How to make your clothes last longer

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We have a natural gas dryer, and I was wondering if it was worth it to hang up my clothes, thinking about the time that it takes to hang them as opposed to the money that I saved in gas. For some reason, I imagined that I only had a litre of gas left, and wondered what would I use it for – heating the house, cooking food, or drying the clothes1?

That’s when I realized that, ultimately, I had a lot more than one litre left, but it was still a finite supply, and the light went on.

Once I use up that litre of gas, it’s gone – forever. It can never be used for anything else, ever again. It won’t come back.

I always heard about non-renewable resources but I didn’t pay attention to what that really meant2.

Enter: the atomic dryer!

The next thought was naturally that if we ran out of gas we could just use something else, after all nobody needed coal any more. As gas got more scarce and expensive, the market would provide an alternate solution (after all, electric dryers are by no means a novelty).

But this is very short-term thinking; because it’s a finite resource, the question isn’t just “what is the value of a litre of gas now,” but “is this really the best use of this gas there will ever be?” What future uses are we denying ourselves?

This is thinking beyond what utility it can bring to me personally now, at what cost, to a more complete and global perspective. Of course, it’s impossible to know what the future uses are, so the question becomes, “is what I want to do really that important?”

Holding my damp laundry I decided that saving a bit of time3 wasn’t that important after all.

Using the dryer is a very wasteful process, especially in winter. It throws out hot, humid air from your house and sucks cold, dry air into your house. Not only are you heating up air in the dryer but your furnace also has to heat up the replacement air. If you hang your clothes then no heat is required, and it makes a natural humidifier as well.

In summer, if you have air conditioning, you’re sucking hot air into the house, cooling it, and heating it up again to blow it out the vent.

Get to the point…

What does all of this have to do with making clothes last longer? The intense heat and rubbing as the clothes tumble is terrible for your clothes. Where do you think all the lint in your dryer comes from? That is material being shed by your clothes as the fibres break down.

So do yourself, and future generations, a favour, and let your clothes hang free! And take those non-renewable resources seriously.


1. I decided to cook food; the head from that would also heat the house.
2. A non-renewable resource that doesn’t get nearly enough respect is helium. All the helium left on earth is trapped in underground pockets. Once it is released (like after your balloon goes flat) it floats to the very top of the atmosphere (being an inert gas, unlike hydrogen, it doesn’t combine with anything else). Once it’s floated to the top, energetic molecules from the sun called the solar wind knock it off and it floats away into interstellar space, never to come back.
3. I timed it; hanging a load of laundry can take anywhere from 10-15 minutes, but saves time on the folding later. I listed to podcasts while I do it. Or: I listen to podcasts for anywhere from 10-15 minutes, and while I do that I hang my laundry.

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