Do We Really Need Clothes Dryers?

For the past seven years, I’ve probably used a clothes dryer once a month. I wish this were out of some kind of smug ecological sensitivity, but it’s more practical than anything. Here’s why?

  • We lived in Ireland, and we had a combination washer/dryer device in our flat. This is a ridiculous, useless invention. The washer part works okay, but the dryer function doesn’t merit that term. You’d have more success if you microwaved your moist clothes.
  • Since a massive growth spurt in my teens, I’m paranoid about my clothes being too short (in particular, my trousers). It’s irrational, I know, and I’m excellent at doing laundry, so I almost never shrink my clothes. Still, hanging clothes to dry is the safest way to go.
  • We only have a washing machine in Malta. We dry clothes using the nearest star to the Earth.

In short, we’ve just gotten into the habit of hanging clothes on a rack to dry. That fact that the dryer is a big, idle electricity sucker is just a bonus.

Now, I’d imagine that a family with young children produces a crapload of laundry, so it would be more difficult to go dryer-free. And it’d be pretty unpleasant to go to the laundry mat, wash your clothes, and then cart them home, dripping wet, to hang up.

So I’m not ready to be prescriptive on this one just yet. Riddle me this: why do we need clothes dryers?


  1. Interesting, I have nasty hay fever and that hasn’t proved a problem for me. Mind you, in Ireland and Vancouver we dried our clothes inside.

  2. I have a little one with cloth diapers. It just takes too long to dry on the line, and in the winter, it is just not viable. We still use the line as much as we can, but we are limited by the thickness of cotton diapers and our climate.

  3. Also…..

    on a winter day, a shirt right out of the dryer is a little piece of heaven. Global warming/polluting and unecessary heaven, but heaven nonetheless.

  4. During the “rolling brownouts” in California, it was reported that something like 83% of all “neighbourhood associations” (read: prodnoses and curtain-twitchers’ societies) forbade by bylaw the use of clotheslines for reasons of “neighbourhood aethestics”.

    Most times, I find that with sufficient forward planning, I can avoid using the dryer about two-thirds of the time. This is good because, as Mme Metro points out, I’m a really cheap bastard.

  5. Like so many inventions .. it is a time-saving device. There are far more ridiculous time-saving inventions than the dryer, such as Electric Scissors ..

  6. We had a combination washer/dryer at our last place. And we had cloth diapers. We discovered the secret to getting the dryer to work. You have to use a half load of laundry — and you have to fluff all the clothes by hand before the dryer cycle starts. Once we figured that out, the clothes were no longer damp.

    At our new place, we have family-sized washer and dryer. Now that we’re about to have two children, there’s no way we could do without. We don’t have a yard, so we can’t hang clothes outside. And there just isn’t enough room or time to dry clothes inside.

  7. I live with my girlfriend in 670 sq/ft in Vancouver – you know what the weather’s like here most of the time.

    We’re both pretty active, playing hockey, golf, slo-pitch, and volleyball, so we use a lot of clothes.

    As we don’t have much space, we don’t have anywhere to hang clothes or to store a bunch of extra clothes. So the dryer’s my best friend.

    Oh and throw some wrinkly clothes in the dryer with a wet rag for 10mins and you can probably avoid a good bit of ironing too.

    And nothing beats the fresh, warm softness of clothes dried with Bounce!

  8. Jeremy: Fair enough, though we lived in a similar-sized apartment and managed to use a drying rack without too much trouble. Mind you, we’re kind of aesthetes when it comes to furniture and stuff, so your apartment’s, uh, white space might be less than ours.

  9. We used a drying rack while living in Scotland – using the dryer was way too expensive in energy costs, and like yours in Ireland, it didn’t work very well. Now that we’re back in Vancouver, the only time I’d use the dryer is for towels – they just come out so much fluffier.

  10. Dryers were invented for teenagers, particularly boys who like to wash their new jeans minutes before going on a hot date. Pushed for time the dryer will get them ready to wear faster then a lengthy sojourn on the washing line.

  11. To Jeremy: have you tried a drying rack that fits over the tub?

    Some stuff doesn’t can’t be dried in the dryer (as it breaks down the fabric).

    I have a small bathroom apartment too. I can do 2 things on the tub rack, a several more things over the shower rod, a couple more on hangers. Another top on a dryer at the end of the bathroom. And unmentionables use the towel rack to dry.

  12. I grew up in a very humid place, Houston, Texas. For much of the year you had to dry things in the dryer, otherwise mildew would occur. When at summer camp we would hang our towels up to dry and they would just get to mildly damp. Clothes dryers are a big help in places like that.

  13. Taking this on a tangent (my bad) where would one go about buying a combo washer dryer in Vancouver? I’m in an older condo with nothing and would rather have the combo (which I think I can plug in where my dishwasher would go), than nothing.

  14. I grew up in Australia but then moved to N.America. I had never seen a clothes dryer until I came to Canada. I lived in Victoria, so the weather was exactly ideal either. So no, we don’t need them.

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