Sunday, August 30, 2009

using the clothes dryer again


I normally hang all my clothes to dry: It saves energy (dryers are a big energy sucker) and actually helps keep the clothes from wearing out too fast, since the heat and friction of the clothes dryer degrades fibres.

Recently, however, my clothes have been getting really stinky. I first noticed it when I put on a t-shirt for work one day and got a whiff of something akin to old, damp, used lockerroom towels. Not good. Especially on my body, and especially on my way to work.

After some investigation (read: sniffing all my clothes), I concluded that only the most recent wash was smelly. I washed the entire load all over again with borax and vinegar, hoping those eco-friendly deodourizers would do the trick. No such luck. Two days later the drying clothes were still smelly.

So I washed everything one more time with (gulp) a bit of chlorine bleach to kill any germs or mold that were making the clothes smell bad. I hung everything to dry again, and this time all I smelled was the faint, comforting scent of swimming pool. (Which is really not all that comforting, when you stop and think about it; chlorine is toxic in its liquid form, and chlorine bleach fumes are really bad for you.)

The next time I washed a load of clothes, I used a bit of bleach again as a preventive measure. A couple of days later, however, the still-damp clothes stunk just as bad as the first batch. I re-washed the entire load with more bleach, and finally broke down and dried all the clothes in the dryer.

It was a difficult moment for me. When I cast back in my memory, I realized it had been SIX YEARS since I'd last dried my clothes in a dryer. Seriously. I remember because it was the summer of the big blackout (2003), and in the weeks immediately following the blackout I had decided that hanging my clothes to dry would cut down on my family's energy use and contribute towards lessening our burden on the grid.

Above is a picture of my folded laundry after it was done drying. I'm still inexpressably bummed about drying my clothes this way. Plus now all my polyester dress pants are slightly wrinkled. Bleah.

41 comments:

online Fair trade said...

Yes..sometimes we must think about the nature..Saving Energy is a good idea and I hope that it's a great idea to do that..

Linda said...

What happened with the original problem? Did the clothes dryer's heat solve the odor problem?

himira said...

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G. L. said...

So, I had to wonder..why did this problem just recently present? I wondered also whether there may be an accumulation of matter under the rim of your washer...? Sometimes fibres, gunk, and detergent can accumulate there and fester maybe contributing to the mold scent? It seems odd that this prob just appeared. Hmmm, curious.

Michelle Lynne Goodfellow said...

To answer some reader questions:

1) Did the clothes dryer's heat solve the problem?

Yes, but it's not the heat. It's just getting them dry quickly, before any bacteria, mold or mildew can grow in the damp fabric.

2) Why did this problem just recently present?

There are actually a number of possible reasons.

A) I moved to a new apartment, with a different temperature and humidity. In the new place the clothes were taking AT LEAST another full 24 hours to dry, and often longer for heavy items like jeans and terry towels.

B) I started doing my laundry at my parents' house, on a day of the week when the previous load in the washing machine was always a load of really smelly (like, lockerroom smell) towels that belonged to my parents. I think there was more than a little cross-contamination going on there.

Thanks for reading, guys!

MLG

The Green Gnome said...

Great blog! So my question is why dont they solar dryers we can use outside in place of hanging them up. Lots of poeple have solar oven's and cook there food outside with the sun's energy why not solar dryers? HMMMMMMM!

Francis Bell said...

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Anonymous said...

One good way to solve this problem- and either not use your clothes dryer at all, or only a little- is to use a spin dryer such as at http://www.laundry-alternative.com/drying.htm
In many countries spin dryers are used in the rainy season before hanging clothes up to dry to prevent smells from bacteria, mold & mildew.

Anonymous said...

I was very puzzled why your clothes would smell after being dried on the line, until I realized you were hanging them inside. Duh! How could you not realize that if they stayed damp for too long they would get that mildewy smell? I've hung clothes up for 30 yrs. and never had that problem. But then I hang them outside in the summer while in the winter I only hang up the lighter weights loads. The heavy stuff like towels, jeans, etc go in the dryer. I realize not everyone has the different options available but also remember way back when before dryers, most homes were heated by wood or coal and were very dry in the winter thus drying the clothes much faster.

