Think line drying is only for off-grid hippies or your grandma? Think again! Here are five line drying lies and the true tips behind them. This is line drying for busy people with real lives and families.
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Ma Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie is one of my heroes.
When she follows her husband out onto the road, leaving her family but taking her children, Caroline Ingalls steps into the realm of superhero for me. She takes on the unknown with faith and wisdom.
She cooks meals where they stop to rest and takes care of her young children without the comforts of home. She builds a cabin with her husband because that’s what needs to be done next.
My great grandmother, Grace Rose Meacham, built a house ala Caroline Ingalls.
Her husband was ill and they needed a house so…she built one with Great Uncle Herman. That’s the kind of lady she was. I LOVE my heritage and draw strength from them every day but I’m just not at that level yet. I’m not ready to hand-make everything and haul water instead of using plumbing.
Which brings us to line drying lie number one…
Five Line Drying Lies
#1 Line Drying is Only for Off-Griders
Turns out a lot of people line dry their clothes instead of using a drying for all their laundry. The reasons they do are as diverse as the people who do it.
I’m not cabin-building or birthing on the plains, but I line dry my clothes because I learned to stop using my dryer. Can you learn to stop doing something?
Sure! I’ve stopped eating white sugar, dead table salt and improperly prepared grains. I’ve learned to stop buying items without looking at how far they’ve had to travel to get to me. I’ve learned to stop thinking of electricity as something infinite. I even learned to wash my laundry by hand when my washing machine broke!
Of course, first I had to figure out why that stuff was worth stopping but once I did, I rocked it!
So, why would I stop using my dryer? I live in Utah where it’s sunny and dry. And dry some more. It just makes sense to let the air do my drying for me since clothes dryers are such enormous energy, and therefore money, suckers. Even people who live in humid areas or colder regions can still use the power of the free-of-charge nuclear reactor in the sky – aka, the sun.
#2 Line Drying is Drudgery
Here’s the meaning of drudgery:
drudg·er·yˈdrəj(ə)rē/nounhard, menial, or dull work.
You know what I think is hard, menial and dull? Trying to keep track of the load of laundry in the dryer so that it doesn’t burn or wrinkle or mildew.
I have more important things to do than babysit one load of laundry that refuses to dry and ends up scorched because I have to turn up the heat to get it to finish. When it is finally dry, I’ve gotten distracted by other, more important work, and the load wrinkles beyond recognition. Which forces me to either iron (as if), or to dampen the load and repeat the vicious circle of the dry cycle.
Forget it. Life is too short.
Line drying is calming and peaceful somehow. Just ask anyone who does it. The breeze blows, the birds sing, you breathe deeply. I honestly don’t know what it is, but I relish the chance to hang a load of laundry on the line.
Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t all roses. Sometimes it rains on your freshly hung load before you can get it back inside. During the spring, the pollen drops from the trees, or the bugs visit your underwear while it hangs. All minor inconveniences for me if it means I don’t have to mess with my $**&!! dryer.
#3 The Kids Won’t Do It
Of course they will, if you expect them to. Kids rise to your expectations. Any kid who’s been taught to work can learn to line dry clothing.
My kids actually enjoy it, especially compared to scraping the cat box or mopping the floor. My seven and five-year-old seem to enjoy it the most, which is ironic since they have the hardest time reaching the line. They don’t seen to mind; indeed, they love helping mamma with the laundry all of a sudden.
#4 You Need an Elaborate Set Up for Line Drying
Nope, you can make just about anything work for your line drying efforts. At least long enough to see if you like line drying and will actually do it on a long term basis. Once you’ve been line drying awhile, you’ll come up with all kinds of ideas about what makes the best line system. Ah, more projects!
My husband put up only one line on our deck last year at my request. I had him do just one to make sure I’d actually use it. Also, because we couldn’t afford for him to build another, bigger one then.
However, even with cutting back on how many pieces of clothing we each use, I still do laundry for seven people, one of whom is a cloth diapered baby. I need all the line drying space I can get! So, we’ve improvised.
Improvised Line Drying Ideas
- Vines and Other Botanicals – I’m blessed with Boston Ivy vines all over my deck and they’re sturdy enough for the baby’s little clothes, dish rags and diaper inserts. (You can see my daughter putting clothes on the vines in the picture above.) We have an older grape vine that we hang stuff directly onto as well, when we’re really overflowing with wet clothes. The jeans and grown up stuff all go on the heavy line on the deck. We also use nearby small tree branches and bushes for draping towels over. I just shake off any debris that might want to tag along when it’s time to fold.
- Standing Trellis – We’ve started hanging the laundry amidst the burgeoning grape harvest on the sturdy trellis that my husband built. I’ve had to caution the kiddos about being careful not to dislodge leaf nodes or knock off grape buds but so far, they’ve been really careful. Even a zip line would work, as long as it stays clean!
#5 Line Drying Makes Clothes Smell and Feel Weird
Well, if by “smell weird” you mean “not like a dryer sheet”, that’s actually true. Instead, line dried clothing will smell like the summer wind and the autumn breeze. They’ll smell clean and magical and delicious. Here’s what Laura Ingalls wrote,
“Oh no, I never do much ironing, except the outside clothes. We must not iron out the fresh air and sunshine, you know… there is something very refreshing about sheets and pillow slips just fresh from the line, after being washed and dried in the sun and air. Just try them that way and see if your sleep is not sweeter. ”
If that doesn’t appeal to you, you can bring in your line dried load and toss it into the dryer for a few minutes with a dryer sheet or scented dryer ball. This will have the added benefit of softening out some of the stiffness that naturally occurs with line drying.
I’m one of the true weirdos out there that actually likes her line-dried towels stiff. The best part about all that stiffness is that it acts like natural starch for button down shirts and dress clothes. I hate ironing – it is true drudgery for me.
Line drying my clothes ensures that the air will “iron” them for me – no wrinkles, no fuss, no muss.
My daughter thought of laying single pieces on the mint bed to infuse some mint oil in the morning sun onto the clothes. Genius.
A Few More Line Drying Notes
Indoors and In Winter
FYI, yes you can continue to line dry in cold winters – read about that here. I’m a wuss and prefer to bring our line drying efforts indoors in the winter. We use drying racks, which you can read about here.
Our air is dry in the winter, too, so having those wet clothes around was actually really nice for adding some moisture to our lungs and nostrils. Don’t get me started on Utah and bloody buggers.
For other ideas on improvising place to hang clothes indoors, click here
Cut Back on Clothes
One key to line drying success is to cut back on how much laundry we produce each week. Which is a double blessing for me because I have less laundry to get through. That means limiting each child to five pants, seven shirts, a few church clothes and underwear (et al). I had to do the same thing with myself and my husband.
Simplifying has been such a blessing and has made us happy in ways I’m not sure I can verbalize. We shared what we learned in the article KonMari for Homestead Families.
Be Willing to Change Your Mind
Somehow, going back to the basics, ends up saving us time. Sometimes, I learn about an old way/green option and think that its going to take up more of my time. However, like homestead magic, it ends up making my life easier and my family happier and healthier.
Have you found that to be true, too?
Don’t forget to get your free sample from The Do It Yourself Homestead by emailing me! I’m hopeful you’ll fin the book useful, but don’t just take my word for it. Here’s a description of the book from noted DIY author and blogger Daisy Luther:
*Cover graphic gratefully attributed to this Wikimedia Commons user.