One thing we Brits like to talk about is the weather. As one airline pilot said on our descent into London a few years ago, “It’s 63 and cloudy today; but then again, it’s always 63 and cloudy here!” Now that’s not entirely true but it’s definitely fair to say that the UK has a more temperate climate than most of the US, and there’s a lot of rain involved. Sometimes it can pour for days on end, as I’ve just experienced, and other times it sprinkles for ten minutes and the sun comes out again….
….. which causes problems when we’re doing something else we love – drying our clothes on an outside washing line. (And yes, I appreciate it’s called a washing line when it’s, in fact, attempting to dry the clothes.) On any given sunny/windy day you’ll hear at least one person say (only half-jokingly) “Lovely drying weather”.
Part of this outside drying preference is that most people own dryers that are not quite fit for purpose, in my opinion. Washers and dryers are generally about half the size of their American counterparts so it takes the best part of a week to do a family load. Far quicker to hang wet clothes outside and be done with it. Another reason is that a lot of people have dryers that don’t actually dry very well. In the home I’m currently renting, the condenser dryer is so useless my clothes usually end up on the radiators, and when it warms up a little, they’ll be outside blowing in the wind.
So what do we do with the washing when it rains? There are several options available.
- If it’s likely to be a ten-minute sprinkle, most people either don’t make it outside in time to bring the clothes in, or
- Just leave them out there, taking a calculated risk that there will be more drying time than actual raining time.
- Spend the entire day peering out the window and dashing in and out with the laundry basket.
- Take cover. Literally. For some reason, even though it rains a lot in the UK, clothes still dry outside (if you leave them out long enough). I would have thought if it’s damp enough to rain, it’s humid enough to prevent drying, but I’m apparently wrong on that one. According to the experts at Clothesline.com “Clotheslines can dry clothes in freezing temperatures through the process of sublimation where the water evaporates directly from the frozen state without passing through a liquid phase although not the most desired of drying conditions.” Amazing.
So yes, some people not only leave the washing out year-round but rig up all manner of rain protection for their laundry load. A family member of mine frequently puts the washing out on what’s called a rotary airer, and then sticks the whole thing under a giant garden umbrella. And of course, you can now buy laundry protection systems as I have now named them.
A company called Rotaire have produced a slightly more professional garden umbrella version with their Concerto Airer and Dryline. For around £110 (cough), you can dry your clothes in all weathers, with this rotary dryer and weighted square tent. I also came across the Laundry Dome the other day, which seems to have been originally designed for camping but is obviously perfect for British clothes drying in general. Apparently, because the internal temperatures inside the dome are far higher than outside the dome, clothes dry about 3 times quicker than if left on a washing line. I initially had visions of the whole thing either bursting into flames or melting into a puddle of plastic and pants, but then I remembered we’re talking about the UK. (Okay, okay, there’s a couple of weeks in the summer when it might get a wee bit hot in there.)
And since it rains in Ireland even more than it rains in the UK, (according to the Met office), there’s a company that’s catering to that need too. Outdoor Canopies tweeted me to tell me about their product – they will come to your home and in a few hours, will install a canopy on the side of your house to make sure you can dry your clothes in any weather. Ingenious! (It also comes in a flatpack, if you’re lucky enough to have a handy person hanging around the house.)
So yes, when it comes to our love of line-dried laundry, where there’s a will there’s a way.