Michelle Lynne Goodfellow said...

To Anonymous (the most recent one before this comment):

I've been hanging my clothes to dry inside for three years. (Well, until the smell problem developed.) I never had a problem with the clothes smelling - even if they were really heavy items, like jeans - until I wrote this post. Most of the places I have lived have had really dry air and the room where I've hung the clothes to dry has been fairly warm. What changed is that I moved to a new apartment, and it was a humid (muggy) Southwestern Ontario summer.

I am drying all my clothes now in the clothes dryer.

Till said...

What kind of washing machine do you have and what kind of detergent do you use? Did you make sure there is no dirt/mold in the machine? Stick your head in there and smell around. Seriously. Leave the machine door open for some hours when the machine is not in use so the inside can dry out. Same for the room or cabinet where the machine is. Wash at temperatures around 104F (40C), less for fragile stuff. Around 60C for whites. Many crappy American toploader machines don't even go there. No bleach should be needed to get the smell out. There should basically be no bacteria in your laundry after washing. I am not saying sterile but I am saying that I have several times forgotten to empty my washing machine for two days and the clothes would still smell fresh. (I use Tide HE for front loaders). A rinse cycle with vinegar is a good idea. Hang the clothes in a well ventilated room, not in a bathroom without windows. If possible, leave a window open.

Even in the circumstances you describe the smell just shouldn't happen.

Michael said...

Hi,
I like this post because it is informative and helpful to all readers. I would like to revisit this post.
Thanks,
Green Certification

Manhattan Mold removal said...

I believe in drying the clothes in the plain and simple hanging fashion rather than again burn the energy to dry them down.But time and space are factors which may or may not allow you to do these.

End of Tenancy Cleaning said...

Cleaning should be made in accordance with nature that is to say green. We must respect nature no matter if it is cleaning, driving your car,etc. Good point. Compliments from End of Tenancy Cleaning.

Business Directory said...

If you tired off from cleaning cloths and looking for good companies which provide you services on very cheap rate then you must go through that website Business Directory, having list of companies which provide you these services on very cheap rate.

NYC Air Conditioning & Vent Cleaning said...

It is always better to use safer and eco friendly ways than the electronics that we use.The simple solar resource that we have has immense usages.

Sara said...

I just moved to SW Ontario this summer too, and I had the same problem. I bought an energy efficient dehumidifier to run in my basement. If your basement is so humid that clothes aren't drying fast enough, you will end up with other problems because of the humidity as well. My clothes dried quickly with the dehumidifier.

Eminia said...

Nice post everybody should think about it..Closed Loop Recycling

joey@hoover5914 said...

We have just had underfloor heating installed and now I do not use my dryer at all because I just hang my clothes on an clothes airer and the heat from the floor dries them very quickly. Saves on electricity too

Greg Stanton said...

Your blog is interesting!

Hope to be part of your list/friends. To add up, normally what you said is true about electric dryers. It will just consume a lot of electrical energy that means will cost a lot of buck. Anyway, I normally hung my clothes and dry them up under the sun. But before anything else. After washing it, I normally put on fabric conditioner. I normally used "Downy". It has a perfume scent which will last forever.

Hoping to read more stories from you on your blog. Thanks!

Michelle Lynne Goodfellow said...

@Greg: Using liquid fabric softener is never a good idea, since it is a waxy substance that actually makes your clothes attract dirt faster. Read more about this in my post on laundry:

http://greenercleaner.blogspot.com/2007/06/laundry.html

Also, it's better to get to the source of any bad smell trather than trying to cover it up with perfume. I have chemical sensitivities, and can't have artificial fragrances in my home.

Greg Stanton - Carpet Cleaner said...

Thanks for that information Mich. It's my first time to hear that from you. So, it's really not a good idea to use a fabric conditioner. Do you have any alternative to fabric conditioners?

Hoping for a response.

Michelle Lynne Goodfellow said...

@Greg: It depends on the reason you're using fabric softener. If it's to truly "soften" fabrics, try putting vinegar in your rinse cycle (just fill up the fabric softener compartment with vinegar, or add 1/2 cup of vinegar when the rinse water is filling).

