Dry your clothes outside, or the princess gets it

This column marks a milestone for the Reno News & Review: Unless I miss my guess, it’s the first time we’ve run essays on clotheslines almost back to back.

It was two weeks ago, if memory serves, that The Editor mentioned his predilection for solar de-watering of his apparel. That raises the question of whether we need to do it again, but I’m going ahead for three reasons:

· I had a clothesline first.

· I’d been thinking about a clothesline column all summer but didn’t have the self-confidence to suggest it.

· There’s a rising tide of sentiment against these sensible, environmentally responsible and engaging appliances. “Progress” has done enough damage for this decade, and by God I’m taking a stand.

Do I have to explain what a clothesline is? I know young adults who’ve never seen one, so maybe: It’s any of a number of devices featuring cords or ropes stretched in such a way that wet garments can be suspended from them. Mine came with my house, with six vinyl-coated steel cables strung between crossarms on posts. More common these days, I think, are the new-fangled kind resembling the frame of an umbrella, with cord stretched between the ribs.

When I am king, clotheslines will be required in new housing. They’re energy-efficient, don’t heat up the house in summer and give clothes, sheets and especially towels a fresh smell and rough feel I like. (The Editor suggested vinegar in the rinse water to eliminate what some call “scratchiness.” I suggest The Editor has the epidermis of a fairy tale princess.)

About now is when someone usually pipes up, “But what does your WIFE think?” In fact she’s a bigger fan of clotheslines than I am, but that’s of no consequence: I’m the laundress at our house; her opinion is not considered.

Pragmatic benefits aside, I use a clothesline because I like it. (Note to skeptics: My electric bill in summer runs about $55 a month.) There’s no fun in putting clothes into a dryer and pushing a button. Even after 28 summers with the same clothesline, though, I enjoy moving the laundry from the washer to a basket, carrying it to the yard and hanging it. There’s a rewarding challenge in making efficient use of our dwindling supply of clothespins, and small magic in hanging clothes so they can be worn without ironing. (My success rate is 100 percent with jeans and T-shirts, which I don’t iron anyway, 50 percent with casual shirts, but effectively zero with khaki pants, which I prefer with a crease.)

The Editor mentioned fading as a drawback of natural drying. To me fading is often a virtue: It yields a relaxed look and a casual air, hinting that you’re so comfortable in your own skin that you’ve opted out of the quest for New Stuff. If it worries you, wash the garment inside out, as he suggested to hide the lint a dryer would remove, then leave it that way when you hang it.

I haven’t experienced this personally, but I’m told neighbors who’ve drifted too far from all of our roots can be huffy about clotheslines. Some communities even have restrictions against them. I wouldn’t move to such a place, and if I did, I’d start the fight on Day 1: A clothesline is a passive solar device, protected under Nevada law, a weapon in the drive to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Each laundry day is a small skirmish in the war on global warming. Hang your skivvies, save a polar bear.

Or do you want the terrorists to win?