Monday, September 24, 2007

Wash Day

Elizabeth has left a post about hanging out her laundry with which I whole-heartedly concur. I left a comment there, but I'll post it here, too, in case there are other Crunchy Cons out there who think the sight and smell of hanging out the laundry to dry is worth the slight extra effort and time.

First, there's nothing like the smell of line-dried laundry. No fabric softener on earth can duplicate it. Then, there's a softness to all but the towels that also cannot be duplicated by any fabric softener. (And towels soften up amazingly if, as you take them off the line, you give them a couple of sharp slaps against your legs before folding them. Fluffs them out.) And the sight of clothes dancing on a clothesline in a freshening breeze practically screams HOME! You can almost smell the apple pie cooling in the kitchen. (For the record, I have never baked an apple pie in my life.)

OK, I can practically hear Mimi jumping up and down, shouting, "But what about RAIN?" (Mimi lives in the Pacific Northwest.) This was my chief comment to Elizabeth's post. I told her to consider the addition of a "utility porch" somewhere on her house. I had one in the back of a house we rented in Massachusetts for two years. It was just heavenly. It was just a back porch with clotheslines strung across the ceiling from side to side -- five of 'em, wrapped around hooks that had been screwed into the side supporting beams of the porch roof. Every morning, before leaving for work (I was working at the time), I would wash a load of laundry and hang it out to dry. And in the evening, I'd bring it in off the line, all fresh and soft. One year, it rained for an entire week in the spring, and I washed clothes every day. And every day, I'd bring them in, all fresh and soft -- and dry.

My current house does not have a utility porch, and we've lived in it for 21 years. I keep toying with the idea. But there's an awkward bulkhead (door to the cellar) that juts out from the middle of the back of the house, and I cannot design any way around it, short of a trap door -- and I really don't want to go there.

So, in the winter, I dry my "smalls" on racks in the kitchen, which moisturizes the air beautifully. And I take my sheets and towels to the laundromat and suffer with machine-dried laundry. Hanging out laundry in the fresh air is one of the few things I actually like about summer.

An aside here: Portsmouth Naval Ship Yard is not too far from our house. Submarines routinely come in for repair, and the crew are billeted with local families while the ship undergoes repair. One of my friends once hosted a young sailor from California for about six months. They all got along very well, and on his last night before reporting for sea duty, they took him out to a local lobster pound for dinner. As they sat around enjoying Maine "lobstah," the young fellow thanked them profusely for their hospitality, then added: "There's just one thing I've never understood. What is the significance of this local custom of hanging out clothes in the back yard?"



Elizabeth said...

Most non-rainy days I have washing hanging out to dry.
Nothing can beat it, especially as we have lavender and rosemary and bay growing close to the washing line, so the clothes get ready-scented to a certain degree :-)

I would so love a utility porch, Meg !
Sadly, the rear of our house is too narrow to allow one which could be of any use :-(

Mimi said...

Even in the Northwest, I do love the smell of laundry hung to dry. I have to admit, I rarely do it though.

-C said...

Hanging the laundry on the line is one of my favorite things about summer. Nothing beat the smell of linens that have been dried on the line.

Being able to use the clothesline to dry our clothes also cuts laundry time down considerably for us (our dryer usually requires two complete cycles to dry the clothes - over twice as long as it takes to wash a load).

But - I'm not sure what you are doing to your towels - mine get pretty crunchy on the line, not softer. I can shake them out all I want, but they don't get any softer. We can almost exfoliate with towels dried on the line. But we dry them on the line anyway :-)