By Shamus Posted Saturday Aug 4, 2007

Filed under: Random 80 comments

The diameter of the chamber in my clothes dryer is about 2 feet, or 0.6 meters. The circumference is roughly 1.9 meters. Movement in there is pretty chaotic, but we can simplify things by assuming that items travel halfway around (from the bottom to the top) and then drop down to the bottom again. So, for one revolution an item will travel half the circumference plus the diameter. About 1.5m. When running, the dryer seems to do a revolution every two seconds. This works out to 42.6m a minute. A typical drying session lasts about 45 minutes, which means that items typically travel just over 2km – about 1.2 miles – while being dried.

This means my socks do most of their travel while I am not wearing them.

I could even this out by washing them less often, but this solution is unpopular with others. I could also balance things out by getting out more, but that solution is unpopular with me.


From The Archives:

80 thoughts on “Socks

  1. Of course the real question is, why does this bother you? Seems to me that outsourcing the actual use of your socks to a machine is merely admirable efficiency.

  2. Alan De Smet says:

    You’re my kinda geek, Shamus!

  3. Dean Hemming says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but while it is winter here in Melbourne, it is summer where you are… Give your socks, the environment, and yourself a break, hang them on the clothesline to dry.

  4. Gary says:

    That’s awesome, but the burning question on everyones mind is, where do the lost socks go to?

    Personally I think there is a portal to a parallel dimension that resides in everyones dryer. Further more do to the great sock famine of 1949 the evil government was spurred into building some sort of portal device in an effort to steal all of our socks. Thus making them the most powerful government in their dimension because they control all of the socks. Also this dimension is inhabited by gnomes because everyone knows gnomes are the most diabolical creatures ever to have existed. Their small size makes them seem weak and feeble but instead it gives them the upper hand because no one suspects them. Our government has known about this dimension for years and tried countless times to invade them without success. The portal holes are just to small for us to fit through. So in an effort to stop this injustice I have fitted my dryer with a portal alarm, but the damn gnomes are just to good and have found a way around it. If anyone has any information on how to stopped these fiendish advisaries please please share the intel!!

  5. BlueFaeMoon says:

    Holy crap, you really are a nerd! ;)

  6. Mari says:

    You know, this kind of nerdery could make a girl of lesser will weak in the knees. Not so much that it occurred to you to wonder, but that you actually did the measurement necessary and timed revolutions and everything to arrive at how far your socks travel in the dryer. That is an astounding level of nerdiness.

    Oh, and Gary, the secret to keeping your socks is to clothespin them together in the laundry. Haven’t you noticed that it’s not a PAIR of socks that vanishes, but always a lone sock, thus rendering the other sock in the pair useless? So you clothespin them together, which apparently prevents them from being able to use the sock portal. My best guess is that the sock portal can only transport one sock at a time because sock loss is down 100% since I started the new system.

  7. nerdpride says:

    > Oh, and Gary, the secret to keeping your socks is to clothespin them together in the laundry. Haven't you noticed that it's not a PAIR of socks that vanishes, but always a lone sock, thus rendering the other sock in the pair useless? So you clothespin them together, which apparently prevents them from being able to use the sock portal. My best guess is that the sock portal can only transport one sock at a time because sock loss is down 100% since I started the new system.

    I just re-stated that because it is Nobel prize-worthy.

    I would be more concerned with underwear and such things with a high-speed dryer. Socks can take abuse like nothing else, I know from years of experience slowly wearing them out with sweat, bony feet, and exercise.

  8. Corvec says:

    You could beat your dryer by wearing all of your socks at the same time (since it dries them all at the same time). That way, you have however long your socks last you to get at least 1.2 miles.
    You don’t have to wear all of the socks on your feet, either. Socks can go on your hands, nose, ears, elbows, and other places I couldn’t even think of off of the top of my head.

  9. Jimmie says:

    Oh my dear sweet Lord, Shamus.

    Your convalescence has gone horribly wrong.

  10. trigear says:

    “the burning question on everyones mind is, where do the lost socks go to?”

    Two words: portable hole.

  11. Shamus

    I am impressed.

    Some solutions for you :-

    1) Dont dry your socks
    2) Lend your socks to other people (more active people) to wear
    3) Don’t worry about it.
    4) Reverse engineer your dryer to spin the otherway to counter (ie like winding back an odometer i guess…)

    Now the thing that mystefies me about lost socks is… if you keep track of the lost socks one loses over the life of a washing machine.. then you take the machine apart.. THERE ARE NO SOCKS THERE… I am convinced by portable hole.

