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Published on November 24th, 2009 | by Scott James

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When Drying Clothes on a Clothesline is Against the Rules

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“If my husband has a right to have guns in the house, I have a right to hang laundry,” says Carin Froehlich.

Drying clothes outside on a clothesline is an image of a simpler time, not to mention a standard recommendation on lists of ways to reduce the carbon footprint at home. It’s one of those decisions that seems like a no-brainer to do something good for the Earth- can anyone really have a problem with it? Perkasie, Pennsylvania, is one of many neighborhoods that do.

Photo Credit: Peter Blanchard60 Million Americans live with some kind of restriction on line drying clothes

60 Million Americans live with some kind of restriction on line drying clothes

Carin Froelich is a Perkasie resident who hangs her laundry to dry outside and views it as a way to reduce her energy usage- but she does it knowing that it bothers her neighbors and town officials. She got a call from a town official who asked her to stop drying clothes in the sun. She says she has received anonymous notes from neighbors:

“They said it made the place look like trailer trash.They said they didn’t want to look at my ‘unmentionables.’”

Across the country, in fact, around 60 million Americans live with housing associations in condominiums and townhouse communities that have some sort of restriction on line drying clothes. So called “no-hanging rules” are often part of developers’ regulations that also ban sheds or commercial vehicles, says Carl Weiner, lawyer for dozens of homeowner associations around Philadelphia.

In essence, it’s an aesthetic issue- it seems neighborhood organizations don’t want people seeing their neighbors’ laundry. Is this a major issue? It’s big enough that some states are making laws against it. Florida, Utah, Maine, Vermont, Colorado, and Hawaii have all passed laws to restrict local authorities from denying residents use of clotheslines. In other words, these states think people should be able to line dry their clothes if they want to, neighborhood association or not.

There is even an 510 (c)(3) organization based in New Hampshire advocating for people like Froelich- it’s called Project Laundry List. Their mission statement is:

“Project Laundry List is making air-drying and cold-water washing laundry acceptable and desirable as simple and effective ways to save energy.”

Project Laundry List’s executive director, Alexander Lee, argues that dryer use accounts for 6% of domestic energy use, and that shifting to line drying can both save money and reduce carbon emissions.

As we continue to look for ways to save energy and live more sustainably, this battle shows that the paradigm shift is not just in industry and politics, but in our backyard.





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About the Author

Scott James lives and plays in San Francisco, enjoying good coffee, innovative minds and challenging conversation.



6 Responses to When Drying Clothes on a Clothesline is Against the Rules

  1. Alicia says:

    I think hang drying laundry has become a problem because some people hang their clothes and leave them hanging for days which can be an eye sore. However, i do think we should try to make efforts to conserve energy and this is one very effective way. I do hang my clothes out on a clothes line but i have the luxury of having a private back yard.

  2. Sandy says:

    This definitely is my most strongest pet peeve. And to make it

    worse I live in very sunny Arizona where the home owner

    associations dictate to the state. We are fined for not only

    having but using a clothesline.

    Very steamed!

  3. Vonda says:

    I have mixed feelings about this. I don’t want my neighborhood to look trashy, but I do like lowering my electric bill. The answer? I dry my clothes INSIDE my house. I hang the wet clothes on hangers and have a portable wooden drying stand.
    One of the issues, IMHO, is that so many homeowner’s associations only allow 6 foot fences. If they’d allow 8 foot fences, this wouldn’t be such an issue.

  4. Jasmeen says:

    I believe in hanging out clothes to dry. My neighbor does it and had encouraged me to do it also. Plus my clothes smell better than when I use to use the dryer (it takes alot of softner scent out ). Although i wish i could line dry every wash, I can’t bc I work alot. I think that every person has a right to use a clothesline. Restricting it is absurd! It should be encouraged! With Global warming and pollution on the rise, we all need to make a change to improve the health of our earth. After all, there is only one and once we destroyed it….. then what?

  5. Grey says:

    I don’t mind hanging clothes on a line but it is an eyesore if the laundy is on the line 24/7. Right now my neighbor has had 7 towels and soft cooler on her line for 8 days straight. She would add to the line and then only take in some of the clothes leaving some type of clothes always on the line.

    My mother would hang the clothes out in the morning and by the afternoon they would be dry and she would take them in. Who wants to look at their neighbor’s clothes 24/7 while paying 7 grand in taxes a year?

  6. Anne Schofield says:

    I was shocked to hear their are laws against hanging laundry. We live in a time with global warming and natural disasters that are screaming for our attention. Nuclear plants leaking death into the oceans and air. Oil being poured into or oceans. No need to go on. Our major concern is about people’s laundry being hung outside? Really? No wonder we are killing our planet. Wake up people. Our priority’s are twisted. I have always done it without any complaints from neighbors. Infact it never occured to me that it would be offensive. My neighbor started doing it after I did.

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