To tumble, or not to tumble (dry)

I grew up without a tumble dryer. And, as this was in Poland, so did all of my friends and the majority of the rest of Europe. Although dryers have become more prevalent, especially since the rise of combined washer-dryer solutions, they are still a treat. Even in the UK, they remain something of a luxury. A case in point: my mom bought herself one as a birthday gift.

That the birthday excuse was used for an unusual ‘treat’ purchase was, in my view, rightly done. Line drying is not only more ecological, economical and sustainable; it’s also more hygienic. Nothing bleaches the whites like a few hours in the sun. The air takes all the damp and musty smells away, and the UV light kills bacteria better than many chemicals.

But, I know that we have to be realistic too. Where I live in the UK now, where it rains on average 106 out of 365 days, line drying is a bit of a gamble, to say the least. I also work full time and have an active life, and don’t want to be at home hanging washing out, or dashing to get it back in!

Since moving to the UK from Austria, I have taken to drying dresses, shirts, blouses, sweaters and trousers on hangers. This not only saves space on the washing line but also speeds up the ironing. Try it yourself, and you might find that some pieces won’t need ironing at all and, if questioned as to why you’re not as crisp as usual, tell the nosy person you’re saving the planet by saving energy.

And what of the towels and bedding? I have a few sets that I can rotate, while one verrry slowly dries. But for those who don’t, or don’t have the space to hang sheets indoors, a dryer is the only option.

I have lived the majority of my life without a tumble dryer, but my current rented living has me in a position with limited drying space, consisting of a damp and cold utility room and, yes, a tumble dryer. I admit now that I am guilty of tumbling my socks, towels and bedding. It’s just so easy!

However, all the excuses I could list here for you are just not good enough in the face of global warming, and my moral obligation to consume sustainably. I already wash at 30C (86F) and go out of my way not to buy plastic. It’s time to end my romance with the tumble dryer, as enticing as it is. And I know you can do too.


Sustainable washing and drying tips:

  1. Know how to wash your stuff, but I guarantee you can turn the temperature down regardless! If it’s not dirty, wash it at 30C.
  2. Find a space for your ‘worn but not dirty’ items. Sweaters and trousers especially don’t need to be washed after every wear (raw jeans shouldn’t be washed at all! Pop them in the freezer instead to get rid of unwanted smells).
  3. If you have time (and the will to do it) handwash your delicates; especially bras, as these will fit better and last longer if washed in cold water.
  4. Refill your detergent and softener bottles if you can, or commit to the ultimate eco wash and go nuts.
  5. Skip the dryer (or at least part of the tumble time).


Homemade, cheap and easy laundry softener:

200 ml of warm water

2 tsp citric acid

10 drops tea tree essential oil (or another scent, although tea tree is a great disinfectant)

  1. Mix the ingredients in a bottle.
  2. Shake before use.
  3. Add two tablespoons instead of your usual fabric softener.