Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"The Right to Dry" - my kind of politics

I read something today in The Vermont Country Store catalogue that I wanted to share with you, for it expresses my kind of politics. Usually being political is understood to mean - voting, canvassing for a particular candidate, getting involved in the political process. All that is true, but there is another way to be political, and that is in one's day to day life. I view each decision I make, no matter how small, to be a demonstration of my "politics."

That said, here are the words of the owners of The Vermont Country Store, The Orton Family. It is titled: Do You Have "The Right to Dry" Where You Live?

We've been promoting a new kind of civil disobedience to save energy and help the planet: Set up a clothesline and hang your wash out even if you live in a neighborhood where doing such is prohibited. Is it not the height of snobbery to declare hanging clothes out to dry illegal?

Someone years ago in some rich, exclusive development decided that clotheslines with their hanging sheets - and, oh-my-gosh, underwear! - were déclassé amd declared them illegal. That was the turning point in America, when we started moving from the small-town feel of inclusion to the gated-community exclusion and buying of status. Such ordinances and association rules fly in the face of efficient energy use and it's time to get rid of them.

It's a beautiful thing to see clothes drying in the sun and wind, letting nature do the job for free, without any energy being used or lint accumulating. Do my tighty-whities hanging on the line really shock and embarrass anyone? If I have a clothesline, do you look down on me? Well, certainly not in Vermont!

This past year in Vermont we attempted to pass a "right to dry" law but it failed. You can be sure we'll bring it back this coming year and hope other states do the same.

We are not trying to shame anyone into getting rid of their dryer but we are trying to gain the right for anyone to put up a clothesline and dry their laundry the old-fashioned way. It's not only frugal but a common sense way to reduce out impact on the planet.

The Orton Family, Props

October 6, 2005

(If you type 'clotheslines' into the search bar, you'll find many words and pictures from previous posts on drying clothes outdoors).


  1. I line dry in a hidden corner in my backyard after a neighbor complained. I love the smell of line dried clothes and sheets.

  2. I am right there with you, Nan. I love to hang my clothes outside and take advantage of what Mother Nature has provided for us. I don't think it's anyone's business how you dry your clothes. But then, I love the look of laundry on the line and some people don't.
    Of course, I haven't stopped there. I do have my little flock of "Rebel Hens" in the backyard, who are producing the most beautiful eggs. I keep them fat and happy and share the eggs with my neighbors. Hopefully none of them will turn me in. ;)
    I have been busy writing to everyone I can think of, from my county commisioner to my State Senator, and not one has replied back. I take their silence as approval and just plug along. lol

  3. I wish I could line dry, if only for the money-saving aspects! Unfortunately, my 6 yr old son has lots of severe allergies so we just can't do it. I once wrapped him in a towel that was hanging by the pool, thinking it would be nice and dry from the sun. Within minutes he broke out in hives all over, because of the pollen on the towel. It was a nightmare. :(

  4. I hope you guys get that passed. I didn't even know until this spring that there were places that banned line drying. What could possibly be so bad about it? I could see requiring it to be done in the back yard (maybe), but banning altogether?

  5. There is a scene in "The Nightengale" by Agnes Sligh Turnbull: two neighbors lamenting the lack of laundry finesse in a third neighbor. First of all, her wash wasn't white enough and [terrible thing!] she had hung her husband's "drawers" on the line in such a manner that they "showed his shape!"
    Here in Wyoming the altitude and sunshine mean that I can dry laundry outside most of the year. The trick is to keep it on the lines in the legendary Wyoming wind--we go through a lot of Penley's clothes pins!

  6. Nan, when I moved to my city home a little over a year ago, I shared with my son how I missed my clothes line. He said "mom put one up". So I did, in the back corner with a hook on my porch and a post that has a vine on it as the other post. I hang my sheets out every week. I posted an entry on my journal about this.

  7. I just cannot conceive that there are actually LAWS which make line-drying ILLEGAL? Gosh, but I can see where common sense started dieing. Who thought this law out I wonder? Someone too precious for words.

  8. Everyone I know in the UK has one of those rotary clotheslines, Nan. Thankfully the clothes-drying police don't yet appear to have arrived en masse in England (but give them time).

    I wonder what the drying-laundry challenged bunch did if they ever visited Europe, especially cities like Naples, where, in the poorer quarters, everyone hung out their washing to dry across windows and alleyways - for the entire world to see. (They probably all have tumble dryers these days.) Countries like Egypt and India would be even more challenging; in villages, laundry is still washed in the river and spread out to dry in the sun on large stones and boulders . . .

  9. What a fascinating post. I had no idea that drying your washing outside was frowned upon in some parts of the US. That's bizarre. I always hang washing outside, don't own a drier as a matter of fact. In the winter if it's wet I just hang stuff on a clothes horse type of thing in a spare room. I'm sort of stunned that people have actually complained about people drying washing outside. You wonder about people sometimes...

  10. When I read this post I was shocked. I've never heard of such a thing though I imagine there might be some restrictions with regard to blocks of flats. I googled 'washing line restrictions UK' and couldn't find any which is a surprise as we seem to be battered every day by new and intrusive laws.

    Mind you, the weather we've had this summer has meant most washing lines have been pretty empty. I have one of those hanging drying racks in the utility room and rarely use the dryer - partly to save energy but mostly because I'm too mean!

  11. I am amazed to read about this law and am setting off to research whether any local councils in UK have made a restriction like it.

    My rotary washing line has pride of place in the main flower bed so that the laundry picks up the scent of lavender and roses.

    Good luck to the line-drying rebels!

  12. Crazy, nutty times.
    So, does one actually get arrested for hanging their clothes on a line? I think I'd go to jail for that one.

  13. I remember helping my grandmother put out clothes on the clothesline -- she hated dryers with almost as much passion as she hated phones :-) I always loved the way the sheets smelled after being hung out to dry though -- just wonderful! A shame to think there are laws prohibiting it nowadays!

  14. I had absolutely NO idea that drying washing outside was illegal anywhere in the world! I'm amazed. I've just hung out my third load of laundry today and, as always, rejoice that at this time of the year I can still dry everything for my sports-mad, muddy-beach-mad family of 5, fast, free and at no expense to the planet. I can barely imagine not being able to do that, so am in rather a state of shock to discover that it would be illegal in some parts of the US.

  15. Agreed. It's akin to the mentality that omits sidewalks from a community's plan. Feh.

  16. Best of luck in getting that law passed. Every dryer load pumps out 4lbs of CO2 into our atmosphere according to and Wikipedia. I went a little hard-core and got rid of my dryer. Well actually the dryer died and I never replaced it. It does take a little planning to do my washing but I figure I save about 20 bucks a month on my electric bill. Not too shabby.

  17. Amy, thanks for finding this post. Wow, 20 a month is a huge savings. I mostly dry pants and wool socks on a rack.


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