Tuscany and Umbria region of Italy

Don White/istockphoto

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Even in some of the densest cities in Europe, you’ll see clothes dangling from balconies, lines, and drying racks. This might seem like a rather benign observation — Europeans don’t buy as many dryers — but it’s become a cultural flashpoint online. One of Spain’s most widely circulated newspapers even went so far as to call the debate “an online culture war.”

“Americans have big houses, dryers, and a higher probability of early death, perhaps from gunshots. The French have immunity to heart problems through alcoholism,” a Tweet cited in the article reads.

This is ridiculous for two reasons. Firstly, it seems a bit absurd to get worked up about dryers. Gun violence, sure. But whether or not some Frenchman line-dries his underwear doesn’t seem like an earth-shattering issue. Secondly (and more importantly), Europeans are simply correct: Line-drying clothes is better. Here’s why.

Laundry drying in Windows in Florence ItalyPhoto credit: Fani Kurti/istockphoto

Your Clothes Will Last Longer

If you dry your clothes and shop at fast-fashion giants like H&M, Zara, and Shein, your favorite shirt might last for a couple of seasons before it disintegrates into a pile of polyester and cotton. A disposable garment made for pennies on the dollar is just no match for the friction and heat of an electric dryer. The intense, 100-plus-degree heat can also shrink your clothes and lock in stains, rendering even the most resilient T-shirt unwearable. Air-drying is simply friendlier to your clothes, whether it's done in the sun or in a studio apartment.

You’ll Save Money

There are also financial reasons to swap your Whirpool for a drying rack. On top of paying for the electricity to run a dryer (around $100 a year), you’re also shelling out hundreds of dollars for an appliance you don’t need. Drying racks are a tenth of the price, don’t use energy, and won’t break after years of use.

It’s Better for the Environment

Unless you’re one of the few homeowners who run their appliances on renewables, your dryer is also polluting the planet. The emissions are low, yes, but when you consider all the other benefits of air-drying, foregoing a dryer is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint — if only by a little.

laundryPhoto credit: bbbrrn/istockphoto

Tips for Making the Switch

  • Invest in a high-quality drying rack: If you’re willing to spend up to $1,000 on a dryer, then you might as well get a well-built, functional drying rack. I use this one from Ikea.

  • Separate your clothes: The biggest issue I’ve found with air-dried clothes is that they can take forever to dry and can begin to smell. You can avoid this by giving your garments enough room to breathe. Sweaters and other thick, hard-to-dry items might even need to lie horizontally to dry properly.

  • Buy clothespins and hangers: Clothespins and hangers can help you separate your clothes more easily. And if your rack is full, you can use hangers to dangle a few extra garments on the side.

  • Use the spin cycle: Since moisture is your enemy, you’ll want to choose a high spin cycle setting. Dealing with delicate garments? Roll them up in a towel before hanging them.

  • Ventilate your space: While it might seem hard to dry clothes in a small space, it can be done. Just be sure to open your windows to circulate the air.

  • Start small: I dry 90% of my clothes on a small drying rack, but bedding is too difficult to line-dry (unless you have access to an outdoor clothesline). So rather than let perfect be the enemy of the good, I line-dry most of my clothes and only use the dryer for my bedding, socks, and underwear.

The Bottom Line

There are plenty of things Europeans do, ahem, differently — what's with the screenless windows?

 — but the benefits of air-drying clothes are indisputable and tangible. It's better for your clothes, the environment, and your pocket book. Unless you truly can't spare a few extra minutes every time you do laundry, it's the better way. Period.

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