  12. Katy says:

    On the lost sock conundrum:

    Well… the reason why it’s “always one sock” is that you wouldn’t notice if two were missing. Let’s say you wash like, eight pairs of white socks, but you don’t count them or anything before tossing them in. Only fifteen are there when you fold them, and you wonder “Where’s the last sock?” It’s probably in your house somewhere, or stolen by the dog. If you folded fourteen socks, you don’t notice any of them are missing and probably just tossed that particular pair next to your bed one day. Where they went from there is the mystery.

  13. Has someone tested this theory?

    Will someone do a study on these methods?

    Is there a grant in it?

  14. Zaxares says:

    I can’t say any of this erudite discussion applies to me; I have always used the caveman approach of drying my socks in the sun on a clothesline. :P

  15. mookers says:

    3 Dean Hemming Says:

    August 4th, 2007 at 6:15 pm
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but while it is winter here in Melbourne, it is summer where you are… Give your socks, the environment, and yourself a break, hang them on the clothesline to dry.

    I could be generalising here. However, in my experience I have noticed that Americans don’t like to line dry their clothes. I grew up in California myself, and it never occurred to me NOT to use a tumble dryer until I moved overseas. And now, I live in cold wet Melbourne and hang my clothes up. But my parents, who live in (usually) dry sunny California, only ever use the tumble dryer.

    Do Americans (or Californians) have some reason for avoiding clotheslines? Could be a subject for investigation, if someone really has nothing better to do. :D

  16. MOM says:

    Shamus, I think you should go for a 45 minute walk each day. I know this seems like a drastic solution but I think your brain needs more fresh air.

  17. ShadoStahker says:

    Do Americans (or Californians) have some reason for avoiding clotheslines? Could be a subject for investigation, if someone really has nothing better to do.

    It’s more of a North America thing, than California specifically.

    I live in central Canada. For us (and I assume for most in NA), it’s the fact that you can never guarantee how humid it will be. In fact, around my city, when we are warmest is the same time we have our highest humidity. As such, clothes won’t dry.

    And then you add 6 months where the weather isn’t warm enough, and we have a very small window of opportunity to dry clothes, at least outside.

    However, I hang my shirts indoors to dry, in winter and summer. They take a full day (and then some) to dry. But it keeps them from shrinking in the dryer.

  18. I know this is a tangent, but i am surprised to find more than one person from Melbourne, albeit in Florida or Australia posting in this comment section. I am also from Melbourne but the Australian one….

  19. Shamus says:

    Re: Line drying

    The big disadvantage of line drying is that it just doesn’t have the required throughput. It takes hours to line-dry things even under ideal weather conditions. This is fine if there are just one or two people in your household. But once you get around four or five people it starts to become impossible to keep up. You can only dry during the day, and you can only dry about one washer load at a time. You can improve throughput by hanging more lines (assuming you have the real estate) but if you want to keep up with a modern washing machine you’re going to need a LOT of clothesline. Most people are busy doing other things during the prime drying hours of the day, and have time for laundy in the mornings and evenings when line-drying isn’t practical. And then of course there is rain, humid days, overcast days, and the fact that line drying is only possible for about three months out of the year. If you’re hanging enough line to keep up with a four+ person household, then you have some serious clothesline infrastructure. Unless you are very lucky with your tree placement, you’re going to need poles. Poles that need to be firmly planted at the start of summer and then stored someplace for the other nine months of the year.

    All of this in addition to the fact that hanging clothes is hard on the back and time-consuming. Again, a couple of loads a week is no problem, but if you’re trying to keep up with kids then you’re going to be spending a lot of time hauling wet laundy into the yard and holding it over your head. That is going to hurt. My wife hung clothes a few years ago, and while it might have saved… what? Five? Ten dollars a month? Something like that? But she was investing a tremendous number of hours doing hard work, a chunk of our yard was occupied by drying infrastructure, and her back hurt occasionally. She enjoys it on a limited basis, but you have to REALLY need that ten bucks before you’re willing to make that kind of sacrifice all the time.

    And that’s assuming Mom & Dad don’t have day jobs that keep them away when the sun is shining.

    While children can help with dishes, sweeping, and other common chores, your short little demi-clones aren’t going to be able to hack it when it comes to hanging clothes unless you’re willing to hang stuff three feet off the ground.

    Then there are the hazards: Lines falling down and dropping the laundry into the dirt. Bugs in your laundry. Bird droppings. Unexpected rain. Unexpected wind. (Which blows everything down.) Allergens in your clothes.

  20. Shamus

    I live in Melbourne, Australia and we are famous for having weather than is completely unpredictable (plus it’s winter here).. and i agree completly, re line drying.

