Shirts pinned to a laundry line outdoors to show how to line-dry clothingPin

Ditch the Dryer: How to Line Dry Clothes Effectively

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What if there were a way to dramatically lower your energy bill, extend the life of your clothes, and spare you from using irritating products to brighten or freshen your laundry?

That’s exactly what happens when you make the switch to line drying your clothes. I did, and I’ve been hung up on it, so to speak, ever since.

The Benefits of Line Drying

Besides the obvious eco-friendly benefits, line drying helps preserve the color and shape of your outfits. If you’ve ever tried unshrinking clothes that the dryer did wrong, you know what a blessing that can be. And let’s not forget the unbeatable fresh smell it leaves!

Choosing Indoors or Out

Although it’s possible to line dry clothing year-round, some people prefer indoor drying in the winter. If a family member has allergies, or you live in a city, and indoor rack can protect your laundry from pollen and smog.

For those interested in hanging laundry outside, it’s important to know what your homeowner’s association or council allow. Mine does not allow a permanent line, so I use an umbrella rack that I put away after each use.

Did You Know?

Did you know the first clothes dryer was invented in the 20th century by J. Ross Moore, because he was tired of hanging his clothes on the line in the winter.

Equipment You’ll Need

Using the right equipment to line dry your clothing can make the process of hanging out laundry less of a chore. Here’s what I’ve found indispensable.

A sturdy line or rack: For outdoor drying, opt for vinyl-coated cording so it does not snag fabrics and can withstand the elements. Collapsible indoor drying racks should be hefty enough to hold your wet clothes.

Clothespins: Look for clothespins with a secure grip, especially for heavier items like wet jeans or towels. Wooden clothespins are inexpensive, but stainless steel ones last longer.

Clothespin storage: A hanging clothespin bag or an apron with pockets keeps your pins within reach.

Laundry basket dolly: If needed, use a rolling platform or dolly to easily move your heavy laundry basket around.

Where to Put an Outdoor Line

When choosing a spot to set up your outdoor clothesline, here are some things to consider:

Sunlight: The sun’s rays help eliminate odors and disinfect laundry. Sunlight can whiten whites, but it can also fade colors if they’re left out too long.

Air circulation: Good air flow is crucial for quick drying, which prevents mildew. A nice breeze can also keep clothes from wrinkling.

Proximity to trees: Avoid hanging laundry directly under trees to prevent bird droppings or sap from getting on your clothes.

Ease of access: Wet laundry is heavy. Choose a spot that’s not a struggle to get to.

The right height: Position the line high enough to keep clothes off the ground, even when it’s fully loaded. But make sure it’s low enough to reach.

Line-Drying Without Wrinkles

Properly hanging clothes can prevent wrinkles and ensure even drying. Here’s how to hang each kind of item from the line:

Shirts and blouses: Hang by the hem to prevent shoulder bumps, buttoning a few buttons to maintain shape. Or dry them on hangers hung from the line.

Pants and jeans: Heavier jeans benefit from being pinned to the line by the waistband for even stretching. Other pants do best with their inseams matched up then hung by the hem so they dry with crisp vertical creases, as if you’d pressed them.

Dresses: Place on hangers or lay them flat on a drying rack if the fabric is prone to stretching.

Socks: Hang socks from the toes.

Undergarments: Drape the center of bras over the line and pin in place. Hang underwear from the waistband.

Sheets and towels: Drape over the line and pin in place for even drying.

Pro Tip

Shake each item vigorously before hanging and again when it comes off the line. The first shake reduces wrinkles and the second gets rid of wayward debris and curious pests.

How Long Does It Take to Line Dry Clothes?

As far as how long it takes clothes to dry on the line, there are a few factors that come into play, like fabric type, thickness, and weather conditions. Heavy or bulky items take longer to dry outside, just as they would in the dryer. Also, the more humid the air, the slower the drying time.

Drying Times at a Glance

  • Sunny and breezy days: Clothes typically dry in 2-4 hours.
  • Heavier items: May take 6 or more hours.
  • Indoor drying: Usually takes most of a day, or overnight in humid conditions.
  • Humidity factor: The more humid, the slower the drying time.
  • Speed tip: Using a fan circulates air and helps speed up drying.

Line Drying and Allergies

Line drying can be a concern for family members with allergies, especially those allergic to pollen or mold. Here are some tips to consider:

Check pollen counts: When the pollen count is high, avoid line drying clothes and sheets outside. Pollen can easily stick to fabrics and cause allergic reactions when worn or used.

Dry during low pollen times: Line dry clothes and sheets when pollen counts are lower, typically early morning or late evening.

Choose the right location: Set up your laundry line in an area that’s less exposed to pollen, like a covered porch or a shady area away from trees and plants.

A short tumble: Consider briefly tumble-drying to dislodge pollen after they’ve been line-dried.

Skip sheets: It’s best not to line-dry someone’s sheets outdoors if they’re allergic to grass, flower, or tree pollen. If you don’t want to use the dryer, spread their sheets on an indoor rack in a suitable spot.

Drying Clothing Indoors on a Rack

Choose an open spot: When drying indoors, position your rack in a well-ventilated area to speed up drying time.

Keep air circulating: Line drying indoors adds humidity to your home. Use a fan to keep air moving and prevent mold on your walls and clothing.

Drape or hang: You can simply drape most items over a rod on the rack. Or, if you prefer, put them on a hanger first.

Dry these flat: Some items should never go in the dryer or be hung up while wet, like sweaters and knitwear. Spread them flat over the rack so they can dry without stretching.

Tips for Better Line-Drying

If you’ve had a bad experience line-drying clothes, here are some tips that can help:

Wipe your line or rack before each use to keep your clothes free of grime.

Start early in the day so you have plenty of drying time. This is especially important on humid days when drying can take twice as long.

Shake each item firmly before hanging it. This helps prevent wrinkles and speeds up drying.

Smooth items with your hands after hanging to help further reduce wrinkles.

I find there’s something Zen about hanging the wash on the line. Plus, I adore the way my sheets and clothes smell when they’ve spent the day in the sun.

But the real clincher came when I saw my electric bill drop by almost a third! Now that you know how to line dry clothes, you can enjoy those benefits, too.

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  1. Samantha H says:

    I live in an apartment without indoor laundry. My cat chews on the laundry mountain and my dog uses it as a bed.
    I have started my ‘Laundry Hell’ today (otherwise known as tackling said mountain.
    I have never been to this site. I’m looking forward to the tips.
    I appreciate your humor and sense of community.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Thank you, Samantha! I hope you’ve made it through “Laundry Hell” and that the dog and cat have found other things to do.

  2. Check state laws about clotheslines and Hoa. In Colorado the HOA cannot ban clotheslines or other products to improve the energy efficiency of a house. I found this out bc I’m on our hoa board. Even though our hoa rules from say 1966 saw no, state law in 1992 says yes. And state law beats hoa rule.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      That’s an excellent point!

  3. Kimberlee says:

    Hi everyone!! I have a question. What do you guys do for lint? I wash them in the washer and hang them but after they are dry i find lint in them. Is there a way to get it out in the washer or when they are drying?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      A really strong flick (so strong that the clothing kind of “snaps”) when you’re hanging and after removing it from the line will help enormously, Kimberlee. 🙂

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