A small piece of everyday European life that has made a significant impression on me is the lowly drying rack. Dryers – those big boxy, sweet-smelling clothes heaters – are wonderful and convenient, and by golly, I do miss having one. (We haven’t had one here since the communal one in our first apartment building…sigh.) The silver lining of this, however, is that we have saved quite a bit of energy (and, by extension, money!) drying our clothes on a drying rack.
An oh-so-convenient energy hog
Clothes dryers actually use quite a bit of energy – a recent study in the US indicated that Americans spend $9 billion dollars per year (!) on the electricity used to dry clothes. So, in the grand scheme of things, the energy used drying clothes can make quite an impact on one’s resource usage and carbon footprint!
The drying rack challenge
Back home, with an easily accessible dryer, I often found the drying rack to be rather frustrating and cumbersome. There I would often hang my delicate or shrinkable clothes to dry on a flimsy wooden/plastic rack, which – although it folded up nicely for storage – did not hold many clothes, and broke a few years into use, so that it finally ended up in the trash when we moved.
But here, where dryers seem to be a bit harder to come by, the average drying rack is quite nice. The one that came with our furnished apartment is a sturdy, coated-metal rack that folds up flat for storage in a laundry closet, but when folded out can hold more than a load of laundry on its efficiently spaced wire bars. This allows us to dry the laundry inside, without taking up much space – great for the notoriously unpredictable Dutch weather! Depending on what is washed, the laundry is usually dry in ~6-8 hours. Although we do have to plan laundry a bit ahead of time, by now this seems normal to us, and is largely figured in to our weekly schedule.
The European drying rack
These sorts of drying racks do seem to be available in the US, but are rather hard to come by, and seem to be relatively expensive – probably a supply and demand thing? For instance, this rack, a bit more hefty than ours, seems to cost ~$75/€65 in the US, and ~$50/€40 in the Netherlands. On the other hand, this one, quite like ours, seems to cost ~$55/€48 in the US and ~$42/€35 in the Netherlands, so perhaps not as bad as it seems!
Whatever the case, drying racks definitely seem to be popular here – I have seen more than one biking home from the store under someone’s arm, and there has been a version in each and every apartment we’ve seen. I once mentioned my appreciation of the drying rack prevalence in Europe to a Scottish acquaintance, who was surprised that it was a unique thing – saying she had never had a dryer in all her years living in Scotland and Europe!
Convenient in its simplicity
At any rate, the simplicity, sturdiness and energy efficiency of this little device really appeals to me, and has endeared it to me in the time that we’ve been here. It’s just a great tool for our simple, little life. Although it is true that drying and folding laundry takes a greater proportion of our time, there is something rather satisfying about a well-organized rack of clean clothes drying under its own power – and really, the clothes are half-way to folded by the time they dry, which speeds that part of the process along. Although I will, by all means, enjoy throwing a quick load of laundry in the dryer the next time we have one, I will always have a soft spot in my heart, and a place in my laundry room, for a lovely, sturdy drying rack.
Anyway, I am interested to hear what you think! Would you consider drying some of your clothes on a rack? Or do you already do so? Do you have a favorite drying rack or do you have memories of using one in the past (outdoor lines count too!)? Or do you have any questions about them? I am interested to hear what you think, so let me know in the comments…now off I go to hang up the next load!