"Right to Dry" Laws
Why Hanging Your Clothes Out to Dry Shouldn't Be a Crime
Our grandparents would have found it unimaginable that something as basic as drying clothes outside would be against the law, but that is exactly what has happened. Home Owner Association (HOA) rules, zoning laws and landlord prohibitions are the primary means used to stop people from using clotheslines.
The perception of line drying has changed with the invention of electric dryers in the 1930's and not for the better. Post WWII marketing campaigns, such as the 1950's Live Better Electrically , promoted the purchase and use of electric appliances and helped re-shape attitudes about drying clothes outside. Hanging clothes to dry outside in the fresh air and sunshine is no longer considered necessary and is associated with people in poverty.
Arguments Against Outside Clotheslines
One misguided attitude is that clotheslines lower property values, by being ugly, and that many find it unappealing to lounge on the back deck, while seeing a neighbor's underwear flapping in the wind.
Others doubt that clothesline drying has a significant environmental impact. They believe that the energy saved by hanging laundry to dry is not worth the effort. Their argument is that the chemicals used in fabric softener to keep clothes from being stiff, and the electricity to iron wrinkled clothes, negates any benefits from drying clothes outside.
Countering the Arguments against Clothesline Drying
One way to begin addressing doubters of solar clothes drying is to reframe their objections
- Drying clothes outside isn't a sign of poverty, but of people being good global citizens. It is a way of showing that this neighborhood is living responsibly.
- Clotheslines are not on any community appraisal forms. The key to most property value issues has more to with home maintenance. For example: peeling paint versus homes with no peeling paint is a much better indicator of rising and falling property values than a clothesline.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Nearly 85% of American homes have a clothes dryer. Dryers represent $9 billion in annual energy bills. Approximately 6% of residential electricity consumption and 2% of residential natural gas consumption.
Right to Dry Legislation
Project Laundry List, a non-profit organization, was a driving force in changing these laws. Although they no longer exist, we here at Best Drying Rack still maintain and archive the old Project Laundry List website at laundrylist.org
Vermont State Senator Dick McCormack, a Project Laundry List Board of Advisors member, re-introduced the Right to Dry bill in 1999. The battle of common sense over aesthetics finally ended in Vermont in 2009 with the passage of H.446 which related to renewable energy and energy efficiency.
In the 1970's, Florida was the first state to create a law making it illegal to deny a person the right to dry clothes outside. Changing these laws across the United States has been a long and difficult process. As of September 2019, the following states have laws protecting resident's rights to utilize the power of the sun to dry their laundry.
Click on the links to read the official language in each state:
Many places such as condos, gated communities, mobile home parks, retirement communities, etc. still have restrictions or bans on hanging clothes outside. This does include some Home Owners Associations even in states with Right to Dry laws.
Some municipalities (i.e., cities and towns) have outlawed the clothesline in certain places. The penalty of having a clothesline would be a civil fine or, unlikely but also possible, eviction.
For the millions of people who live in a place with clothesline restrictions, and for all people who want to reduce carbon or save money, it’s time to encourage state legislators to introduce a "Right to Dry" bill or solar rights legislation.
Watch the documentary film Drying for Freedom about the battle to end clothesline restrictions. (check Amazon Prime for streaming)
Benefits of Drying Clothes Outside
As individuals become more aware of the environment and the impact of their personal energy use, they are looking for ways to be responsible and live more environmentally conscious. One way to reduce energy use is to stop using an electric dryer. Some of the benefits of drying clothes outside on a clothesline are:
- Saves money – line drying clothes is free
- Sun and wind help remove strong odors from fabric
- Drying in the sun can help clothes last longer
- Sunshine can help bleach your white clothes
- Clothes dried in the wind and sun smell clean and fresh
- Line drying is safer than using an electric dryer
According to the US Fire Administration website, there are 2900 clothes dryer fires per year which costs $35 million in property loss. They say that 34% of those fires are due to a failure to clean lint from the dryer.
Modern conveniences have been created to make our lives easier and to save us time. But some "conveniences" create unforeseen problems, like excessive energy use. For people who want to be more responsible about their energy consumption, there needs to be laws that allow them to dry clothes outside without the threat of fines.
For a nice summary of the issues, see the article by Janet Givens titled Is there a Clothesline in Your Back Yard?