    There are now 3 people in my house and line drying is a very limiting experience. Fortunately 2 of us are shift workers so can utulize that ideally drying time but most days we have an internal clothes rack in the lounge room by the wood fire. Hardly ideal but better than run everything through the dryer…

    It’s a tough decision to save a little bit of electrcity money though

    and yes yes to everyone who mentions it… i know about saving the planet and carbon footprints etc… which is why we only dry one load (socks and small things) and dry to hang dry everything else…

  21. Marmot says:


    Well, I guess now I know more about Shamus than I did before…

  22. Browncoat says:

    See, now you can develop a weight-loss program for geeks based on “Make sure your socks travel farther when you wear them than when they tumble in the dryer.” I do think you need to recalculate, though.

    In half a tumbler spin, my socks seem to go from the bottom, up 2/3rds of the way to the top, and ride other clothes down from there to hit the bottom again, maybe a little before the direct bottom. So, in half a spin, they travel half a circumference plus a diameter.

    The reason this is a diet system for geeks is the required measuring and math.

    “Hail to the King, baby! Aragorn son of Maytag is back!”

  23. indiKate says:

    Well, I’m from Perth, Australia, and my family never seems to have much of a problem with getting clothes dry. We’re a family of four, and only generally do one load at a time, and there’s still space on our Hills Hoist. But then again, Perth weather is rather sunny/dry normally, and even in the middle of winter (like now) there is at least one day a week that is clothes-drying worthy.

    It’s pretty good in terms of energy saving, and I personally would rather just hang clothes on a couple of clothes horses inside, preferably by the fire, than use up electricity.

    But that’s probably because we’ve never owned one, and I’m used to it. I think if I’d grown up with a clothes dryer, I’d prefer that, but that doesn’t make it the better option. Just like if I’d grown up with a dishwasher (which are for lazy people!).

    I’m rambling, and I’ll stop now.

  24. Mari says:

    I have a really good reason not to use a clothes line. I live in a sandy, windy region. It’s considered a “calm” day here when the wind is below 20 mph. Especially in the fall and spring, we have days where driving visibility is reduced to less than 50 feet because of the volume of sand in the air. I’m not really inclined to put my clean laundry outside in that. Sure, it’ll get dry, but it won’t be clean anymore. And since such conditions can blow up in the span of five minutes notice any time of year, it just really limits the feasibility of line drying.

    I once asked my grandmother who grew up in this region too how they dealt with the sand storms before tumble driers were common household appliances. Her answer was “When the clothes got sandblasted, I washed ’em again. Sometimes I’d wash the same load of overalls three or four times.” I can’t fathom the water and energy (not to mention time!) consumption involved there. Call me lazy, I’ve got better things to do than wash the same load of laundry three or four times.

  25. MOM says:

    There are many arguments against line drying but as Mari points out there was a time when that was the only option people had. I am old enough to remember that so here is how my mom handled rain, winter, amount of line space, and the occasional bird problem.
    Mom (everyone) did all her laundry in one day (monday). Weather did not change her (anyones)routine. The basement was equipped with clothes lines between the floor joists.

    All mom did on monday was laundry and meals. If the day was fine with a gentle breeze the laundry went quickly. She used a maytag eletric washer with a wringer which fed into two standing rinse tubs. She watch the sky closely during drying time and pulled nearly dry items off the line to hang those washed later. Since most thigs had to be ironed (on Tuesday) she (everybody) roled the damp things that needed ironing into a ball to keep them damp until ironing day. Rain and cold slowed the process since it was done indoors but it all got done before bed.

    The other rule in the neighborhood was thet NO ONE burned papers on Monday.

    Birds required rewashing and entitled Mom to complain bitterly about her day.

  26. Nathaniel says:

    Heh, I definately agree with Shamus about drying in a drier. I live in North Texas, and most of the time it’s almost impossible to know whether it will rain, be windy or cloudy, or a perfect day. You might hear that you have a 50% chance of rain, but that rain could be for 5 seconds in the morning, or all afternoon.

    Then, where I live, you’d have birds all over the clothesline before you even put clothes on it. Not very clean.

    I’ve never had any experience with a clothesline, but it definately doesn’t sound feasible.

  27. Jimmie says:

    I’ve used a clothesline in the past and am not averse to it now. I actually like the smell of clothes dried on the line. However, living in the Washington, DC area, spring and early fall are about the only times it’s really feasible. During the summer, you’re likely to get calm and humid days which leave your clothes on the line for hours before they get dry. Then, you have to watch out for early evening thunderstorms which can roll through very quickly.

