There’s nothing better than the smell of clean linens dried on a clothesline.
But in most areas, this delightful sensation can only be experienced in the summertime.
In contrasts, clothes dried inside in the winter time tend to have an almost moldy smell. And not without good reason: drying clothes inside makes your home more humid, which is exactly the kind of environment in which mold and other fungi thrive.
Scientists in England have actually studied the phenomena, which is known to cause respiratory infection throughout the country.
The Hidden Dangers
As your clothes dry on a drying rack or over your radiator, water evaporates and makes the air in your home more humid. Since a load of wet clothes contains almost two liters of water, drying it indoors can actually increase the humidity in your home by 30% (1).
This extra moisture creates ideal breeding conditions for mold spores and dust mites, which can cause respiratory discomfort and infection, especially in people suffering from asthma, allergies or hypersensitivity to allergens (2).
What Science Is Saying
Professor David Denning and his team at the National Aspergillosis Centre in Manchester told the Daily Mail this habit is the leading cause of patients being treated for having inhaled Aspergillus fungal spores (3).
Professor Denning said: “Most of us are either immune to the fungus which grows in these humid conditions, or have a sufficiently healthy system to fight the infection.”
“But in asthma sufferers it can produce coughing and wheeziness, and in people with weak or damaged immune systems, such as cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, AIDS patients and people who have an auto immune disease, the fungus can cause pulmonary aspergillosis – a condition which can cause irreparable, and sometime fatal, damage to the lungs and sinuses.”
Aspergillosis is actually the name of a group of conditions caused by a fungal mold called aspergillus which typically affects the windpipe, sinuses and lungs but can spread to other tissues in the body (4).
These conditions typically cause asthma-like symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, cough and fever but can also mimic sinutitis and lung infections. More severe symptoms include weight loss, chest pain and coughing up blood (5).
The condition is not contagious and healthy individuals can usually fight off the infection before it spreads to the lungs. Once it reaches the lungs, the condition is typically treated with antifungal medication.
One Man’s Story
Craig Mather, a 43-year-old father of three from Bolton, suffered serious mold-related lung infection from frequently drying wet clothes on his bedroom radiator.
Mather had been asthmatic since childhood and had contracted tuberculosis in 1997, both of which left his lungs weakened and vulnerable.
He says: “I only started to recover when my consultant diagnosed chronic pulmonary aspergillosis and prescribed me special drugs to fight the fungal infection.”
“However, I noticed coughing fits and night sweats particularly when I had wet washing drying on the warm bedroom radiator.”
“He told me that it could be making my problems worse, so for the last 12 months I haven’t dried my clothes indoors and I’ve notice a huge improvement in my health.”
What To Do Instead
“My advice would be when in doubt dry wet washing outside, in a tumble dryer or in a well-ventilated indoor space away from bedrooms and living areas to be safe rather than sorry,” suggests Professor Denning.
If the weather is mild enough, keep your windows open to give the humidity a place to go or use a dehumidifier to wick away moisture from the air inside your home.
It’s also a good idea to open windows after cooking or taking a shower to limit moisture in your home, which can also cause mold to grow on your walls, tiles and ceilings (6).