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Eight Tips for Line Drying Laundry

Transferring clean laundry from the washer in to your dryer is incredibly easy. You push some buttons and within an hour or so, you have dry clothes. It’s a no-brainer. But there are many reasons to take a few extra minutes and start line drying your laundry, and today I’ll share my tips and tricks for maximizing your outdoor and indoor drying.

Why should you line dry? There are so many benefits to using your dryer less, but everyone has their own preference on why it is best for them. For many people in most countries, the idea of owning a dryer is insane and unheard of. In the United States, those that line dry are looked at as the strange ones, but I aim to change that one load at a time! I’m making clotheslines sexy again people!

My reasons for line drying are simple. First, it is a huge money saver in terms of electricity. When I made a concentrated effort to start hanging our laundry to dry, our electric bill made a very dramatic $20 drop in just one month. At that time, $20 was a huge amount for us, and that savings was a blessing. Our household has doubled since that experiment began. Now my parents live with us, and we have another kiddo in the house, so our savings are likely even more significant. Something that goes hand in hand with the cost savings, is the energy savings. Along with your refrigerator, your dryer is likely the first or second largest consumer of electricity in your house. Line drying allows for a slightly reduced ecological footprint.

The third reason we line dry is that it makes our clothing last longer. I’m six feet tall, and I don’t have to tell you that finding pants that are long enough can be a chore. But I just did tell you that, so there you go. Throwing my pants in the dryer is an instant way to make sure I don’t have clothing that fits. When you clean out the lint trap in your dryer, picture all that lint as little parts of your clothes dying each time they are dried. Line drying extends their life by treating them a bit more gently. The fourth reason I recommend hanging your laundry is that few things smell more amazing than something fresh off the line after it has been in the sun all day. It’s something many fragrance companies have tried to bottle, but none have yet achieved capturing that amazing scent.

If you are ready to save money, add more years to your clothes, and walk around smelling like what a marketing company is trying to sell, then please read on for eight tips for line drying your laundry.

Chickens photobombing in the background.

  1. Decide how you’re going to dry, and what you’re going to use. We have an outdoor retractable line that gets heavy use from May through October. I bought it for myself for Mother’s day last year, and it is one of the best gifts I have ever received. I know myself so well. 🙂 But, as this is Seattle, I can’t use it year round. For those darker days, I have indoor drying racks that collapse for easy storage. My favorites are from The Container Store – they’re huge and are made in the US. We currently own three indoor drying racks of various sizes. Indoor drying racks are also a great solution if you live in those crazy uptight planned communities where clotheslines are seen as “eyesores”. Ugh. We also used folding drying racks when we lived in apartments and were unable to hang an outdoor line. We used them on the deck in one apartment, and exclusively indoors in another.
  2. Decide where to dry. If you’re using an outdoor clothesline, I would suggest not setting it up under any large trees if possible. Trees attract birds, and birds like to poop. Fact. It is also good to locate the line where you’ll get maximum sun throughout the day. “We” (It was Troy) attached the base on our clothesline to our house and took a board and some brackets for the clothesline to hook in. “We” then attached it to the neighbor’s fence. We live on a steep hill, and all the yards are terraced. Our upper yard is less than 20 feet wide, so space is at a premium. By being able to attach the clothesline to the fence, “we” didn’t need to put a pole in the ground to support the clothesline. That made “us” very happy.