    It’s also really nice to be able to do laundry in the evenings, too, before bedtime.

  28. Aaron says:

    Dealing with Dryer Portals:

    I’ve been noticing lately that I’m coming up short on socks more often than not. At first I also thought it was the dreaded Dryer Portal. Alas, the answer was not so simple. See I don’t match socks right out of the dryer, I never have. I dump everything into a basket and fold when I get to it (which leads to much ironing >.

  29. Rebecca says:

    We don’t line-dry where I’m from primarily because it’s so humid year-round you can practically swim in the air. Ah, Tennessee.

    I’d do it if I lived in Arizona with my sister.

  30. Aaron says:

    Ok I had a really long and quite fun post, and it all got erased somehow /sigh

    Anyway, my point was that I don’t have a Dryer Portal, I have a Sock Thieving Cat. His name is Prozac (Zac for short, and no we didn’t name him) and he stashes my socks under our bed. I have absolutly no idea why other than he’s got some kind of sock fetish.

    Man I even had a fun (and blessedly short) mathematical equation to go with my story. Oh well lol :)


  31. Rich says:

    I think you should have your doctor check the dosage on your pain meds. Send me the extras.

  32. TalrogSmash says:

    RE: Sock Portal

    the mysterious sock portal is LEFT sock portal, as discovered by avid space explorer, Ren the asthma hound chihuahua. You are only missing left socks if you check carefully and pinning your left sock to a RIGHT sock pushes away from the portal should it occur. Or it just rips a hole in the accompanied right sock if the sock portal exhibits a strong enough pull.

  33. mookers says:

    Deathblade_Penguin/Minion of Evil (retired) Says:
    I know this is a tangent, but i am surprised to find more than one person from Melbourne, albeit in Florida or Australia posting in this comment section. I am also from Melbourne but the Australian one….

    So that’s three of us from Melbourne Australia. And one from Perth. All here commenting on Shamus’ blog. What does that say about the geekiness and/or laundry habits of Australians? :D

    Aaron Says:
    I have a Sock Thieving Cat. His name is Prozac (Zac for short, and no we didn't name him) and he stashes my socks under our bed. I have absolutly no idea why other than he's got some kind of sock fetish.

    I think a LOLcat is required here: In ur laundry, hidin ur soks

  34. Miral says:

    There’s a New Zealander here too ;) And I only tumble-dry, since I’m almost never home during daylight hours…

    I also have a Mysterious Sock Portal. Or a cat. But then I tend to do the same thing as Aaron in #28.

  35. Davey says:

    Real estate is definitely an issue for me. When we lived in Chicago we would “shelf dry” as much as possible (2 cubic feet). Now that I’m renting in Tennessee and I have 4 cubic feet of space to dry things in, my option is clear. : )

  36. Go the Australians! WooHoo.

    I am concerned about this sock mystery now.. i am tempted to keep records of socks in the washing machine and see how it goes..

  37. Tuck says:

    >The big disadvantage of line drying is that it just doesn't have the required throughput.

    I’ve got five siblings (so eight people in the family) and we’ve always dried our clothes on the line. In Southeast Asia, with constant 100% humidity, they dried fine. Here in Tasmania, where it can rain any day, we still do it — only in winter when it’s too cold we hang them on an airer inside instead.

    I can’t see the point of wasting money on a dryer and the electricity to run it…

    (hi other Aussies!)

  38. Zaxares says:

    Hey, another Aussie here! :D

    I guess I can see the points Shamus posted about line drying, but I’ve always found line drying to be the cheapest, most effective way to dry clothes. Then again, Queensland is renowed for being hot and relatively dry most times of the year, so it’s really optimal conditions for line drying.

  39. Minerva says:

    Yeah, I’m a kiwi who used to live in Australia – despite wet/cold/unpredictableness of NZ weather it never occurred to me really to use the drier, even though we had one (or only for ’emergencies’ when I really wanted that one shirt that had just been washed).
    In Australia I was constantly amazed and thrilled at how quickly everything dried, to the bemusement of my Aussie flatmates. In fact, I discovered that in summer I could put an entire outfit on straight from the washing machine and it would be dry before I got to work (they have a word for that in Australia, and that word is feral).

    Sock portal: the only solution is to buy a shedload of plain black socks. Or live in Australia and never wear anything but jandals/thongs/flipflops (same footwear translated for international reading).

  40. Nefke says:

    Here in the rainy Netherlands, I don´t even have a dryer!

    I´ll hang all the stuff on a drying frame hanging from a door in my house, which indeed will take a day (or night), or, when the sun does shine, I´ll hang it outside. Sun is brilliant, drying clothes in an hour if you´re lucky.

