Clothes dryers of course use a ridiculous amount of electricity. Fifty cents of electricity a load, or $193 a year according to this calculator. (Which presupposes 15 cents per kilowatt hour.) Aside from the cost, that electricity looks tidy coming out of your electrical outlets, but there's probably some messy environmental consequences on the other side.
Does your electricity come from nuclear plants, coal-fired plants, hydroelectric plants? There are down sides to all of these. The less you use of it, the better. (When isn't that the case, really?)
Of course, saving electricity and money and carbon footprint is all well and good. But the undisputed best thing about drying your clothes outside is the amazing wonderful smell. Many detergent and fabric softener manufacturers have tried to imitate this smell with their "Outdoor Fresh" scent. They all fail. There is nothing like the smell of sheets that have been dried outside. Nothing!
Some people object to the way that clothes dried outside feel stiff to the touch. This is most noticeable for people who habitually use dryer sheets. First of all, I object to dryer sheets in the strongest possible terms. They are not regulated by the FDA, but consider all the chemicals in a dryer sheet, and consider also that your skin is permeable. Surely everything in the dryer sheet can seep through your skin into your bloodstream.
Second of all, dryer sheets actually work by laying down a film over your clothes. When you use a dryer sheet, your clothes are not actually getting clean. They're getting clean, and then covered in weird chemicals.
Useless chemicals, too! Why risk the exposure, not to mention the expense?
Okay. Rant over.
Anyway, the stiffness wears off as soon as you use the item in question. A few minutes after you put on your jeans, or as soon as you start toweling yourself dry, the clothes will start softening right up. It's really not an issue.
Another objection is to people seeing all of your unmentionables. Back In The Day, the strategy here was to have either three parallel clothes lines, or one spoke-shaped clothesline with several concentric circles of line. You hung your underwear on the inside, and hung larger items on the outside, to shield your shorts from view.
This isn't an option for everyone, particularly those of us who live in small spaces with only room for a single line. When this is the case, you can either dry your underwear inside (it dries quickly, more quickly than many other clothing items), or mass all of the underwear into a single, brief clothes drying cycle. If you end up running only one load through the dryer instead of your usual three (or four, or five!) that's definitely a win.
A little bit of strategy, a lot of good weather, and that amazing clothesline smell can be yours!
Photo credit: Flickr/tizzie