5 Line Drying Lies

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. Five Line Drying Lies l Practical line drying tips and realities for busy families l Homestead Lady

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DIY Inspiration

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.

I aspire to be like her in so many ways. I’m not yet ready for the adventures that she embraced, but Caroline hums next to me in my mind as I learn more each day.Little House and Line Drying - my paternal great grandmother and a woman not afraid of a little work. www.homesteadlady.com

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:

hard, 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.

Little House and Line Drying - somehow these simple ways, these old fashioned methods, end up saving me time. Time well spent with the people who matter most. www.homesteadlady.com

#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.

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.Little-House-and-Line-Drying-my-climate-is-dry-enough-that-I-have-one-line-in-the-shade-so-that-my-darks-have-a-place-to-hide-from-the-sun.-www.homesteadlady.com

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

  1. 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. Little-House-and-Line-Drying-line-is-a-relative-term-almost-anything-will-work-for-drying-your-clothes-including-an-obliging-grape-vine.-www.homesteadlady.com
  2. 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?

Free Sample

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:

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33 thoughts on “5 Line Drying Lies

  1. I also only hang my laundry. I live in north central Florida and we have a lot of rain and humidity. I have to start early in the day, mostly because I have an HE washer which takes over an hour a load. So sheets and towels and dog bedding need to be finished by noon. They can be dry or nearly dry before the afternoon showers begin. Anything else can be hung inside on the HUGE rack I got for Christmas one year from Lehman’s – about 6 feet tall and very sturdy. Mindless is not the right word but I love the repetitiveness; bend, snap, pin. I can do some of my best praying, daydreaming, relaxing (go figure) while I’m hanging laundry. My husband is keen to buy a dryer. Not me.

    1. Thank you for the tip – we’re moving to MO and it will be humid there, too. That’s funny about your DH; I’m the one saying lets not bother to move the dryer and he’s thinking we should. I only really use it for his white, dress shirts that refuse to hang out the wrinkles – I despise ironing!!

  2. OOOh it may be just a tad different than North Carolina when you get to Missouri! I lived there 18 years, through blizzards, blazing heat, flooding, you name it. But it’s a good place to live too, lots of good folks, especially out in the rural areas. 🙂

    On line drying, you’ll find the Plains generally is known for the breezes. Hop over to Kansas and it’s constant. Put up a line in the winter, use it like you would through the warmer months, and you’ll have dry clothing. I did washboard and line dry for 3 years when money was tighter than we thought we could handle…didn’t have a washer/dryer, and laundrymats were too expensive for the whole family’s clothing/bedding needs. So a trip to the flea market netted a washboard. I learned to use it at the demise of fingernails and half my skin for a while, but the washing and then line drying worked well to save on funds. I line dried in the dead of winter, snow on the ground, below zero temps. Nearly had concussions from freeze dried jeans and dresses flapping in the wind (think Plains here). The clothing dries on the line in winter, even below freezing–it’s all dependent on the moisture in the air. It may take a whole day or even part of a second day, but they will dry. If you do dry outside in winter, I highly suggest a pair of close fitting gloves, like Isotoner type that have padding and wicks away moisture. Learned from experience. 🙂

    To make clothing smell nice, you can steep lavendar or mint leaves in water, like you’d make tea, and then let it cool and pour the water (strained) into a spray bottle and lightly mist clothing. It also works with essential oils if you have them (but if you’re growing your own why not use that!!) I keep 5 different mints going, and it is so nice to have a bit of mint scent by the ironing board when it’s that time. You can also dip a wash cloth or towel in that scented water and throw it in the dryer (you’ll be thankful for the dryer in the Missouri winters) for extra scent.

    What part of Missouri are you moving to? If you’re going to the northern part by Iowa, you’ll get more Iowa type weather, with the blizzards and ice and yuck. Middle is lots of snow and cold, but not as bad as farther north. Southern third is lots of ice, and last year quite a bit of snow, and the cold, generally lowest is right at 0. Southern third is more like Arkansas in weather.

    Nice to “meet” you! Coming over from Strangers and Pilgrims link up. 🙂

    1. BTW, do you mind if I add your suggestions to the post for my readers – those were great! Or, do you have a post of your own I can link to with all those goodies in it?

  3. Oh….for what it’s worth on tornadoes–during 18 years I lived in Missouri, I saw maybe 3 tornadoes, and that was scattered through the years. Down south there’s Joplin…and living close to there we did see the destruction and rebuilding. Come over to Kansas where Tornado is our middle name 🙂 You’ll also find the systems out here for detecting is quite advanced, we know sometimes days out there’s a very good probability and can plan accordingly. Get a good weather radio, know where your storm shelter is, have a back up plan in case you are caught off guard, and learn how to watch the clouds/sky colors and formations. Green=bad. Anvil shaped clouds=bad. White puffy cheerful clouds and bright blue sky=good. Also a big drop in temps, from say 90 to 70 in a day or less for high can easily equal storms or more. Our main times are March through June, with May usually the hardest hit month. For us who have lived in MO/IA/KS/AR/OK for most or all our lives, it’s second nature. You’ll do fine. 🙂

    1. Thank you for the vote of confidence! I think we’ll be around Springfield, so southern part of the state, western side. We’ll see…

  4. Visiting from mamas moment Mondays 🙂 I love this post. It makes me feel so peaceful. I line dried for a few months before we moved when our dryer went out and I loved it. I don’t currently have a line here but would love one soon.

    1. Peaceful – that’s the perfect word, Pamela! Except when I’m running like a madwoman to get the half-dried load in as a summer shower lets loose. But, aside from that, very peaceful!