    Anyways.. I never lost a sock to my washing machine.. my boyfriend has though.. If the machine has a distaste for socks from particular people, maybe you all should be a bit nicer to your machines, it might work :P.

  41. You could always buy, wear then discard your socks to ensure that you have worn them for most of their life while in your possession. Of course if you buy them and transport them home without wearing them then they still might have travelled more without being worn while you owned them. If you take into account how far they have probably travelled before you bought them then you’ll have a lot of walking to do to make up for their distribution to the shop.

  42. Antiquated Tory says:

    Like Nefke, I live in a flat in Europe and don’t have a dryer. They’re pretty rare things over here (I think even dishwashers are more common) as we pay hella money per kWh and a lot of us don’t even have a high amperage line to support one, plus there’s the whole venting-to-the-outside thing.
    This reminds me, a friend in our gaming group, a native of Iceland, recently bought a standing A/C unit for his office. He was running it without venting the hot air exhaust outside.
    We pointed out that this was silly, so he said “ok” and opened a (very large) window and stuck the snaky venting duct outside. I pointed out that there was a lot more hot air in Central Europe than cold air coming out of his A/C and he was better off not running the thing at all until he had a proper vent installed (I think you can get one as a window replacement and swap it seasonally for the original window) since he was burning money. But he kept running it. By the end of the gaming session he had dropped the temperature about 1 degree C. And the catchtray for the condensation overflowed onto his floor. He was very upset that the salesman sold it to him without explaining all this…

  43. Charvolant says:

    Yet another Aussie, I live near Canberra, which gets pretty cold in winter. A hills hoist and a drying rack seems to work fine for a family of four, although it’s pointless hanging things outside unless we’re there to take them in before dark..

    When I lived in Melbourne in a share house of 6 we didn’t seem to have too much trouble with throughput.

  44. Heather says:

    And yet another Aussie from Melbourne – though I live in the US now. I only ever used a clothes line in Melbourne, and I’ve only used a dryer in the States. The main reason would have to be the weather conditions. It’s mostly dry and warm in Melbourne (hell, in summer I’ve had a load of laundry dry in less than half an hour on the line) while in Maryland it’s freezing cold and snowing in winter and sticky and humid in summer. I have a feeling clothes wouldn’t so much dry on the line here as just grow verdigris.

  45. Margaret says:

    I just think it’s funny that you got 44 comments on socks.

  46. James Blair says:

    Well, the main reason I don’t dry my clothes in my back yard is that it would probably be a CR 10 encounter back there, and I’m only a level 5 expert. I seem to have let it get out of control a little bit…

  47. Rich says:

    “I just think it's funny that you got 44 comments on socks.”

    Ahem! My comment was of a medical nature.

  48. Re: line drying

    In our neighborhood when I was growing up, there was actually homeowners rules against even having a clothesline in the yard. Of course that didn’t stop my slavedrivers… err parents from putting one of the torturous devices up and forcing my siblings and I to use it.

    Considering I drive to work and back on a regular basis, my socks travel about the same distance worn as dried… the lucky socks I wear to game every other friday travel far further on my feet than in the drier, so I figure I’m slowly getting further distance out of my socks than my drier is. And oddly, I now find comfort in that.

  49. Dan says:

    I gave up line drying in Iowa. 4 times out of 5, it is a 2 day process in the summer. If the humidity doesn’t retard the drying, the frequent thunderstorms will (splashing mud on the clean sheets, too boot). Things dry nicely during the tornados, but generally end up a county or four away.

    Socks freeze quickly after October 15. The good news is that they thaw by late April.

  50. Darren says:

    I heard a theory once that socks are the larval form of clothes hangers. Works for me – socks are always disappearing and the closet just keeps getting more hangers in it.

  51. Mari says:

    Send me some of those clothes hanger larvae, Darren. Or do they only mature into metal hangers? I don’t need any of those, but if they mature into tubular plastic or padded hangers, I’ll happily take some.

    And are there only two Texans here? Usually we only just beat out the Aussies and Kiwis but it looks like here we’re seriously outnumbered. I’ve always thought that was amusing. Almost every forum or community site I frequent, the majority of the users turn out to be Texans, followed by Aussies/Kiwis (yes, I know you guys are from two very distinct countries but you know how stupid Americans are…we can’t even hear the difference in the accent so it all gets lumped into one ;-), and then people from Ohio. I’ve no idea why it works that way, but it always seems to.

  52. Julie says:

    People who live in apartments may not have access to any clothesline at all.

