Should I hang the washing out? Weather tips for laundry and energy saving

2022-05-14 19:21:54 By : Mr. Jianghao Zhou

Spring into summer brings more fine weather opportunities, and longer days with more hours of sunshine. With energy price hikes any little saving could help your pocket and the planet. After winter, some might be out of the habit of outside laundry drying. Whether that is on a washing line, a clothes rotary or an exposed balcony airer here are some tips for maximising your drying efforts.

A. Are you a hanging the washing out come what may type? The wash cycle has finished so it’s going out as you have to go to work or move on to the next task, it just needs to be out of your way? It stays on the line and you will bring it in when it's dry and you have the time, even if that takes two days.   OR

B. Are you looking for a decent drying window? If you are going to bother putting the washing out then you want it to dry and hopefully bring it in fairly soon, ready to put away? Otherwise, it might be an indoor clothes airer or hanger, or on the radiators.

"Mine goes out unless it’s pouring. I only ever use the dryer for towels in the winter. Today’s two loads have been soaked again 3 times and are still out now. Fingers crossed for tomorrow?" Carolynn

If you are person A good, on you go and good luck. For those in the B category, a few tips and hints to aid good drying.

Look at your 7-day forecast for your location. Check out the weather symbols, risk of rain, humidity and winds. This for Leeds with some fine weather coming up.

If you scroll down from the hourly symbols, below is the weather radar for the same place and the risk of rain today as a bar chart. This for York on a slightly more showery day. 

Not only does it need to be dry, but a breeze is key for good drying. It’s not all about bright, warm sunshine. A fair, non-humid day with a breeze will work well, slightly better than a still, quite warm, sunny one. The breeze takes away the moisture.  The best drying days need bright, warm sunshine and a breeze. Often those kinds of days include some showers which sneak up on you and soak the 'nearly dry' lot. Different fabrics will take different amounts of time to dry with lightweight synthetics drying quickly and heavyweight denim taking ages.

You need the wind on a dry day to move the water vapour away from the clothes. That new dry air will then absorb a bit more of the laundry moisture. What you don’t want is fog or mist as that forms in still, calm conditions and is essentially your clothes sitting in a cloud, a mass suspended water droplets.

High pressure often brings settled, fair steady weather with lighter winds at the centre of the high. Lows bring wet and windy conditions. 

There are times when the UK has high pressure over it and there are days of fine, sunny weather not much breeze, but it stays dry. This is relatively simple. Put out your washing and forget about it. Maybe bring it in before any night-time dampness or dew appears.

There are also times when a band of frontal rain sweeps in from the Atlantic and can be tracked well on the forecast and seen on the Radar. Again, quite clear cut. Weather models and apps deal with frontal rain well on the day. It’s worth looking at the Radar image, which shows where the rain is right now, it is a snapshot every 5 to 15 minutes. Next, you could compare it to a forecast rain chart, or the weather app symbols to see how the model is performing that day.  If the rain is already over Wales arriving in Manchester on the 9am radar but on the model, it is only covering Cardiff then some has gone awry overnight. Usually, there will be increasing cloud, light rain arrives and then the heavier rain until the band clears.

A frontal band of rain moving down through the UK, fine ahead of it and brighter behind to the NW. You can use the Animate button on the Radar to see the direction of motion.

For your washing, you can see where the frontal band of rain is and decide whether to put out the laundry with enough time to dry and bring it in. Or if it is too close, to not bother yet.

You can set a rain alert on the Netweather Radar app (on Android Google Play) for when the rain is nearby.

Various showers and dry gaps showing on the Radar. Brighter colours for heavier showers. Again Animation button will show motion.

What is much trickier is showers. Often once a rainband has cleared, the skies brighten but sharp showers can move in. Often a day when there are bright, sunny spells but a fair breeze are also the ones with hefty downpours. It is still difficult to predict where will see a shower and where will miss, which can be under a mile apart. For your laundry, you get a risk of rain and a gamble but stacked against spells of fine weather and a breeze.

Comparing to the model charts can highlight any rain delays or if showers are more widespread, or further east. 

What more people will be considering this year is money. Energy prices have rocketed. Tumble drying is an obvious cost and as the weather improves in spring and summer there can be a money saver just outside, if the UK weather behaves. Clothes heading out to the line or onto a clothes horse might not need such a vigorous spin cycle, another (smaller) money-saving. An airer inside could be a safer bet but it can cause damp if not well ventilated.

"My tumble dryer is now an ornament that I don't go near.  I always put the washing out unless really rainy, and  live somewhere windy so normally dries well" Kathryn

For those living around the coasts of the UK, it seems that pesky seagulls are a real annoyance, that and the sea fret or haar. Others are reluctant to leave washing out overnight as summer fades due to spiders and another creepy crawlies, as the temperatures begin to dip.

"Showery day - it's a gamble, but I've hung out the washing when showers are forecast and it stayed dry or if the shower's brief and it dries quickly after in the sunshine" Nick

There is some joy to a good drying day, a breeze, fine weather, sunshine and success with laundry being treated to fresh air. In the UK there seems to be a proportion of people who do just peg it out and leave it out regardless. The British weather is too fickle to wrangle with.

Crochet blocking on the line - Violet

"Yesterday was the best drying day ever! I put it out anytime but will bring it in once I feel dampness in the air" Jenn

Once you get into the rhythm of hanging the washing out and, for those still working from home or who are in during the day, there has to be a small bit of glee about managing to bring it all in before a downpour. And yet there will be plenty of times you don’t as the rest of the household say “I didn’t realise!”. About the washing or the rain.  Keep an eye on the Netweather Radar, it’s more reliable.

Top photo - Carolynn Shaw