Should You Line Dry Your Clothes?

Up through the 1950’s in America, most housewives lined dried their clothes.  Clothes dryers were around, but expensive.  Driving across America on a sunny summer day, you could see lines full of clothes swaying in the wind all along the way.

Line drying clothing saves dryer cycles.  Some sources such as Laundry List.org claim that you can save $25 on your monthly electric bill (assuming you have an electric clothes dryer now) if you line dry your clothing.

Line drying saves carbon emissions. Again per Laundry List.org: “We estimate that 8% of households line-dry their laundry during 5 months of the year. If all Americans who currently do not use a clothesline started to use one for ten months of the year, we could avoid 12 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, annually.

Why don’t we line dry clothing?

Seasons.

Clothes don’t line dry well in wet or cold weather.  Unless you live in a location that is sunny year round, your line drying is apt to be an indoor event most of the year.

How to mitigate:  Buy a clothes rack or two, or string a line in your basement or unused garage.  The drying clothes release moisture into the air, lessening the need for humidifiers.

Time.

It takes more time to pack the clothes in a basket, carry them outside and hang each piece on the line.  It takes still more time to wait for them to dry (depending on weather and the type and thickness of fabric this could take between an hour and 8+ hours).  It takes yet even more time to take them down, and possibly iron them.

How to mitigate:  Plan laundry days based on weather forecasts when you can.  Make hanging clothes one of your kid’s household duties.  Shake each piece of clothing hard prior to hanging – to help avoid wrinkling – so you don’t have to iron. Hang shirts upside down.  Leave space between clothing pieces.  Hang heavy pants by the waistline.  Use two clothes pins for most items. Try not to fold items – expose a single layer to the sun and wind to get faster dry times.

Legal restrictions.

Some communities and local governments actually have laws against hanging clothes outdoors.  I guess it doesn’t look good to them.

How to mitigate:  Work to get the laws and regulations changed.  According to Consumer Reports there is a “Right to Dry” movement afoot.  Hook into that to get help changing laws in your area.

Effort.

It takes more of your effort to carry clothes to a line, pin them up, take them down, and iron them than it does to throw them into the dryer (typically right next to your washer), grab them out and fold or hang them (typically very close by the dryer).

How to mitigate:  Put your line in a convenient location.  Keep all drying supplies together and close to the laundry and line.  Consider the effort a nice little bit of exercise.

Results.

Line dried clothing can be very stiff and wrinkled.  The sun can fade colors. The pins can leave marks on the clothing.  Stains can happen – from bombarding birds, clothes falling on the ground, lines falling, kids running through them and etc.

How to mitigate:  I’ve heard that a half cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle can soften up the cloth.  Breezes also help blow out the wrinkles. Make sure your clothes pins are in good shape and fastened securely enough to the clothes and line so your clothes won’t fall.  Make sure your line is fastened securely to your pole and your pole is well grounded so it won’t pull out (we used to set ours in cement).  Hang colored clothing inside out or in the shade.  Train your kids not to mess around with clothes on the line!

My experience.

I line dried clothes for years – while growing up and in the early years of my marriage.  You really haven’t lived until you have lined dried cloth diapers in sub-zero weather on a line in the unheated garage (hint – it takes days – they actually freeze dry).

I ‘line’ dry some clothes today.  I hang (or lay flat) dedicates, sweaters, bras, hose and bathroom rugs even now.

Line drying clothing is easier on the clothes than tumble drying.  They stay fuller (no lint), they aren’t jumbled around with 20 other items and the heat from the sun is less destructive than the high dryer heat.

Line drying clothing in the summer time can be very enjoyable if you have the time.  The clothes smell fresher (I loved the way the sheets smelled), it gives you a valid excuse to be outside and the clothes dry fairly quickly.  Line drying in the winter takes some good planning on wash cycles.  Since the clothes take longer to dry, you need to space out your loads more.

A bonus was that the laundry basket doubled as an imaginative toy for the toddlers – one day it was a boat, the next a car, the next a cave.

I’ve seen single metal lines between two poles, multiple cloth lines between two poles, lines between trees, rotary lines which look kind of like a spider web around a center pole and removable lines – where the poles stay in place but you can take the lines down between drying sessions.  Clothes dry faster the more they are exposed to air and sun – so some of the multiple line varieties can cause your drying time to extend.