    I’ve tried drying clothes in the basement, but it was too humid and they actually started to get moldy before they were dry.

    I have a yard now and I keep trying because I like the idea of it, but there’s often just too much wind. One time a pillowcase ended up in a neighbor’s yard. This offended the neighbor. And on a rare, truly sunny day, the sun bleached a favorite blouse (blotchily).

    I find that I get the best results if I line-dry things (indoors or outdoors) most of the way and then finish them off in the dryer at very low heat. This cuts down on shrinking, wrinkling, wear-and-tear, and energy use. But even then, outdoor drying still isn’t acceptable during pollen season. The pollen is too small for the lint trap, and it ends up blowing around all over the place.

  53. xbolt says:


    Can’t get much more random than this! :D

  54. roxysteve says:

    I have come up with a method whereby you can keep up with the socks in terms of travel without the unthinkable “never launder” solution.

    Simply get into the dryer with your socks.

    Of course, you will need to take care of static build up to avoid the danger of shocks and the resetting of your Casio digital wristwatch to Jan 1st, 1901.

    To avoid this problem, simply take four or five feet of nickle plated 5/16ths welded chain in with you to ground out the static to the drum as it thrashes around.

    Ideas for the New Millenium

  55. Seracka says:

    For those from Australia and other places, One of the reasons for not line drying things in the US is because, some neighborhoods have ‘covenants’ against putting things in your yard like a clothes line. And then there is the humidity problem in some areas of the US…luckily I live in Utah so, I can line dry them and have them actually dry…I couldn’t do that when I lived in Kentucky.

    So, I have lived in places where the homeowners association will fine you if you put your laundry up out in your yard. I do have a drying rack and a clothes dryer…though, I will only dry stuff in the evening hours to help keep the electricity load off of the peak hours. Personally I am about half line drying and half clothes dryer. One thing though, when you dry clothes in the dryer, it wears them out and fades them faster than if you line dry them.

  56. Seracka says:

    Oh, for the person who was talking about the venting to the outside thing. Actually you CAN vent a dryer inside. There is such a thing as an indoor venting kit which the vent hose attaches to a plastic box that you put water into and that captures the lint.

    So, the only drawback for you would be the amperage. The cool thing about line drying is that your whites will always be white as sunlight is a very good bleach.

  57. Namfoodle says:

    Wow, I’m impressed by the comments coming from socks and dryers. I’m not a fan of outdoor line drying due to dirt and leaves and such. Another thing I don’t like about outdoor line drying is that it can make clothes “stiff”. Towels especially can get crispy.

    I do some indoor line drying of delicate clothes, but I try not to buy too many of those. My wife has a bunch, and it’s a pain for her to keep up with her delicates.

    Many of the Aussies mentioned drying in winter by a fire. Sometimes in certain areas of California, it is illegal to burn wood in your fireplace during winter because the air pollution it creates gets trapped by local weather conditions.

    Folks in Australia and Europe who don’t have “throughput” issues with line drying might have less clothes than us consumer-crazy Americans.

  58. Minerva says:

    I guess those of use who live in temperate, clean-aired cities with houses and gardens big enough to erect clothes lines and regulatory environments that allow us to do so should realise how lucky we are. I’ll think of that next time I’m putting out a mega wash of sopping, heavy towels up on a line above my head.

    There seems to be an undercurrent of implication throughout this forum that Americans are lazy and wasteful for always using the dryer (gotta admit that was my immediate thought too) but I think they’ve defended themselves pretty well, there seem to be some genuine reasons for it.

    But what about this one: a friend of mine lived in the States for a while, and said people were amazed when she made pancakes from ‘scratch’ (ie from flour, milk and eggs rather than a packet). Again, my first thought was lazy and wasteful, but after seeing such good arguments for the dryer I’m interested to see if there are similarly reasonable explanations for this.

  59. Dave says:

    I quit wearing socks years ago.

  60. food4worms says:

    Do not fear the Eater-of-Socks. Wear mis-matched pairs.

  61. Seracka says:

    Minerva –

    There is a very good reason that Americans don’t make things like pancakes from scratch. I used to work in a wedding registry and I would say 70% of my clients had no clue how to cook. Many parents are not teaching children how to follow a recipie and lots of schools are cutting Home Ec. Classes out of political correctness (I know of one school district in CA who does not offer cooking and sewing classes to their students but, offers pilots ground school) I have literally sat down from girls who asked me what a sauce pan is and what she would ever use it for.

    Also, I think that Americans are living at a frantic pace and feel that they don’t have “time” to make all that mess that they will have to clean up when it is just as easy to pull something out of the freezer. Too bad they don’t really know just how good the scratch version tastes and you can still freeze them for convience. I do all my cooking on the weekend and freeze everything for during the week.

    so, there is my thoughts on that.

