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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.