Saturday, December 26, 2015

Using Your Wood Cookstove as a Clothes Dryer

I can probably count the number of times we have used our clothes dryer in the last year on the fingers of one hand.  We keep it around for emergencies, but sometimes even an emergency can be handled more quickly in an old-fashioned way.

One such emergency occurred one weekend earlier this month when Nancy and I needed black dress socks for our choir outfits on Sunday morning.  Fortunately, I had thought ahead enough to throw the load of dark dress socks into the automatic washing machine before I went to bed on Saturday evening, but they still needed to be dried on Sunday morning in time for church.  I could have dried the socks in the dryer, but there was no need because we have a wood cookstove!

When we have a small article of clothing that needs to be dried in a hurry, I pin it (or them as in the case of the required socks) to a wire clothes hanger and then hang it all from the handle of the warming oven door.  As the heat rises from the cooktop, the clothing dries very quickly.  See below for cautionary statements regarding this method, though.

Drying socks on the Margin Gem.  I've also dried
underwear this way, but I'll spare you the embarrassment
of having to look at it.

When we were still using the Qualified Range, it functioned as a much better clothes dryer than the Margin Gem.  For one thing, along the front of the range and along the right side, the Qualified was equipped with a guard rail that I frequently used as a clothing or towel rack.

You can see the chrome plated towel racks on
the front and right sides of the Qualified range in
this picture.

You can sort of see to the left rear of the Qualified (by the bellows) that there was a gap of space between the rear of the range and the wall.  This gap was created by the fact that the chimney juts into the kitchen; this is where our Vaughn range boiler now sits.  This space was the perfect spot for our extra tall clothes rack, which was a Christmas gift that my in-laws bought me from Lehman's.  We would put a small clothes rack near the right side. 

Even if the space behind the Margin Gem still existed, this would no longer be nearly as efficient a method to dry clothing because the Margin Gem has a built-in heat shield on the back that causes it to not radiate nearly as much heat (hence its significantly lower clearance requirements).  Also, putting a rack to the right of the stove is also not effective since the water reservoir absorbs the heat from that side of the range.

Blog reader Gary D. from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, modified his Ideal Sunshine cookstove by adding some towel racks which were originally made for Vermont Castings heating stoves.

But now, I must caution you.  Drying clothing or any other thing near a woodburning stove or other heating device can be dangerous!  Here are some things to keep in mind:

1) Clothing or other things drying near or on a hot stove can dry before you know it, and then they become a fire hazard.  I once scorched a wet tea towel beyond salvage in record time on the Qualified.

2) Never leave clothes drying on or very near a cookstove unattended.

3) If you are planning on leaving your stove with clothing drying near it, make sure that the clothes have been moved a safe distance away, using your stove's clearance requirements as a guide.

4) In your calculations of safe clearances, figure out where your racks would land if they fell toward your stove.  I've heard of fires starting because of flammable things falling against woodburning stoves, and no one wants that to happen.

That said, being able to use your cookstove as a clothes dryer has some distinct advantages beyond the savings on your energy bills.  Depending on your geographic location, winter air can be quite dry, so hanging wet clothing around the cookstove adds humidity to the air in your home.  This makes your home feel warmer as well as relieving you of such annoyances as static electricity or bloody noses.

Also, clothes that are hung to dry last longer than if they were dried in a tumble dryer.  The lint in your dryer's lint filter is the result of wear and tear on fabric.

Using your cookstove to dry clothing is another way to get as much good as possible out of these wonderful appliances; just be sure to do it safely.

1 comment:

  1. I hang my clothes up to dry in the kitchen every week when I do laundry. I have an old roll up clothes line that belonged to my great grandparents and spans the length of the kitchen to hang many garments directly above the stove. I feel like I'm in a small apartment ducking under clothes hanging all over. Works very nicely! I have a dryer, but really only use it for dress clothes that might wrinkle. One of the many perks of a cookstove!