  62. Johnedko says:

    I don’t know, I am an American and make my pancakes from scratch. I would be careful with the generalizations here.


  63. ryanlb says:

    This is a strangely fascinating discussion.

  64. Thijs says:

    I think it is healthy to change things sometimes. When you’re in the mood, cook. If you’re not, don’t feel guilty about eating fastfood, or making some premade stuff. The same is with dryers. I have one, and I use it for most laundry. But my jeans and other ‘delicates’ shrink in a dryer so I have a drying rack which I can hang from my door… (actually now I think of it, I don’t, I just hang things on chairs and stuff) Doing all my laundry like this would be crazy.

    by the way, I live in Holland, in a appartement of 20 square meters :P

  65. Dave says:

    Look.. I live in America.. I compost with worms and a compost pile.. I hang my clothes.. I grow some food.. stink from not showering enough.. don’t wear shoes or socks.. I do use hot water.. but I save the water that comes from the tap while getting it hot so I can put it in the garden.. We make our own laundry soap and use a high-effeciency washing machine..

    Oh.. and I live in an American city… I don’t own a gun.. I don’t sell or do drugs…. except on the weekends.

  66. NeedsToHeal says:

    Hi Minerva.

    I hope you’re having a wonderful day.

    Each and every person have their own lives to lead, so I’m only going to paint a week’s worth of my life for you as I can’t really speak for anyone else. Five days out of the week, I get up at the crack of dawn to get ready for work. About twice a week, I start a load in the washer right before I leave, so that I have some house work done while I drive an hour to work, i.e.: multitasking. Sometimes I work my usual 8 hours and 1 hour lunch, and sometimes, work can get a little hectic and I will sometimes stay at work for two hours past my leave time. On a good day, it takes me another hour to get home. If you factor in all the stalled cars, car accidents, weather issues, etc., it may take me two hours to get home. That’s already a total of 12 hours of not being at home to pound my clothes and everyone else’s clothes on rocks to get them clean, let alone hang each item on a line to get them dried, not to mention the serious weather issues that we’ve been having will only force me to do the same 5 loads all over again an additional 3 times. And I never just have one load to do.

    On the subject of cooking, I love to cook. I’ve made many meals from scratch and prefer it that way. And I will cook, but only when I have time to cook. And when I say cook, I don’t mean opening a box of Lean Cuisine to pop into the microwave. I mean getting raw ingredients and massaging the meat and mincing the onions or creaming the butter with just a fork. I will cook, and I will admit that it takes me a minimum of two hours to cook. But that doesn’t include the grocery store time, the running errands time on weekends only as I don’t have time during the week, laundry time, paying bills time, or the other stuff that needs to get cleaned. So as I cook great meals on weekends and mediocre meals during the week (when I can actually whip something up in less than 1/2 hour), I almost always have the washer, dryer, and dishwasher going, while the bathroom cleaner is doing its job in the bathtub, and the toilet cleaner is doing its job in the toilet.

    Americans are lazy? I don’t know. I’m not every American. I’m only me.

  67. MOM says:

    This has indeed become a facinating discussion. It turned into a general discussion of lifestyle, really: punctuated with many very funny comments from Shamus’ readers.
    #47 and #59 got great guffaws from me- as did your post, Shamus. Also the ladies Friendship Circle at WRBC enjoyed my summary of it, (and they launched into a discussion of laundry preferences).

  68. David says:

    I live in Illinois in the middle of the country.

    A while back, our dryer quit working, so we tried line drying for a while, and in general, it went like this:

    I don’t have any clean clothes. Let’s check the line.
    Still wet.
    *a while later*
    Still wet.
    *a while later*
    Still wet.
    *after giving up and leaving it for a good long while*
    Oh, look! All the clothes are the consistency of stale bread!

    After trying this a few times (some things would actually dry right, but the majority was stale bread) we went to plan b and drove 10 miles to do all the laundry in a laundromat until we got the dryer fixed.

    On the subject of cooking, I like to cook from scratch sometimes. It gives you the option of customizing. Like with the pancakes, I like to add a tiny bit of vanilla for flavor. Try it, it’s good.

  69. NeedsToHeal says:

    By the way, I make the best French toast. A little bit of vanilla is the secret. And for the plating, powdered sugar always makes it look pretty.

  70. Ryan says:

    Ah yes, made from scratch pancakes. The true benchmark meaure on the Nationality Laziness Index.

