In praise of the laundry line - Metro US

In praise of the laundry line

This 1958 McCall’s ad for Tide had it right: Saving energy is glamourous.

My aunt laments the loss of the Kenmore Suds Saver, which, near as I can figure, is a contraption that siphons rinse water from a washing machine and pumps it back into the next wash load. The gizmo disappeared back in the ’80s, she says, but even if you could find one, you’d need a double laundry sink to hold the saved water.

Apartment types like myself don’t have a laundry room, never mind one deep sink. My rattle-y washer/dryer stack shares space with a toilet and a bathroom sink that can’t handle a hand-washing.

Surely someone could invent a 21st-century Suds Saver to fit as a third box for the typical condo washer/dryer stack, like the DVD player we added to our audio/visual stack.

That’s where my brain was going as I was doing laundry the old(er)-fashioned way last week on one of the less glamourous Gulf Islands. When your water supply must be rationed and your electricity comes from a solar/wind-power set-up, you learn to be frugal — or go grubby.

You learn to re-use the rinse water in the next wash, then re-use it to water the garden. You transfer your wet clean clothes into the attached spinner of your compact washer, then haul it all to the laundry line and let the sun and wind do their thing. You learn to love the smell of air-dried clothes and the “loofah” feeling of a rough air-dried towel after a shower. You discover wash day’s a rare chance to let your mind wander.

The quiet squeal of the pulleys yanks me back to an early memory, when every house in my East Van neighbourhood had a laundry line, and women chatted across back porches as they yarded on the cords and stretched the supply of clothespegs by shamelessly linking bulbous brassieres to gigantic men’s underwear to cloth diapers.

As I pulled and pegged, I thought about the shallow, petty strata bylaw that prohibits “unsightly” laundry lines in most condo complexes, while dryer vents spewing wastefully hot, perfumed exhaust — even in the summer heat —?are just fine. I think about joining the Right To Dry movement (check out laundrylist.org) but decided to hang it all and be the rebel.

I think about why we always assume that with each passing year we’re progressing forward, when in fact, in many ways we’re losing ground.


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