or money by NOT making my AC work overtime to make up for the heat from the dryer?


karen June 4, 2009 at 10:03 am

I have a wooden drying rack ( Amish made 🙂 )that I put up on our back patio. Would that be a violation? or is it the more permanent style of clotheslines? I love the smell of air dried clothes/sheets. My niece has grown up with the smell of artificial scented dryer sheets & thinks my stuff ‘smells funny’ …..
how sad


sandy June 4, 2009 at 10:06 am

I line dry all the time–didn’t even bother to buy a dryer. I have 3 hooks under the house eaves around my deck that I attach my line to (I never leave it up). My neighborhood has no restrictions on line-drying, which is one of the reasons we bought a house here. Our previous condo did have restrictions on drying clothes on the balcony, but I did it anyway since the clothes couldn’t be seen through the trees and no one walked back there (too steep).

If I’m only saving $80, well that’s money that could go to something more fun than drying clothes. And what about the cost of the increased wear on clothes that are dried in the dryer? My T-shirts seem to last almost forever–especially if I hang them on the shadier part of the line.


Sandy June 4, 2009 at 10:23 am

I do NOT have the right to dry. That’s it! I’m calling an estate agent this minute!


BarbG June 4, 2009 at 10:47 am

I live in a condo and have been threatened with a fine if I continue to dry my clothes on a drying rack. I find that so disheartening from an environmental aspect. I try to use as little electricity as possible. I have even gone so far as too put my TV/VCR and computer on power bars so they do not sit on stand-by mode.
I have brought my drying rack inside. I only use my dryer once week to dry my bedsheets because they don’t fit on the rack.
At any rate, I have the lowest hydro bill of anyone I know! 🙂


motherhen68 June 4, 2009 at 10:51 am

We hear all the time from environmentalist that every little bit helps, etc. Wouldn’t it make more sense to encourage people to line dry their laundry, even if they “only” save 80.00/yr (I find it hard to believe it’s that low. I thought I read somewhere your dryer is second only to the a/c in terms of energy hog?)

I’m so glad we live in the country with no restrictions.


Kristie-ND June 4, 2009 at 11:03 am

I don’t normally use a clothesline. In the winter…well, this is North Dakota.

In the summer, I have not used one because we have so much, for lack of a better word, prairie flying by(windy, windy, windy…year round windy) and when I have tried, the clothes come in dirty..sigh

My husband is trying to find a place to put up a year round, indoor clothesline for me

Criminal line drying…what a bizarre thing. Do we not have enough real criminals to go after? Reminds me of living in base housing with all the lists of what you could or could not do, and if you didn’t do things the way they wanted, whether it made sense or not, the housing squad came to write you up.


fern June 4, 2009 at 11:16 am

a statewide ban??That’s ridiculous.


Julia June 4, 2009 at 11:27 am

We live in an apartment complex and it is technically not allowed to dry clothes on our deck, but I’ve done it and not had any complaints.

Along the same vein, but not 100% on topic, I’ve recently moved to a much more humid climate and it can take days for a single load of laundry to dry, any suggestions?


GLM June 4, 2009 at 12:10 pm

I dry my clothes inside on a drying rack – even though I live in a condo, the footprint isn’t that large. I would not dry outside, because of pollen.

The only things I machine dry these days are sheets and bath towels. And if I did have enough space to easily dry them inside, I’d do that, too!


Jane June 4, 2009 at 12:26 pm

We line in a community where clotheslines are banned. To get around this my husband designed a place for me to hang a closet pole on the back porch. On the weekends (laundry day) we hang up the closet pole and I hang my wet clothes on hangers and then hang them outside on the closet pole. When the laundry is dry we remove the pole until next week. Rugs and towels can be hung over the pole and quickly dried this way too.


marzapan June 4, 2009 at 2:31 pm

I can dry freely, and do! And I save a whole lot more than $80 a year, too! I have seen my gas & electric bill go down approximately $50 a month. I have two little kids whose clothes get very dirty (sometimes have to change outfits a few times a day) so I do a lot of laundry!


hustler June 4, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Wow. Not only does it save electricity, but imagine how hot a dryer makes the house in the summer. It surely saves on running the air, too. I didn’t even know there could be bans on such things.


Kristen@The Frugal Girl June 4, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Yup, I have the right to dry. My neighborhood is too old to have covenants, thankfully.

Of course, one of my neighbors has a burgundy house with pastel aqua shutters because of the no-covenants thing, but it’s ok.


Jen June 4, 2009 at 6:14 pm

If I use my dryer, the ac, and one other appliance in my kitchen, (even the refrigerator turning on) I blow a breaker. No bans here that I know of. But then, “don’t ask, don’t tell” is sometimes a good idea. Only the neighbor directly behind us can see our line, and I don’t care what they think anyway.


story June 5, 2009 at 7:05 am

Based on the comments it sounds to me like some people are confused: the Hawaii law is not a BAN on clotheslines, it makes it ILLEGAL to ban clotheslines, i.e. requiring your subdivision to let you have it. It’s silly and sad that it’s necessary but it’s actually a step in the right direction.


AJ in AZ June 5, 2009 at 7:50 am

I have always been lucky enough to live in the country (except for 3 months many years ago), and have never owned a dryer in my life. It is hard for me to imagine just how much crap others have to put up with, just because they are trying to live a simpler and less energy-using life. I am always horrified when I find out about things like “no clothelines”.
OTC-Just imagine how much energy would be saved if our Pres would order the lights turned off on our interstate highways. Cars have lights, and the more there are, the more light. I regard it as another stupid unnecessary use of electricity.


alunachic June 6, 2009 at 4:55 pm

My older son is 30. ZEN was hanging his cloth diapers on the line in the backyard when he was a baby. There is nothing prettier than a line of white diapers drying on the line….

I hang clothes on my deck to dry. I don’t have a line but my neighbor does and I’m welcome to use it! I have to remove lint and dog hair from everything, so I dry then do a quick spin in the dryer. I probably use my dryer 30 minutes to an hour a week.


mari June 6, 2009 at 6:25 pm

I have a drier rack that on a sunny day, I will put it on the back deck. If a rainy day I will leave it inside and next to the french doors. It only takes a day for it to dry either way. I also have a line strung in the spare room upstairs that I can hang bedsheets and towels. Heat rises so it is usually warmer upstairs than on the main floor. I am looking for a umbrella type clothesline due to very limited space in the back yard.


Nick June 27, 2009 at 9:06 am

It’s unfortunate that people got out of the habit of using clotheslines. They save so much energy, and it is kind of peaceful to hang the clothes.

Rainy days and winter make outdoor drying difficult, but people can air dry their clothes by using a wooden clothes drying rack like this one. Being round it works really nice under a ceiling fan!


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