There’s nothing quite like the fresh scent you get when you line-dry laundry, but the process can seem a little intimidating if you’ve never tried it. Read on for my best tips!
When we first moved out here a few years ago, I was so excited to start using the clothesline and the power of sunshine to line-dry laundry. Besides saving energy and making my laundry smell amazing, it also allows me one more chance to get outside and enjoy my beautiful view of the fields all around my house. It’s laundry, and it’s a cleaning job, but it’s also kind of relaxing!
The last couple of years have been so busy that I’ve had a hard time being able to get outside to get the laundry out on the line during the warmer months, so I’ve just been using the dryer, but this summer I was determined to start using the clothesline more often. At first, I’ll be honest, it felt really time-consuming compared to just tossing the laundry from the washer into the dryer, but I’ve found there are definitely things that I can do to make the whole process much more effective and efficient. Here they are!
Create a New Routine to Line-Dry Laundry
Like I said, when you first start learning how to line-dry laundry, it will probably feel a bit inefficient and time-consuming. Part of the reason for this is that you’ll probably be trying to stick to your old laundry routine, just substituting line-drying for dryer-drying like I did.
The problem with this is that you kind of always feel like you’re behind schedule and it can start to seem like this whole line-drying thing just won’t work for your family. If you can switch up your plans a little and come up with a new routine and a new time of day for washing, drying, and folding, you’ll find that it’s pretty easy to fit it in to your schedule.
I used to wash my laundry everyday when I woke up, then switch it over to the dryer as soon as it was done and I’d have it all folded and put away by late morning, most of the time. When I line-dry, I still wash my laundry right away as soon as I get up, but now I hang it out a little later on, around mid-morning, when I have the chance. I leave it out all day and then take it off the line in the late afternoon before dinner. That way, I don’t have to keep checking to see if it’s dry, because by then it definitely is, and I can get everything put away by the end of the day, just like before. All the laundry still gets done every single day just like before, it just happens at a different point in the day.
Equip Yourself to Line-Dry Laundry
Line-drying is definitely way more economical than using an electric or gas dryer, but it really helps if you set yourself up properly with a few basic tools.
It’s a good idea to have at least 2-3 sturdy laundry baskets to carry stuff back and forth in and to hold extra clothes waiting for the next step in the process whenever needed. It’s also really helpful to have as much line-drying space as possible. We have 2 clotheslines set up, and each one will accomodate about a medium size load of laundry. It’s nice to be able to do multiple loads all at once for those days when we’re getting back from camping or soccer tournaments! It’s also really nice to have lots and lots of clothespins so you don’t ever run out. The basic wooden ones are just fine, but I’ve just started using these plastic, rubber-gripped ones and I love that they seem to grip a little tighter to the line and they can’t slide off of their springs and break like the wooden ones often do.
Get a Table
I feel like in every romanticized image about line-drying laundry that I see, there’s always a laundry basket sitting in the tall-ish grass, with a little bag of clothespins sitting right next to it. Of course, that long grass just adds to the peaceful country setting and never creates an environment where bugs are hopping into the basket right onto the clean laundry. And whoever’s hanging the laundry out is always laughing. And there’s a kid somewhere running in between all the perfectly-hung sheets.
Well, we might copy the long grass part of that scene sometimes, but let-me-tell-you, you will not be laughing and smiling if you have to bend over and pick up each teeny tiny toddler t-shirt and two clothespins every 7 seconds. Having some kind of table near by, preferably right near the middle of your clothesline will really help speed things up and make the whole experience a lot more enjoyable. Just pull up an old picnic table and that’s all you’ll need. It really does make a difference to have somewhere to put all your stuff. We love picnic tables around here and we seem to use them for everything but picnicking. 🙂 Chris has moved the full-sized one out near the garage as an extra outdoor workbench and I use the little toddler-sized one for my laundry. It does the trick!
Fold Right Off the Line
That picnic table we just talked about? It’s the perfect place to fold your laundry just as soon as you take it off the line. Doing this really does make things a bit quicker, but it also saves you a lot of mental laundry duress (it’s a thing!) when you get to walk into the house with all these fresh, crisp clothes already folded neatly. Going all the way outside to get the laundry and then trecking all the way back inside, only to realize that you still need to fold everything is really just kind of a downer. Enjoy a few extra minutes outside and fold as you go right off the line!
You’ll want to overlap the edges of items to prevent them from slipping down the line, especially with heavier items.
OK, this seems like kind of a silly little detail, I know, but it really makes a big difference. If you have a long line, chances are that as you add wet clothes to it, it will start to get weighed down and will be significantly lower to the ground, especially in the middle. If you start out by hanging up an item on one end of the line with two clothespins, make sure that you overlap one side of the second item under the second clothespin from the first item. So basically, every clothespin has the edges of two adjacent items under it. This makes the clothespin’s grip on the line a little tighter, but it also helps to prevent items from sliding together towards the middle throughout the day. You want to keep everything spaced out nicely and not all bunched up so it can dry evenly before the day comes to an end.
Don’t Hang Things Up Like You See in Pictures
You know how the laundry looks hanging on the line in those idyllic country pictures? Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Those pictures are your guide for what not to do. The truth is that if you were to hang laundry that way, it would get all stretched out from the weight of being wet and you’d end up having to re-wash it to get it back into shape. You could even end up with an item of clothing that couldn’t be saved if it was something that got really heavy when wet. And of course the goal here is to get a little better with your laundry routine, not completely ruin all of your clothes.
Rather than letting the clothes pins pinch the tops of the shoulders of your shirts, fold the top 3-4″ of your shirt gently over the line and then clip it in place. For pants, it’s often better to fold them in half over the line and pin at the knee area. This allows the waist band to blow around in the breeze and get lots of air circulation around it. If you bunch up all of that already-bunched-up fabric, it can take forever to dry!
You’ll learn what works best for your specific items of clothing, linens, and other household fabric stuff, but just remember that the picture that you have in your mind as the “right” way to hang your laundry probably isn’t right at all. You’ll figure out a much better way on your own if you just take a moment to think about it and observe how your laundry dries. You’re smart like that! 🙂
Don’t Line-Dry Laundry Overnight
The one thing that I found out the hard way is not to line-dry laundry overnight. At first, it seemed obvious that you would only want your laundry out during the heat of the day, and you wouldn’t want to risk getting everything wet again with dew or unexpected overnight rain. But then I thought, “Well, what’s so bad about hanging it out at night anyway? It’s so warm all night long now and the heat of the morning sun will dry any dew before I can even get out to it. Plus I know how to check my weather app!”
Well, I’ll tell you why not. Bugs. Oh, so many bugs. We probably have more than most people here because of being out in the country and the creek and everything, but they definitely like to come out at night no matter where you live, city or country. Some of them will just be resting on your laundry and can be shooed away, but you’ll also end up with webs, or even little nests. Thankfully this only happened to us on one or two towels that were near the end of their lives anyway, but still, it’s not worth the risk! So that’s the only experiment that I’d say you definitely shouldn’t try out when you line-dry laundry. 🙂
Do you line-dry laundry? What tips have you learned along the way?
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.