Local company big on cool clotheslines

Blaine Kyllo

Of the many interesting products on display at this spring's EPIC exhibition in Vancouver, what caught my eye were the clotheslines.

Like many people, I think of clotheslines as a throwback to the past. Clotheslines were things my grandmothers used because they didn't have dryers. My cousins and I used clotheslines as badminton nets and football goalposts.

But Jeanne Mikita, founder of Sundog Clotheslines, says there's nothing old school about clotheslines. Quite the opposite, in fact. Mikita, who is a geographer at Capilano University in North Vancouver, has traveled the world, and says Canadians have a lot to learn from Europeans and Australians when it comes to drying laundry.

"It's not an issue that they can't have a dryer," says Jeanne, "it's that clothelines are how you dry your clothes. I think we're behind, now, Europe and Australia, where they are using all sorts of innovative clothesline designs and we are hooked on gas and electric dryers."

"After the refrigerator," Jeanne says, "the dryer is the biggest draw on energy in our households." She speaks the truth. Power Smart recommends that clothes dryers be used as sparingly as possible.

Inspired by the idea of reducing her power consumption, Jeanne went on a quest to find the best clothesline to install in her backyard. What she found was that there are many different types of clotheslines now available, from old-fashioned pulley systems to newer umbrellas systems which can be taken down when not in use.

Jeanne's favourite, and the one now in her yard, is the Breeze Catcher. It comes from a supplier in Dublin, Ireland, and spins gently in the wind.

Her search for the perfect clothesline led Jeanne to create a company to source and make available the best models to Canadians. Sundog Clotheslines was born.

For those without access to a yard, there are clotheslines that can be used on a balcony or inside an apartment. "Some are retractable or foldaway," Jeanne says, "so if you've got a small space you can tuck it away. People are moving them up to the ceiling, they're pushing them into the wall, they're folding them up and storing them beside the fridge."

Jeanne is tracking down as many models as she can, and making them available. "I'm looking for something that's very durable, because if it's made well it will last, and that's part of the sustainable initiative as well."

And there are other benefits to drying your clothes on a line, too, Jeanne says. There's no need for antistatic sheets, there's no shrinkage, and clothes last longer. "All that lint comes from the breaking down of your clothes," she explains. Air drying clothes is better for the colours and better for the fabric.

Not to mention the energy advantages. "You'll cut down on your carbon emissions and your energy bill," says Jeanne.

"Although Vancouver weather isn't always the best for drying outdoors," Jeanne says, "even a 50% reduction in our dryer use will help to drastically reduce our household carbon emissions."

Blaine Kyllo is a Vancouver-based freelance writer.