Thursday, January 24, 2008

Airing My Clean Laundry

One of the first domestic challenges most Americans encounter when moving to France is learning how to dry clothes without a clothes-dryer. When I first arrived in Paris, I had a lot to learn. Once I figured out how to make the washing machine work, I had to untangle the collapsible clothes drying rack, and assemble it. The first few times I had it sideways. Next challenge: inventing the most efficient way of draping damp clothes across so they would actually dry in less than 24 hours. That was a particularly steep little learning curve. But now, armed with various clever drying racks and helpful tricks from French friends, why, gee-- I whistle zippedy-doo-dah all day on laundry days.

I am actually quite partial to air-drying of clothes. In the States, like most red-blooded Americans I was slavish to my drying machine; but I hated going to its dungeon in the cold, murky basement, and avoided it at all costs. Thus I usually ended up re-drying the same load of wadded, crumpled laundry three and four times in a week, just to remove the now-permanent wrinkles. Talk about wasted energy consumption! But when I'm back in the States now, I can't bring myself to put clothes in the dryer, except for emergencies and fluffy towels.

In Paris, drying the clothes means that they are in your face -- no out-of-sight-out-of-mind excuses. On laundry days in my apartment, clothes are everywhere: doorknobs, radiators, shower curtain rod, flung over doors or on various racks. I certainly straighten up before company arrives (oops -- forgot that pair on the window knob once!).

There are so many ways to dry clothes in the air, even without a clothes line or rack. A friend who lives in a farmhouse in the south of France dries her sheets by unfurling them on the lawn. The stiff grass is not short, so dirt never touches them; they dry in a jiffy in the sun, and -- voilà! It took me a while to adjust my sensibilities to that notion; I had believed that laundry couldn't touch the ground or even the floor, or else it was unclean and needed to be re-washed. But I get it now. Sheets drying on the grass? Cool. I guess I'm a reformed woman.

But in Paris, where apparently it's illegal to hang laundry outdoors, there are myriad indoor sechoirs à linge to choose from. So, in honor of air-drying clothes, and encouraged by Blue Vicar, I present a photo gallery of apartment contraptions for laundry day. An over-the door rack from IKEA, a charming Italian wooden lingerie dryer from Habitat, an over-the radiator rack from the local droguerie, and others available from Herby.

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13 comments:

blueVicar said...

Polly,

You are a clever one! Thanks for sharing your myriad drying techniques. I'm inspired!

Meilleurs voeux!!

Passementerie said...

I have always been quite opposed to using dryers. They are a *disaster* for clothes and use *so* much electricity. That said, I use them to partially dry sheets and towels before hanging them over doors to finish up, but for everything else, like you, things get draped on every available surface! I haven't bought a rack for drying things yet though... (we are lucky enough to have a washer/dryer in the flat here)

Polly said...

BV: Thanks for the inspiration!

Passementeries: Yes, I guess about 35% of residences in France have dryers. Lucky you! Now that I've learned to dry socks on the radiator, though, I don't miss a dryer at all!

materfamilias said...

I've always enjoyed drying clothes on the line outdoors when I have the time (sheets and towels especially, for the great smell, and when my kids were small, hanging cloth diapers in the sun kept away diaper rash almost as well as bleaching). But in the last few years, I've been drying indoors more and more year round, and once you have the right drying racks (and thanks for some great examples -- wonder when these will make it to Canada), it's surprising how quickly things can dry -- they do need a bit more ironing, but clothes last much longer this way.

Polly said...

You're so right -- it's much better for the clothes. And sometimes I find they need less ironing than from a dryer. Of course, that's my pathetic dryer mode...

Gretchen said...

I have to say, I miss my dryer. ;) But surprisingly my laundry gets done a lot more often without one! I'm currently pining for that tall rack on wheels. I think it'll be a much more efficient use of space in my kitchen - I currently have a rack similar to the first one you posted and it's nice - but too wide for my narrow kitchen.

I found your blog a little while ago and am enjoying reading it. We moved to a town just outside Paris about 8 months ago.

Anonymous said...

I love the dryers you have presented us. Is there anyway I can purchase them from the US?

Tin Foiled said...

I've stopped using the dryer completely, even when I go back to North America for holidays. Colours stay brighter, blacks stay black, jeans keep their shape...

My secret for bedsheets is to wash them early in the morning on the weekend, then smooth them out on the bed without tucking them in. Even in chilly weather, they'll be completely dry by bedtime. And they look ironed!

My biggest problem, however, is drying jeans (and heavy towels) in cold weather. Any ideas?

Polly said...

Gretchen -- welcome to Paris, and good luck with the rack.

Anonymous - I don't know if Herby ships to the US. Maybe there's an enterprise for someone to start

Tin Foil -- In cold weather I hang pants on hangers (the hanger goes insdide the pants at the belt line) and hang the hangers over the radiator (how many times can you say hang in one sentence!?) They do dry quickly.

I'm lucky that my bathroom radiator is also a heated towel rack, so I just hang them and leave them.

The Late Bloomer said...

Well, I've adapted to the air-drying technique over the years here in France, too, although like Passementerie I admit to doing some pre-drying of sheets and mainly towels in the dryer, which I know is something most people don't have... But I think they put it in our apartment because it's so goshdarn humid -- we have MAJOR humidity problems and electrical heating, so it never really seems warm enough in our place. Hence, it takes even LONGER for things to dry in the winter. Especially jeans. But I agree that it's definitely better for clothes, and for the most part I don't miss using a dryer constantly like in the U.S. At least I know it's one small gesture for the environment, and just a little less electricity, especially considering our astronomical EDF bills!

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

I've always loved air-dried clothes. Growing up, we lived so far from people that we could have a clothesline outside. Living in the UK, I was reintroduced to it...but sadly am in a flat in Germany and have to find creative ways (like you shared) to do it :)

Kemi said...

Polly,

Do you know any online retailer of these Herby dryers that would ship them to the UK?

I just moved to the UK from Paris, and I do MISS my dryer. The ones here in the UK are pathetic. I just bought one from Argos, and it's already falling apart!

Thanks

Sigrid said...

So, is it really forbidden to put your washing out on the balcony? I tried to find out about that because we just moved to Paris - and have a big balcony which is ideal for putting the rack there.

At least our "Hausordnung" (how do you say that in English or French?) does not forbid it expressively. According to MY French ...

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