I was struck by a news report on the ABC evening news last night. Apparently it’s newsworthy that a wet T-shirt will freeze solid in 6 minutes in Minnesota in January. Diane Sawyer seemed genuinely amazed when a viewer sent in a video of this event. Really – this is news? Whatever would they think of laundry day at our place? Maybe the paparazzi will be converging on us if they get wind of the fact that we hang our laundry out to dry, even in the winter in Minnesota. In fact, it takes less than the reported 6 minutes to turn a T-shirt stiffer than a board if the temps are down near 0 degrees F. As laundry is being hung, it quickly looses moisture as it begins to freeze. The relative humidity is usually very low in the winter, especially during cold, high pressure, which helps this process along. And even once it’s frozen, the sun’s energy will cause water to evaporate from the clothing’s surface (the technical term is sublimation). This means that clothes will dry quicker on a sunny day at 0 degrees F. than they would if hung out on a calm, cloudy, 40 degree F. day when they’re more likely to just remain soggy.
Of course, hanging laundry outside in midwinter isn’t as pleasant as it is in milder weather, even on days that are sunny and not too windy. That’s why we don’t dawdle while getting the job done. Each piece of laundry is prepared for the line by having clothespins clipped on. The laundry can then be quickly hung by hands wearing rubber gloves that are only used for this purpose so as to keep them nice and clean. After a day or two of freeze-drying, the nearly dry laundry can be brought in to the house to finish on the rack standing behind the wood stove (or a clothes line). Why not just hang it all inside to start with? If you’ve got low indoor humidity, then this is a great way to accomplish two things at once, especially if you’ve got enough room. But for us, in our tightly-built straw-bale home, we don’t need more humidity, so getting the bulk of the drying done outdoors is preferable.
Most importantly, only wash what’s truly dirty. Many times something that’s only been worn/used once can be hung and aired out for another wearing/use before washing. You’ll do less laundry which will save you time, use less resources, and make your textiles last longer. Freeze-dried laundry – just thaw before wearing ;>) No appliance or fossil fuels needed.