If it's to reduce static cling:
1. Stop using the dryer to dry your clothes
2. Reduce or eliminate your clothing made of synthetic fibres
3. Just live with the static cling
4. Use dryer sheets, which aren't eco-friendly, but better for your clothes than liquid fabric softener.

MLG

Tophe Silver - Carpet Expert said...

Is it really effective mich? Cause if you're using it on clothes specially on the colored ones there could be a possibility that the pigments of the colored clothes will fade out.I think your method is applicable on plain white clothes.

Manhattan Mold removal said...

It is essential to dry the clothes so that there is no damp which breeds fungus and allergy and molds.The solar drying techniques are also good if could be possible as it also kills germs.

Keith Edwards said...

Like your blog but am interested to hear what the issue is? I wash and dry most clothes on a line, never experienced smelly clothes until I've worn them all day!

Green cleaning is possible - running my own cleaning company we never use damaging chemicals to clean, usually just water with fantastic results - see before and after pics at Gallery http://www.ECO-Pressure-Clean.co.uk

Thanks Keith.

Matt said...

Great blog! Thanks for sharing.

Cleaning Company said...

Tumble dryers are expensive to run and not great for the environment, but they're necessary sometimes, such as when it's too damp or cold in your house (or outside) for the clothes to dry hanging. I'd say, use the dryer when needed but the rest of the time stick to letting the sun work it's magic :)

Will Moreno said...

For my polyester clothes (athletic clothes) I just tumble dry them on medium heat for 5-10 minutes, then hang them up still slightly damp on my collapsible drying rack for a couple of hours. They completely dry and don't get wrinkles that way. My Nike and Adidas tops and shorts still look new after over 20 washings.

For cottons, I wash in cold and dry in warm; though I might warm warm the whites with non chlorine bleach. The colors don't fade so much, and I don't mind most cotton items getting softer with the fibers breaking down. With my cotton and cotton/poly shirts they're in a dryer for only 10 minutes, then on hangers. Some need to be ironed, and I do that while still damp.

Alex Wingrove said...

I hate the damp smell

Alex Wingrove

Integrity Window Cleaning

Brilho Services said...

Thanks for this good & excellent work. you should have to continue it forever.....

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Addison said...

Thanks for the cleaning tips.Whenever you use a certain flooring it is necessary that you know how to maintain the same and according to the suitability of the texture .

Professional Cleaning Services

Paul said...

I totally agree with you on hanging your clothes to dry, I strongly encourage it and it definitely pro longs the life on most fabrics.

Paul,
Decon Enviro

Brandon McBride said...

I'm curious, did it solve the damp and smelly problem?

House Cleaning said...

Great tips in using the clothes dryer! Managing household and raising a family is really tough!

Millennium Commercial Cleaning said...

Thanks for the update about what happened! Was going to have to find out why all the smelliness...:) Do you happen to know if leaving your clothes out to dry that long could have also contributed to fading or other problems too? I have been considering doing more natural drying but living in Florida have concerns that the high humidity might mess up my plans!

Yunus05 said...

Great article thanks for the info

Eco friendly homes

Anyclean said...

I dry my washing outside (well when the weather is sunny) or in the winter I hang them on a drying rack. I haven't had any problems and I always fold them when I am sure they are completely dry. If you have a good ventilation/heating at home, you will never have any damp clothes.

Beth said...

I often dry clothes inside in my laundry room, but I have a fan circulating on them and a dehumidifier in that room. I also keep the lid of my washing machine open when not in use.

Anonymous said...

This is known as house cooking and not only does it not remove mold, it fosters its growth.
Also get readings from places where chimneys, porches, garages, and patios attach to the
house. Mold can be cleanup up if done properly, but if done improperly
you can make the damage worse.

Also visit my website: mold removal San Diego

Nathanael said...

Just to clarify for readers, heating the house up and making it more humid from wet clothes is house cooking.
Using a dehumidifier is good for your health and lungs. Also uses less power than a dryer without damaging the clothes.
I use a coal dehumidifier which I can dry in the sun as well as my aircond dehumidifier mode on very damp and rainy weeks.