    If you are drying indoors, the best spots will vary based on your situation. Before the remodel to accommodate my parents moving in, we had a giant daylight basement where I would set up my drying racks. After that went away, I used to love to put one drying rack over each of the in-floor heating vents in our living and dining rooms. With the addition of a mobile toddler who very much loves to destroy things, that plan had to be reworked. Now, I use the tiny part of the basement we have left, and try to keep the baby from tackling them when he is down there.
  3. Decide when to dry. Everyone has their own take on the appeal of the “crunch factor” in their clothes, sheets, and towels. Personally, I want my laundry to be on the softer end of the crunch spectrum. For me, that means trying to time my laundry routine to take items down when they’re almost dry. With my large clothesline, I can line dry three to four loads in a day. Typically as a load is finishing up in the washer, a load on the line is getting super close to being finished. The line will accommodate it all at once, but I tend to bring most things in as I am putting up another load. It is very helpful to have multiple laundry baskets in this situation. In order to have a load ready to hang first thing in the morning, I put clothes in our washer the night before, program it using the “delay wash” option, and have it start washing early the next morning. Before I was working from home and before our retractable clothesline, I would still program our washer to wash a load early in the day. I’d then put the clothes on drying racks out on our deck before work, so at least one load was dry when I got home that night. I would start a load before leaving for work, and hang it up inside that same night. It would be dry by the next morning.
  4. Selectively embrace the dryer. This might seem odd to highlight in a post about line drying, but hear me out. We all suffer from seasonal allergies in our household, so items hung outside need a quick zap in the dryer to kill off pollen. I’ve also found that when I’m taking my laundry off the line when it is almost dry, 10 minutes in the dryer will not only finish the process, but give me the soft and wrinkle free laundry I prefer. Some people prefer to dry laundry for 10 minutes before hanging. Preference goes to the person doing the work. If my laundry is left out too long and is in the rigor mortis stage, I wet a washcloth or small towel with water, and throw it in the dryer with the rest of the load. The dampness helps remove wrinkles and most of the severe”crunch”.
  5. Drying accessories. There are two things I could not do without in my day-to-day line drying life. Hanging racks with clips and wire clothespins are things I rely on heavily. I use three of these hanging racks from IKEA, but Amazon also carries something similar. The clothespins are one of the few items I’ll buy at the Dollar Store (and they have so many other uses too), and they’re available online as well. The hanging clip racks are awesome for socks and underwear and other small items. They’re essential for our cloth diaper and cloth wipes drying. It is so helpful to just clip those items up at once, rather than have to use individual clothespins and take up space on the line. The wire clothespins last forever and never break on me like wooden ones do.
  6. Embrace Vinegar. I am no longer someone who can use fabric softener. I used to love it, but it eventually stopped loving me back. It now makes my skin itchy and causes sneezing fits. I even have to hold my breath walking past that aisle in the grocery store, and hugging someone who uses it on their clothes gives me instant watery eyes. At the same time, I totally understand the appeal of why people want to use it. In general, the chemicals it contains give you softer clothes, the fresh scent lasts a long time, and it helps prevent static. Did you know that plain white “$4 for three gallons at Costco” vinegar will give you similar results if used during your washer’s rinse cycle? Before we got an HE top loader, I simply put 1/4 of a cup of white vinegar in a Downy Ball and threw it in with my laundry. Now, our washer has a fabric softener dispenser, and I pour a glug of vinegar in there with most loads. The smell does not linger on your clothes, and you still get that softness in your laundry that you want. It also reduces static like a boss. If you want a fresh scent on your clothes, simply place a drop of your favorite essential oil on a washcloth and throw it in the dryer with your clothes for 10 minutes after they come off the line.
  7. Use the sun and wind to your advantage. If you have a stubborn stain that won’t come out, sun bleaching may be your new best friend. It works amazingly on stains on lighter clothing, and it is truly a miracle. We cloth diaper, and the infant diapers we used were terry cloth. With our HE washer, some of those stains would linger, even though the diapers were clean and sanitized. No product you can buy will get stubborn stains out as effectively as that giant yellow orb in the sky. My mom dropped a thawed frozen blueberry (say that five times fast) on her white sweater the other day and gasped as soon as it hit. I washed it in cold with other light-colored items, and simply hung the sweater on the line so the stain would be facing the sun. It was gone in less than three hours. The wind can also be your buddy, in that it speeds up drying time. Laundry flapping in a breeze is both efficient and nostalgic. Just make sure to secure items to the line on a windy day. I don’t recommend putting drying racks outside when the wind is blowing. In most cases, your racks will fall and the clean laundry will hit the ground as well.
  8. Maximize the extra time. Line drying is more time-consuming than putting something in the dryer. You have to hang things, bring them in, and maybe still put them in the dryer for a bit. For me, start to finish, it is about 10 minutes of extra work per load. I still did it even while working and commuting, but those minutes absolutely do add up. When hanging laundry now, I listen to my favorite podcasts on my phone. Before discovering podcasts, I would allow myself a few brief (and wonderful) minutes of TV while putting things on our indoor drying racks. By tying the act of hanging laundry to something I enjoy, I remove the “chore” aspect of it. At least that is what I tell myself. I’m going to have Troy build Bennett a sandbox (surprise honey!) outside by our retractable line, so he has something to do while I’m out there. I think something like this, or this.

There are so many wonderful benefits to line drying clothes and many financial reasons to do so. Seeing our electric bill take a nosedive after becoming intentional about hanging laundry tickled me to no end. Hopefully, with the above tips, you too will soon be a line drying freak advocate.


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9 comments on “Eight Tips for Line Drying Laundry”

  1. In Greece, where I live, and the majority of europe really, almost everyone line dries their clothes (so.much.sun) except the americans that live here 🙂 they absolutely MUST have a dryer. They soon convert though because electricity here is so expensive. I do own a dryer but I use it during some few winter months because it saves me from ironing. Cotton summer clothes I found out need ironing even after a dry cycle so I just continue to line dry them anyway.
    I don’t put in the dryer all the clothes that I absolutely love and want for many years, like favorite blouses and jeans. Also bedsheets because they come out so wrinkled.
    Ironing here is just another home task you must take care, like dish washing.
    Thanks for the 10min in the dryer tip! I will try it out!

    • Just saw there were some strong earthquakes in your neck of the woods. I hope all is well and everyone is safe!

      And yes, we Americans love our dryers. Electricity at least in area is very cheap, and I think people forget that it still has to come from somewhere. Trying my best to convert people to line dry, one load at a time. 🙂

  2. Your tip about multiple baskets is a good one. I had my 3rd baby 3 months ago and was finding the washing a bit overwhelming. Having two baskets has made things a lot easier x

  3. I was just looking at retractable clotheslines a few days ago for when we move to an apartment. I hate using the dryer.

    Thanks for the tip on the vinegar! The hubby hates the smell of it, but he also hates static on his clothes.

  4. I have wanted to do this for years, my concern…. ironing…. I detest it!!! How do you deal with the wrinkles?

    • Throw the clothes in the dryer for 10 minutes with a soaking wet towel. I hate ironing and never do it, unless I am sewing! The wet towel takes care of all those darn wrinkles.

  5. For fruit or berry stained clothing, hold stained area over a pot or bowl and pour boiling water over the stain until gone. Blot if necessary to be sure all the stain is gone.

  6. I love to line dry my clothes and as it is typically windy here in the afternoons I rarely have cardboard clothing. I do run my dryer once on wash day. As I go through my loads I take all the “littles” (socks, underwear, tanks that might need a bit of tightening up) and throw them in the dryer. After the last load is through the washer I turn on the dryer for a short spin.