Tip 1: Avoid turning it on. Seriously. You’re wasting a lot of hot air in there. But if your municipality has banned clotheslines (yes, this really happens; see the Right to Dry sidebar), or you need your lucky jeans in a hurry, here are a few points to consider. For one, don’t bother buying a new clothes dryer unless the one you have is really, really old. Technology hasn’t improved that much. Energy Star doesn’t even certify dryers, because none are all that efficient. Still, new clothes dryers generally use 15% less energy than clothes dryers built before 1990, because they have more efficient motors and controls. Read the EnerGuide logo when shopping for a new machine. It tells you how much power (in kilowatt hours) each machine uses on average per year. The most efficient average under 900 kWh per year, according to Natural Resources Canada. The least efficient: 950 kWh.
Tips for Dryer Use:
- If you’ve got a moisture sensor built into your dryer, be sure to use it, so you don’t keep tumbling long after your shorts have been baked.
- If you don’t have a moisture sensor, set your dryer on its lowest setting.
- Don’t automatically turn the dial to 60 minutes. Your clothes are often dry in much less time. Start with 30 or 40 minutes (even less if you have a high-efficiency washing machine). Synthetics often dry in 10 minutes and really shouldn’t go in the dryer at all.
- String a retractable clothesline in your basement for drying during the winter months. Moisture levels are lower in your basement in winter (though you could still try hanging lighter fabrics outside on sunny winter days).
- If you’re afraid of fading dark items in the hot summer sun, hang them indoors on really sunny days or just don’t leave them out there for long.
- Apartment dwellers should look into compact tub-top racks and folding clothes racks, as well as retractable clotheslines that can be installed in the bathroom or bedroom. You can get all sorts of drying racks from Canadian Tire (from cheap plastic to stainless steel) or nice wooden ones from IKEA.
- If your family hates the crunchy texture of towels that have been hung to dry, just pop them in the dryer for five minutes when they’re nearly dry.
- Shake clothes out well before hanging; smoothing down jeans with your hands will make them less crinkly.
- Dry shirts upside down or hang them on hangers.
|• Remove your clothes before they’re bone-dry. That only leads to static.|
|• Clean your trap. Emptying out that lint filter could save you $35 a year in energy costs, since clogs in your dryer can increase energy use by about a third.|
|• Look into natural gas dryers. They dry your clothes in less time, and in provinces where natural gas is significantly cheaper than electricity, these babies will save you some coin (in Saskatchewan, for instance, you’ll be cutting your operating costs in half).|
|• It costs a good $80 to $90 a year to power your clothes dryer. If you buy yourself a $20 clothing rack and/or clothesline and ditch the dryer, you’ll have saved, oh, nearly $400 in the first five years alone!|
Fabric Softeners: Love burrowing your face in warm, freshly dried clothes? You might not want to inhale, since you’ll be taking in a whiff of toxins like chloroform, benzyl acetate, even neurotoxic toluene (not to mention animal tallow). Plus, dryer sheets aren’t recyclable, no matter what they say on the box, and using them will void warranties on many new dryers because they clog lint traps and vents. If you’re a total disposable-dryer-sheet junky and refuse to abandon your ways, then at least shift to a less harmful product, like Seventh Generation’s Natural Fabric Softener Sheets. Not sure why Method’s Squeaky Green or Softener Infused dryer cloths have to be packaged in plastic and not a basic recycled cardboard box, though at least Squeaky Green’s format uses less plastic.
So is liquid fabric softener any better? Well, if you call making your terry cloth, fleece and velour clothing seven times more flammable a good thing, as Consumer Reports found, sure. Who needs the stink of petrochemicals and phthalates on your back anyway? Also, avoid those reusable spiky laundry balls you pop in the dryer to soften your shirts. They’re made of phthalate-heavy PVC. And I know static cling is annoying, but ditch the Static Guard. It’s loaded with petroleum-based ingredients, such as butane, propane and isopropanol, as well as dimethyl ditallow ammonium chloride (toxic to fish and algae) and chloromethane (which breaks down very slowly in air).
- Try all-natural health store brands of liquid fabric softener, or just add a cup of vinegar to your rinse cycle.
- To reduce static cling, get a reusable chem-free dryer sheet like the Static Eliminator. It combats static relatively well and lasts for up to 500 loads (just wash it periodically).
- Stave off the next static attack by hanging your clothes to dry.