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The Fine Art of Line Drying Laundry

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When it comes to energy hogs, did you know that your electric dryer, when on, consumes the most electricity compared to every other appliance in your home? It’s true, it easily beats your refrigerator and your water heater (those in total energy consumption, those appliances use more because they are always on). So, if you’ve ever considered line drying your clothes to cut down on your electricity usage, you picked the right appliance to target. Not only will it save you big bucks on your electricity bill, line drying your laundry will make your clothing last longer, saving you money on clothing expenses too.

Many people don’t like to line dry their laundry though. They cite too much work, too many wrinkles, and “still” clothing as some of the top reasons for not line drying laundry. Fortunately there are some techniques to make line drying clothing a little easier and more practical, so you can keep money in your pocket.

The Equipment

  • A Warm, Dry Location. Obviously in order to line dry your laundry, you need to have a place where laundry will actually dry. In the summer, it’s usually easy to find such a location in your yard. In the winter, however, line drying can be more difficult. If you have a basement or spare room that stays fairly warm, you can set up drying racks there. But if you don’t have a space where your clothing will dry in less than 24 hours, you’re going to have to use the dryer during the winter months. You don’t want mold growth on your clothing!
  • A Proper Clothesline or Drying Rack. A clothesline doesn’t need to be expensive. A simple nylon rope tied to a sturdy object on each end will suffice. The important thing is to have enough room on your line for your laundry. If you have several laundry lines in a row, you want to make sure there is room between them for air to circulate.
    If you’re drying laundry indoors, a retractable line over the bathtub works well. That way if laundry drips, it drips right into the bathtub. If you have a basement or other suitable room, you can hang a retractable line or lines from wall to wall. Then if you need the room for another purpose, you can just retract the line, so it’s out of the way.
  • Clothes Pins. I prefer plastic clothespins, because they’re bright and easy to see, so you don’t lose them. I actually keep mine in a ziplock bag. The important thing is to store them inside, away from the elements, our they will get nasty, and you won’t want them touching your clean clothes.

Line Drying Technique

  • Use Vinegar in Your Wash. I like to use 1/2 cup of vinegar in my washing machine, because it acts as a fabric softener. I put mine in a Downy ball at the beginning of the laundry cycle, but you could also put it in your fabric softener dispenser, if your washing machine has one.
  • Snap Your Laundry. As you’re hanging your laundry, give it a good shake before putting it on the line. Doing so will get rid of wrinkles and loosen the clothing fibers, making your clothing dry softer.
  • Spread Your Clothing Out. Do not bunch your clothing up on the line.  If you squish everything together, you will create wrinkles and cause your clothing to take longer to dry. You want to stretch everything out on the line enough that your clothing hangs straight down, without actually stretching and ruining the fabric.
  • Hang Shirts Upside Down. Yes, that’s right. By hanging shirts upside down, you don’t get funky clothespin marks on the shoulders. Hang upside down, using one clothespin on each side and one in the middle. Your shirts will dry faster, and there’s a good possibility you won’t have to iron them! That’s a huge bonus in my book!
  • Hang Dress Pants Upside Down Too. Lightweight dress pants can be hung from the bottom.  Put the legs together, matching the seams, and use two clothespins to secure.  Smooth them out, and let them dry.  There’s a good possibility you won’t have to iron your pants, either.
  • Dry Jeans Right Side Up. Hang jeans from the waist, and smooth out the legs. Jeans are so heavy, that if you hang them upside down with the legs together, they’ll take forever to dry.
  • Sheets and Towels. I fold my sheets over the line, securing with a few clothespins, because that’s the easiest way to do it. If you don’t like a crease down the middle of your sheets, though, you can fold sheets over and hang them from the end where the two sides come together, leaving the folded edge hanging at the bottom. Hang towels up vertically with two clothespins.
  • Hang Colored Items Inside Out. Believe it or not, the sun has a wonderful bleaching effect. Well, it’s wonderful for your whites, but not so wonderful for brightly colored items. If you don’t want your colored items to fade, hang them inside out to protect them from the sun’s natural bleach.
  • Do I Dare Hang My Underwear? Personally, I don’t want the whole neighborhood to see my unmentionables. If you have a backyard with a big fence, this might not be a problem. If you are like me, and most of your yard is visible to your neighbors, though, you might be embarrassed to hang undergarments. If you are, you can always hang them on the innermost line, with lines of other clothing hanging on the outside.

That’s really all there is to it. It’s a little more time consuming to line dry laundry than it is to use the electric dryer but the benefits are worth it. You save money on electricity, your clothing lasts longer, you get to spend some time in the fresh outdoor air, and you don’t have to iron as much. Try it! You may never use your electric clothes dryer again!

(Photo: peagreenchick)

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33 Responses to “The Fine Art of Line Drying Laundry”

  1. jen says:

    One more benefit – in nice weather, I really enjoy the 10 to 20 minutes of quiet private time spent outside hanging the clothes. Noticing the color of the sky, hearing the wind in the leaves, smelling the sunshine on the grass… Laundry is still a chore, but once started, hanging clothes can be a pleasant respite from a busy family indoors.

  2. Lisa says:

    I do my laundry by hand with the “breathing mobile washer” which is a re-do and definite upgrade from the “plunger”. Use homemade soap, and also line dry. At my age, I don’t worry about what others think…it’s all about economy and comfort, and the wonderful benefit of being green! We also live half the year or more on solar power alone. Also cook in a solar oven, all fun, all easy!

  3. Lisa says:

    Forgot to mention, I DO use a mini spinner to extract excess water from clothes before hanging them out to line-dry. At 82 watts, our solar capacity is not even dented! Cannot encourage young people enough to at least give it a try..save $ and get a bit of exercise, and as others have said…the smell of fresh laundry and the great outdoors are a PLUS!

  4. Spencer says:

    Thanks for the additional tips. I have found using a low spin cycle leaves more water thus weight in the clothing and is less harsh on the fabric. The additional wt puts tension on the fabric on the line smoothening out the wrinkles. I hang clothing on plastic hangers on the pipes (that are supported) in my furnace room or on the wood racks. So easy and
    NO IRONING! I had to pay attention to figure it out but it works. Now I wish I could soften the line dried towels. Any ideas.

  5. clew says:

    I lived in Seattle and line-dried for four, five months of the year. (Now I live in California where it’s *easy* six or eight months of the year.)

    Cold-climate relatives of mine have switched to rack-drying inside the house instead of running humidifiers in the winter. (In freezing weather, clothes freeze-dry, but wow it’s hard on your fingers hanging them out.)

    I do put undies on a rack, and hang things neatly and with an organized spectrum of colors.

    My best trick for sheets:

    Hang them from opposite edges, as above, and then take them down fan-folded along that edge — then double the fan-fold pile a couple of times and the sheets are folded and ready to either put away or snap out over the bed. Works even for king-sized sheets, which are otherwise something of a wrestle.

  6. Abby says:

    I like to hang my undies inside. I made myself a nice easy twine clothes line in my laundry room and it’s works great unless we have friends over.


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