Have you considered learning to line dry your clothes instead of using an electric or gas dryer? We no longer own a dryer and have had to learn all the various ways there are for drying clothes without a machine! We’ve collected the best of our lessons learned and narrowed them down to these 5 line drying tips. We hope they help you with line drying this year – you can do it!
How Do You Dry Clothesline Clothes?
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 wire strung up outdoors away from the ground with full or partial sun.
- A line of stainless steel or acrylic line 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 Tips
This article cover five different suggestions for learning to line dry your clothes successfully.
- Changing Your Mindset
- How to Set Up For Line Drying
- Improvised Clothes Line Options
- Keep the Clothes Smelling Nice
- Keep Line Dried Clothes Soft
Do People Still Line Dry Clothes?
Yes, they do! And their numbers are increasing because it’s such an economical thing to do.
Even if you have access to an electric or gas 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.
You may also decide that you prefer to line dry because it’s easier on your clothing. Electric and gas dryers run at high temperatures that can wear at clothing over time.
Besides, as you may have noticed, appliance dryers are quite expensive!
Is Line Drying Hard?
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; I’ve gotten used to them.
Even Children Will Help!
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.
Cut Back on Clothes
One key to line drying success is to cut back on how much laundry you produce each week, if you find yourself washing the same thing over and over. Which is a double blessing for me because I have less laundry to get through.
In our house, 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?
How to Set Up for Line Drying
When you’re first experimenting with line drying, I suggest you don’t buy anything too expensive or elaborate. After all, if you’ve never tried it before, you can’t know whether or not you’ll enjoy it and continue to do it.
So, start small. 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.
When You’re Ready to Buy a Line Drying System
Over the years we’ve used pretty much everything to line dry. We finally made an in-ground line drying set up. Then, we also purchased a pulley line drying system.
Which is best? I like both for different reasons.
We have two in-ground line drying systems.
- The first consists of two poles, spaced 4o’ apart with three lines stretched between them. As of 2022 (the year I’m updating this post), these systems have gotten outrageously expensive to purchase ready made. It may turn out to be cheaper for you to purchase poles from a local supplier and pay a local welder to weld them together to make the poles. Be sure to instruct the welder to attach hoops for the line to run through – take a picture to show the welder, if they’re unfamiliar with a line drying set up. Either way, you will need to sink the poles several feet into the ground to provide stability and strength.
- The other in-ground system is much simpler and is hexagonal in shape. Often referred to as outdoor umbrella dryers, these have a long bottom pole that inserts into the ground. We put a 2″ PVC pipe into the ground first and inserted the dryer pole into that for more stability. The umbrella dryer isn’t as spacious as the three wire pole set up, but it’s much quicker to set up and use.
Pulley System for Line Drying
Pulley line drying systems allow you to load one side of the line with wet clothing and then use the pully to hoist the wet laundry high into the air to dry quickly. Our pulley system was purchased from Skyline and is both sturdy and simple to use.
We currently live in a very humid climate, which makes line drying a challenge in the summer when the air is at its wettest. We learned from our local Amish friends that if you can get the wet clothing farther off the ground, your clothes will dry better. This is because the humidity is worse the closer to the ground you get.
You’re also more likely to catch the breeze if the laundry is higher. We use all three line drying systems during the year, but the pulley system is definitely a favorite during the summer.
We sometimes still run out of space even with three systems, especially when we’re washing all the bedding. 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.
How Do You Line Dry in the Snow or Rain?
You don’t want to put your laundry out to dry when it’s raining or snowing. If you’re like me and don’t own a dryer anymore, that means you’ll need to wait to do laundry until there’s no longer precipitation.
Plan for Rain
Where I live, this can mean waiting more than a week in the spring and winter! I continually check the weather and adjust my washing days accordingly.
It’s not too difficult to learn to do. Don’t worry, you’ll establish a rhythm between the dirty clothes and the coming weather.
I have had to pull loads in with storms that moved quicker than the forecast. And I’ve had several times the rain beat me to it and my clothes got washed again, this time in rain water.
If you have a local laundromat, you can patronize it and boost your local economy if you get desperate.
Hang Clothes in the Freezing Temperatures
You can, however, line dry in winter! Because of the chemistry of water evaporation, the laundry can do most of its drying out on the line on freeze days in winter.
You will need to bring them into the house and set them near a heater vent or fireplace to dry the rest of the way. The last bit of damp in the clothing will release into the air.
This can actually be of benefit since the air inside a house in winter is on the dry side due to the heat of furnaces and/or fireplaces.
Does 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 spritz it with a homemade linen spray.
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.