The first time I ever hung my laundry to dry was such a disaster that I wondered what others knew about how to line dry clothes that I didn’t. That was back in the days before the internet had caught on (yes, I’m old), so it took a lot of trial and error, and more than one tearful phone call to my mother. Having spent her childhood line-drying clothes, her first question was “Why on earth would you want to do that when you have a dryer?”
Well, there are a lot of reasons to line dry clothing. It’s cheaper than running a dryer, for one thing, especially if you think about how hard your AC has to work to cool the house down after you’ve been doing laundry on hot summer days. It’s easier on your clothes, too, so you can say goodbye to shrunken t-shirts, snagged blouses, or sheets tumbled into a wrinkly wad. And then there’s that glorious sun-dried fragrance that smells so much amazing — there’s nothing quite like it!
Plus, when you know how to line dry clothes properly, you can put your iron away because clothes come off the line wrinkle-free!
How To Line Dry Clothes
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Get the right equipment
Decide how you want to hang your laundry. Will you run a line indoors, or do you have room for one in the yard? Some homeowner’s associations don’t permit permanent laundry lines (mine doesn’t), so check your HOA rules first. I got around the restriction by drilling a hole into a corner of the railing on my deck. Come laundry day, I haul out my umbrella-style laundry line and put it in the hole. As soon as I’m done, I fold the thing up and put it away, so my neighbors have nothing to complain about.
Buy good-quality clothes pins. Plastic clothespins are pretty but can break if they’re dropped, say, off a deck. (That happens more than I care to admit.) I’ve found the wooden ones clamp more tightly, too, which is important when you’re drying heavy things like wet jeans or towels. You can buy a specially-designed clothespin bag that hangs on your laundry line and keeps them within reach. Personally, I usually wear a kitchen apron when hanging clothes to dry so my outfit doesn’t get damp, so I just fill the apron pockets with clothespins.
Hang laundry properly by type
Shirts: I now cringe when I see someone hang shirts on the line by their shoulders. I know, from experience, they’re going to be wearing wrinkled shirts with funny bumps on the shoulder from the clothespins. Don’t be one of those people! Hang your shirts by the hem, letting the sleeves dangle. If there’s a breeze, it will catch your shirts and blow out any wrinkles as they dry.
Pants and shorts: I used to hang pants and shorts by the waistband with the pockets turned out. That led to pockets which never tucked in smoothly. Now I know to pair up the legs of dress slacks and chinos then hang them from the cuffs, so they dry with a nice crease down the leg and spare me from ironing. (I hate to iron.) For jeans or shorts, it’s fine to hang them from the waistband.
Skirts: Hang from the hem, but note that full skirts need a chance to blow around in the breeze, so they don’t wrinkle.
Socks: Hang individually by the toes.
Leggings or tights: Hang from the waistband.
Wash cloths and towels: Hang from the short edge. If you use parallel laundry lines be sure to hang towels so the sun and breeze can still reach other clothes.
Sheets Fold in half and hang it by the corners, pinning them in place.
Underwear, and other unmentionables: I run ours through the dryer, figuring that our neighbor just doesn’t need to know that I have huge pink granny panties with a black poodle on the rear end. Come to think of it, you probably didn’t need to know that, either. If you’re brave enough, hang yours from the waistband on the line.
Watch the weather. The best days to line dry are sunny with a slight breeze that will blow out any wrinkles. On hot summer days, it can take as little as 20 minutes to dry an entire load! But just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t line-dry — your clothes will still dry, they’ll just take longer.
Flick your clothes before hanging, and smooth them as you hang. This will get rid of stray threads and lint. Smoothing means you won’t have to iron, either.
Don’t let clothes bunch. Be sure your laundry line doesn’t droop or sag in the middle or your clothes will bunch together. You can avoid this by hanging heavier items on the ends of the line, lighter ones in the middle.
Give it space. Clothes dry more quickly when there’s plenty of room for air to circulate. If you’re using an umbrella-style line, try to stagger the clothes, so there’s space between as well as in front of each item.
Tumble away pollen. If someone in your family suffers from allergies, be sure to give their clothes a 5-minute tumble in the dryer to remove pollen.
Remember: the laundry isn’t “done” until it’s all been put away!
Do you enjoy “old time” household hints? Get a copy of my book, 1,001 Housewife How-To’s, and impress your family with the clever things you know.
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