You might be doing it every time you do your laundry.
Surprisingly, hanging damp clothes on indoor clothing racks can be a shocking source of indoor pollution, according to Scottish scientists from the Mackintosh Environmental Architecture Research Unit at the Glascow School of Art. After conducting a three-year study on public housing units, they concluded that drying laundry inside of your home is accompanied by dangerous health hazards.
The average home has between 1 and 2.5 gallons of water in the air at any given time, according to the study. But a load of laundry can release an additional half gallon into the air, leaving behind all kinds of unhealthy agents that you later inhale.
Cancer-causing chemicals: People who use fabric softeners tend to have higher levels of cancer-causing chemicals called acetaldehydes in their indoor air, according to earlier research.
Greater mold potential: In this study, mold spores were 300% higher than what’s considered safe when laundry was dried indoors. In 25% of the homes surveyed, the study authors found high levels of a mold spore called Aspergillus fumigatus, which can cause lung infections in those with weakened immune systems.
More dust mites: Humidity inside the home, which is created by extra water from air-dried laundry, is a prime breeding ground for dust mites. All that dust can trigger allergies and asthma.
So how can you avoid these risks, get your laundry clean, and keep your energy bills to a minimum? Follow these tips:
- Get an outdoor clothesline. This is the easiest fix, and one that’s totally doable if you have a backyard or an apartment with a balcony. Bonus: Clothes dried outside always smell better.
- Upgrade your washer and dryer. Dryers use a ton of energy, and most models use about the same amount, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s EnergyStar program. But if yours needs an upgrade, look for a model with a moisture sensor, which automatically shuts the dryer off when your clothes are dry. Upgrade your washer to one with faster spin cycles, ideally up to 1800 rotations per minute. A fast spin wrings more water out of clothes, meaning less time in the dryer.
- Dry loads of similar fabrics. Different fabrics take different amounts of time to dry, and “over-drying” some clothes while others finish drying wastes energy and is hard on your clothing. Keep towels in one load and light attire in another, for example, to minimize unnecessary dryer time.