What is line drying? Should you line dry your clothes even if you have an electric dryer? Have you heard that line drying your clothes makes them feel weird? These questions and more are answered in this article that include 5 Line Drying Tips.
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What is Line Drying?
Line drying is the phrase used to mean methods to dry your wet laundry that go beyond an electric dryer. For example, line drying can mean hanging wet clothes on:
- a line of stainless steel strung up outdoors away from the ground with full or partial sun
- a line of stainless steel or acrylic strung up indoors in a place with good light and air circulation
- a laundry rack specifically designed for wet laundry; these are usually made of wood or metal
- a wall-mount laundry rack also designed for wet laundry – these are sometimes mounted over doorways
- a vine or trellis from which wet clothes may be safely hung, secured with clothespins
- even furniture may serve as a temporary line drying set up!
Five Line Drying Lies
Lie #1 Line Drying is Only for Off-Griders
Even if you have access to an electric dryer, you may decide you’d like to stop using it so much because of how much energy it consumes to run. Appliances with heavy electric loads can be expensive, especially when you use them a lot. With so many people in my house, I could definitely use my electric dryer every day!
Instead, I learned to line dry my wet laundry and cut out the expense of my electric dryer. The sun shines so many days of the year for free!
Lie #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 Relaxing
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.
Lie #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.
Lie #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.
Improvise at First
For example, when I first started line drying we hung up only one line on our deck. We couldn’t really afford more than that at the time and I wanted to be sure it was something we’d actually use.
You can see our first set up below – it was under our deck but still got enough sun and wind to dry the clothes. I ended up using it all the time.
The only issue with hanging wet clothes on the deck is that the deck is dirty. When stuff falls or brushes the wood, it gets dirty all over again, which is annoying.
Over the years we’ve used pretty much everything to line dry and not I’ve graduated to a pully line drying system that I’ll explain in another post a bit later. However, I have written about using a laundry rack.
—>>> Click here to read about using a laundry rack- especially handy for apartments and small spaces <<<—
However, you don’t NEED anything more elaborate than some stainless steel wire and two trees or other sturdy supports to get started. Below are some ideas for improvising, when you need more line drying space in a pinch.
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. 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!
- Bushes – any sturdy perennial plant in the yard with spreading branches will work to dry laundry. You just need air circulation and sunshine. Use clothespins when necessary to secure clothes in place.
Lie #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 You Don’t Like the Smell
Do you have herbs or other aromatic plants? If so, dry your laundry on or near them. My daughter likes to lay small pieces of laundry on the mint bed to infuse some mint oil in the morning sun onto the clothes. Genius.
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.
How to Keep Line-Dried Clothes Soft?
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.
However, if that doesn’t appeal to you, there are some quick fixes for stiff lined dried laundry:
- Snap each piece of clothing when you put it up on the line and take it down. This is done by holding the piece in both hands and flicking it firmly a few times. That action breaks the “dried-bond” that keeps the laundry so stiff. It won’t make the laundry soft, per se, but it will make it more bendable. Fold when you’re done.
- By the same logic, hang laundry you’d like to be softer on a windy day. The wind snaps the clothing the entire time it’s up drying.
- Use less soap! Most laundry soaps are concentrated these days and you only need a small amount. Follow the instructions on the packaging and don’t over-do it. Residual soap will make your clothes stiffer
- Use vinegar as a fabric softener when washing. You can also try adding 1/2 cup of baking soda or washing soda to your wash load to help remove excess detergent.
- If you’re still bothered by the texture after taking these steps, toss your line dried laundry into your electric drying for just a few minutes so the heat can soften the fibers. Better to use the machine only a few minutes than for over an hour!
A Few More Line Drying Notes
If you’d like to learn more about line drying, including how to use a drying rack, how to dry clothes in winter, etc., the following resources should be helpful.
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?
*Cover graphic gratefully attributed to this Wikimedia Commons user.