  5. Very interesting reading some of the comments. I think it is fairly common in Australia to line dry, and nearly everyone has a clothesline, while not everyone would own a dryer. When I was a kid, our clothesline was in the shade so we hung a lot of our clothes on the wire fence around our duck/nursery yard.

    1. Yeah, dryers are a funny American thing. When I lived in Russia, I hand washed my laundry and threw it up all over my apartment! A drying rack feels like such an indulgence!

    2. Lizzy, this is exactly what I was going to say. I’m in Australia too and have never owned a dryer. Sometimes I think one would be useful when we get an occasional wet week but end up just hanging everything under the back porch.

  6. Line drying is very peaceful and good bend-&-hang exercise. My MIL, from Minnesota, lived in a NYC apartment until her youngest was in HS. I think the line went up in her new backyard before the moving van unloaded her new washer and dryer. At 96, she still loves sleeping on line-dried linens. Her line uses a pulley outside the kitchen door, and runs to a pulley on the tool shed in the back of the yard. That pulley system is great when there’s snow in the yard and ice on the back steps. Though i rarely have that problem in the NW corner of the lower 48, i love my pulley system, too. In the winter, when we might not see real sun, wind, or rain for weeks at a time, i hang the clothes from the overhead door rails in the garage. With the ceiling fan at the other end of the garage, i can generally get 2 loads washed and dried in a day. Good luck on your move — new weather, new friends, lots of exploring to do!

    1. I’d love one of those reel systems – just because they’re so cool!!! Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. This post has been a wonderful story-gatherer.

  7. What a nice post! I have line dried our clothes for years and when the weather is too bad to hand out I dig out the clothes rack and dry them on the sun porch. I love to crawl into bed on the first night after the sheets have hung outdoors. I am put to sleep by the fresh smell and I love it!

    1. The sheets are the best, Tracy – I love how crispy they are! Most of my husband’s work shirts dry so well they look like they’ve been starched and ironed. I don’t iron unless I can possibly help it!

  8. Hi
    I am new to your blog , but love it already from all that I have read.. I have added you to my sidebar under homesteaders..
    I am also a stay at home mom who does everything at home especially cooking from scratch as most Indians do .. But we cannot grow our food as I stay in a Metro.city But I love healthy and whole meals to my family and blogs like yours are very encouraging

    1. Ooh, Mahek – if you’d ever like to do a guest post on Indian foods for a family, I’d love it! Especially breakfast foods…and lentils…and curry and I love Indian food! Thank you for following along; your blog is lovely and I hope you’ll share your insights with us when you read something on which you’d like to comment. Cheers!

  9. I loved this post because I too, have found that line drying is the most peaceful part of my day. I just moved to southwest Missouri from Southern California so it was quite a change! Going from BIG CITY to 36 acres was pretty awesome. But we absolutely love it here! I live about an hour south west of Springfield in Washburn :-)I would love to hear about it when you move here

    1. Hey, we’ll practically be neighbors, Val! Can’t wait! I’m a CA native so I can sympathize with the change; I’m grateful to have had six years in the south with the humidity and the trees and the bugs to prepare me for this new adventure.

  10. I love the Little House series. Anne of Green Gables too . I think I will read Laura Ingalls again, it’s been at least 5 years, lol. I also love my clothesline. I miss it in the winter here. I have taken stiff, frozen clothes off the line. I really enjoyed reading your post:}

  11. Great article…. I too love drying my clothes on the line. Currently, I do not have a line, but have an old fashion spinner that was handed down from my great grandmother. I set that up on my back deck which is full sun and those clothes dry beautifully. Like you, in the winter I have my clothes hanging all around the house since we have a woodstove, the clothes dry fairly quickly.
    I also read somewhere that leaving whites out (including cloth diapers) in the moonlight helps to make your clothes extra white. Not sure if this is true, but I will try that someday.
    My next home has a clothesline, and I have to say that it’s one of the things that excite me the most about the house!
    thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you for sharing that and I’m glad you’re new home has a clothesline. That’s a new one on me about the moonlight! Good luck with your move!

  12. I bought the homesteader drying rack to save myself some money from coin opperated dryers. It paid for itself in savings. My problem is wrinkles in my clothing … .in Arizona there was no breeze but the clothes dried quickly so if I washed a load in the morning it’d be dry by mid day then I could dry another load. Then I moved back to the Midwest.. to Kansas lots of wind but high humidity it takes a day and a half to dry and you never know when it’ll rain :/

    1. I know what you mean, Amanda! We’ve moved to Missouri and it’s just so wet during the warmer months that outdoor drying is tricky. I sometimes have to bring the loads into the house and runs fans on them. Ha!

  13. Enjoyed the article and comments. I, too, LOVE the fresh smell of linens and stiff towels! They seem to dry you off better, too! We lived several years on the island of Aruba…didn’t want a dryer to add more heat in the house! Never thought I would get used to line drying again but it was just part of daily living. (And hubby got to experience it after I broke my foot!). I laughed and even took pictures of a friend visiting who had NEVER used a clothes line in her life! (and she was probably in her early 40’s-ish???!!!!!).

    1. Everything old is new again, right? I’d never even thought about it until I was an adult and the dryer broke. Ha! Necessity…

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  14. If you put dress shirts on hanger and then clip the hanger to the line, it will greatly increase the amount you can get on the line, plus if you are careful about smoothing pockets and lining up seams, the shirts will look almost strarched. In the winter(or rainy days), the hangers can be hung in doorways. Really speeds up putting away clothing!

    1. Great advice, Alice!! How do you get the hangers to stay on the line? I’ve tried a few things but they always end up falling. I wonder if some sort of quick tie would work – like with rope or parachord. It’s worth it to me to have everything dry on the hanger because, as you say, it looks like it’s been professionally starched and pressed!

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