Clothes lines often made a handy structure on which to hang a play tent – using just a couple of sheets pinned at the top and held out in a triangle shape with rocks or bricks at the bottom.

Do you line dry your clothing?  What would enable you to do so?

This post was written by Marie.


Comments

Should You Line Dry Your Clothes? — 47 Comments

  1. We don’t have a yard in which to line dry, but the boyfriend dries his clothes on a drying wrack in the apartment. It clutters up the apartment for awhile but it does save a lot of money.

  2. I remember my mom line drying clothes when I was a kid. I never stopped to think it was about saving money though. It just seemed like a natural thing to do. These days I live in an apartment though and this isn’t really an option.

  3. We have a great big clothes line in our back yard that is used almost constantly in the spring and summer months. In the winter, we have a wood stove up stairs, so we put heavy sweaters and jeans on a drying rack by the fire and they get dry in a few hours. I, too, LOVE the way clothes smell when you take them in off the line, and it is so much better for your clothing!

    • That’s been my issue with it as well. I guess I’m mainly interested in saving time, anyway. To me, using a machine works best. That said, I’ll wash in cold to save on hot water as well as go easier on the clothes. That’s one way to save:)

    • If you pop them back in the dryer for just a few minutes it will soften them up. We live in an arid area and when my children lived at home drying x-number of jeans on the line each week was a no-brainer. They’d dry almost before you finish hanging them up. There were complaints, however about the “sandpaper” jeans. A short tumble dry solved the problem, you don’t even have to use heat.

  4. We “line dry” in our second bathroom of our apartment. We put all our clothes on hangers and just put them on the shower curtain rod. I actually would do this even if we had a yard because it’s so much less labor to put them directly on hangers inside the house – we just move them straight from the bathroom into our closet once they’re dry.

  5. I love to dry my cloth diapers outside in the sun but that is the extent of our line drying. I want to put up a clothesline this year when we do up our backyard (currently just a big muddy mess) and hope to do a bit more line drying then. I don’t think I will try to dry clothes inside in the winter as our basement is always a little moist and requires a dehumidifier. We turn the dehumidifier off in the winter but I think I’d need to turn it back on to dry clothing which might negate a lot of the savings…

  6. For dress shirts and sports shirts, I would almost always recommend line drying right after washing. Not only does it save money and reduce exposure to harsh treatments, but it comes out with less wrinkles and with better shape. All you have to do is button the top (neck) button and the third button and fix the collar before leaving it to dry. Gravity will take care of the rest.

  7. I line dry our items until they are 95% dry. I then put them in the dryer for 15-20 min. This makes the items soft and reduces wrinkles! It also requires 1/3 of the time in my electric dryer : ) Only bummer is if they are hanging and a Florida shower pops up. It just took me 3 days to dry a rug due to rain ( but it is less expensive than buying a new one)………Honestly, the 95% trick is awesome and keep our electric bill under control.

  8. We air dry our clothes quite a bit. We avoid using the dryer as much as possible and only run it when we’re off “peak hours”.

    We don’t line dry our clothes. If we had a more temperate climate in the fall and winter, maybe :)

    Damn Ottawa winters!

    Mark

  9. We don’t line dry right now, as the HOA has rules against it. We did a little discreetly here when we were cloth diapering, but the youngest is potty trained now, so no need. We did a lot more line drying when we lived in a place that didn’t have a HOA. I just called the extra effort a part of my exercise routine.

  10. Daughter and I have really bad allergies to pollen and daughter has asthma. Solution, hubby hung drying poles in the basement – pvc tubing wired to the joists – where I hang jeans, towels, Tshirts. All of daughter’s clothes are washed in their own load and dried on high heat per her doctor.

  11. We dry some clothes on a drying rack in our apartment. And even for clothes I put in the dryer I often pull them out early to dry on the rack. I think this saves a little money and energy. I wouldn’t hang up anything that take more than a day to dry – don’t have the time or space for that sort of clutter inside.

  12. We do a lot of line drying at our house. We love the way things smell so fresh afterwords. Sure, they’re stiff, but they smell great and we save money.

  13. I live in a condo with a small balcony. I handwash in the kitchen sink and hang dry everything except jeans and towels, even in the winter unless it’s -20 then I hang more inside than out. I do a little every couple of days. I find my clothes last a lot longer when they are not subjected to the machines.
    I live in Alberta so things dry quickly. I find it easier and quicker than going to the laundry room in the building and I save $$

  14. I line try spring, summer and fall. I have two T-poles cemented into the ground with plastic covered wire lines. I always wipe down the lines with a damp cloth before I hang things. I also make sure I have clean clothespins, and don’t leave the empty pins on the line, I have a clothes pin bag that stays in side away from the elements.