  71. Antiquated Tory says:

    Wow, this is all a bit odd, folks.
    On the dryer front, there’s this cunning device called a ‘clotheshorse’ that people set up in their bathrooms or kitchens or wherever is reasonably warm and has space to put it up. This is what people do who don’t have dryers or outdoor lines. In places where this is normal, washers tend to be smaller too (ours is a standard 5kg or 12 lb capacity), so people run it more often. A decent machine has a ‘rinse hold’ option so you can toss stuff in during the morning before you go to work and finish it when you get home.
    If I could have a decent dryer for a decent price and have it vented to the outdoors I would prefer it, as would anyone sane, but this is not an option. Washing more often and drying on a clotheshorse is not that much of an inconvenience and is a lot cheaper than using a Western-style laundromat, which are expensive.
    Anyway it’s not a big deal. I certainly think big American washers and dryers are splendid devices and I miss them but I live in a small flat in town and I still manage to get my clothes clean. And indeed people did get their clothes clean and dry without mechanical dryers in America too, before these devices were invented. But they are nice to have if you can. And those of you who have humongous reliable effective 20 lb capacity Maytags should jolly well appreciate it. Whew.
    I’m not sure what the pancake thing is about. They are very easy to make if you are used to cooking, but of course not everyone is. Lord knows this is not an American thing as the Czechs are addicted to instant powdered mixes of every kind of baked or pancake-type food in their cuisine.
    Thijs, I used to live in 30 square metres, and of course there is no space to even put up a clotheshorse! You must have one of those tall, thin toploader washers to even fit it into the place. But I have to say, you’re the first Dutch person I know living in a small flat who actually has a dryer.

  72. Osvaldo Mandias says:

    On the dryer front, there's this cunning device called a “˜clotheshorse' that people set up in their bathrooms or kitchens or wherever is reasonably warm and has space to put it up.

    I require my bathroom and my kitchen for other purposes.

  73. Laithoron says:

    What are these “clothes” You speak of?

  74. Browncoat says:

    Every couple years or so, my wife and I take our kids to see some friends in another state. We all went to church together back when we were all single and now we’ve paired off and reproduced, and my wife and I moved away. Anyway, when we go there, invariably the husband will make pancakes from scratch one morning.

    They are just about the most disgusting breakfast food item I’ve ever eaten, and if you’ve ever been camping with my grandfather, you know that’s quite a statement.

    It is entirely possible that it’s his recipe or even him. I’d be willing to try a different recipe, because I’m adventurous like that, but the kind you just add milk, eggs, and oil to taste pretty dern good to me.

    (Or have we moved off this topic?)

  75. NeedsToHeal says:


    I’m not a big fan of pancakes as I prefer French toast. Wish a side of sausage links, and bacon, and hash brown, and corned beef hash, and etc. etc.

  76. jubuttib says:

    Don’t know if this has been said already (can’t be arsed to read through every post…) but you CAN dry on a clothesline even in sub-zero weather. Trust me, I’m from Finland. It works.

  77. guy says:

    I’ve tried line drying, and it seems to take an eternity, plus it attracts thunderstorms, which vanish when you take the clothes down. of course, I only do it at scout camp, so i might be thinking of the storms that hit camps every week

  78. Julia says:

    1) If there’s a mildewy smell in the washer, it’s a lost sock gone damp & growing stuff. (Most common in households with small children, and it’s the smallest sock in the house that’s gotten lost and is now playing host to unwanted lifeforms.)

    2) My mother pulled a sock out of the dryer once that she had never seen before in her life. So whoever was teleporting socks out of dryers at that point goofed somewhere.

    3) You lose fewer socks if you put them in zippered mesh bags before tossing them into the washer. Make SURE the zipper is CLOSED (I goof on that about once a month!) and don’t overfill any single mesh bag. (If I were doing this with the adult socks, instead of just the kids socks, I think I’d need about 2 dozen mesh bags.) They may take a little longer to dry in the dryer, so for those of you who are cost-conscious, figure out how many socks you lose a year, how much extra dryer time it’s going to take, how much energy the dryer uses in that time, what your kilowatt-hour cost is, and what the cost of replacing lost socks is. :)

  79. Lo'oris says:

    rotflmao great post, I really liked that

  80. Falco Rusticula says:

    Re: Line drying: Our hosehold of four from England has a clothesline which gets used for everything larger than a vest in the summer, and two interior clothes-horses for underwear; in winter, when it’s wet and cold, everything goes on the clothes-horses. I don’t think we’ve needed to use the tumble-drier for years. Then again, that’s probably due to habit and a lack of any burning desire to dry stuff days before you’ll be wearing it again.

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