    My favorite days are warm breezy sunny days. I hang t-shirts by the bottoms, folding about 2 inches over the line and pin on both ends. I button and hang work shirts and blouses after buttoning completely, by the shoulders, with a clothespin at the sleeve end of the shoulder seam, and next to the collar, 4 pins in all and flatten out the collar. The t-shirts dry like they had been ironed. I always use fabric softener. I hang heavier blankets and quilts using two lines and making a U, pinning one side on one line, and the other side on a second line, exposing the entire blanket to the wind and sun. Pants can be hung by the waistband but with the inside leg seams facing each other, so the clothes pins are at the zipper, in the middle and at the back seam, folding the waistband over the line.

    There is nothing more soothing than laying down in a bed made with sheets that have been hung outside in the sunshine. Pure heaven.

  15. I use both an umbrella clothesline and a portable clothes drying rack to dry my laundry. It saves money is better for the environment and the most surprising thing I learned by doing this is that my clothes were really wearing out fast when I was using a drier. The elastic on socks and underwear wore out really fast and the lint that I cleaned out after every load was literally my fabric coming apart. Since I have been air drying my clothes last much longer saving me more money…

  16. I love drying my clothes outside on the line (and not just for the money savings), but in the UK the weather is so unpredictable that you have to watch it every minute. The other day, I’d just hung it out and the heavens opened!

  17. I line dry year round. I have to say it can be hard on the shoulders and neck. Here’s how I save space…I hang the clothes onto hangers first, using pins to keep them in place. Things like washclothes and scarves get hung, by a corner, four to a hanger. Pants get pinned on by the waistband. On the clothesline I keep pins that are shoved on tight, about six inches apart. The already hangered stuff goes onto the line. The pins on the line stops stuff from all sliding together. It’s the same way for my back room, which has lines strung across it. I also have a strong metal bar fixed to the ceiling over the gas heater (yes, sounds dangerous but I watch it closely). This way I can hang a LOT of laundry in a small space. In winter it takes several days for inside stuff to dry. The stuff over the heater dries within an hour of so (if we’re actually using the heater, which we don’t until the temp gets around 45 degrees). I’m rural so there are no laws against line drying. I have to say, tho, hanging laundry is fun the first five hundred times, then it gets a bit old. lol.

    • Thanks for the tips!
      Yes, I agree that 501th time is a drudge. I’m still having trouble digesting the fact that you don’t use heat until it is around 45 degrees brrrrrrrrrrr! I get cold starting at about 55 degrees!

      • Well, the cold is not pleasant, but I’m married to a polar bear, so I wear several layers of clothes in cold weather. Come Spring, when I can shed those layers, I feel as light as a fairy, lol.

  18. We have an outdoor line and three indoor lines across our long furnace room (they can be lifted out of the way with cuphooks when necessary). Indoor drying takes longer, but we’ve found that you don’t need clothespins–just hang things right over the lines, or put shirts on plastic hangers. So that does speed things up.

  19. We are fortunate to live in Southern Arizona. With high heat and almost zero percent humidity, the clothes at the beginning will literally be done by the time you’ve hung the end. Plus you can line dry about 360 days a year. We started line drying almost exclusively (I still put socks and underwear in the dryer)to off set the huge electricity bills we have in the summer from the AC. It really made a difference in the bill.

  20. I live in “Sunny Scotland” – that is sarcasm in case you missed it LOL. Our sun is more often of the horizontal and persistent variety.

    We line dry all year around – sometimes things go out in the morning and need to be left out out all day – the flapping in the wind softens the fibres and the sunshine acts as a natural bleach to my whites.

    Heat from dryers is more likely to damage modern fibres – and by not running a drier I save about £600 per year – that’s 0.05% of my mortgage capital or 25 weeks groceries saved in one stroke.

    Also – our heating doesn’t go on until it is proper “frosty cold” outside – so drying inside isn’t much quicker

  21. line dry at every opportunity…makes feel amish!
    drying racks in the winter with the ceiling fan on low circulating the air.
    dryer is used for bedding and curtains

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