Simple Steps – Hang Your Laundry Out

Clothes on the line, blowing in the breeze and bright in the sun. It’s a picture of days passed, or of driving through Amish country not too far from where I live. Although it seems like fewer and fewer people hang their clothes out to dry these days, I also think that hanging clothes out is making a comeback.

It’s natural laundry month here at Live Renewed, and I wanted to start with taking the Simple Step of hanging your clothes out to dry. Hanging out your clothes is any important part of any natural laundry routine for a few reasons:

  1. Dryers are one of the biggest energy users in our homes, and giving the dryer a break will save energy and save money.
  2. The action of drying clothes in the dryer actually breaks down the clothes (that’s where the lint comes from) meaning that they will wear out faster.  Drying clothes on the line helps to extend the life of a clothing item.
  3. Conventional fabric softeners used in dryers are loaded with all different kinds of chemicals which can be absorbed into our bodies through our skin. Some of those chemicals are even trying make clothes smell like they were hung outside on the line!
  4. The sun is the best brightener/whitener that there is. Instead of using harsh products like bleach or stain removers, let the sun do the work for you instead.

We put up our first clothesline last spring, and I loved using it all summer long to dry my clothes outside, there is nothing like going to sleep on sheets that have been hung out on the line!

So, I challenge you to take the Simple Step of hanging your laundry out to dry this summer!

Here’s a few tips for getting started with hanging your clothes out.

Set up a simple clothesline

I was blessed that my parents passed along a retractable clothesline to us, and my hubs set it up to run between two trees in our back yard.  It doesn’t get much easier than that.  Sometimes setting up a clothesline can be the hardest part, there are lots of different types to choose from, and some of them require putting up posts, and pouring cement to secure them.

I recommend just starting as simple as possible with your line.  Look around your yard and see what you already have that you can use instead of setting up posts – trees, a corner of the house or garage, or a railing from your deck – all of these can be made into supports for your clothes line.  Choose a retractable clothes line that works for you and your space, set it up, and get started hanging your clothes out to dry!

Plan ahead for hanging your laundry out

One thing to remember when hanging your clothes out to dry is that you have to plan ahead a bit.  Checking the weather, and thinking about how much time the clothes will need to dry are important things to consider.

Check the weather the day before, and in the morning, so you know not to hang your clothes outside before a thunderstorm rolls through.  You’ll also need to plan ahead to have clothes ready to be hung up while there is still enough time for them to dry outside.

I like to start a load of laundry at night, using my delay start so they aren’t sitting wet in the washer all night, and then they are ready to hang out first thing in the morning. This way, it’s not too hot when I’m hanging them out, and because of where my clothesline is located, they get the benefit of the morning sun to help whiten and brighten them.  They’re usually dry by the afternoon, so I can hang out another load to be dry before nighttime, if I need to. I don’t like to leave my clothes hanging out overnight.

Tips for Hanging Your Clothes Out

  • I like to overlap my clothes and use one clothespin for the edges of two items. My clothesline is not that long (I’m hoping for a longer one before the summer is over), so I need to maximize the space that I have.  This also helps if you don’t have an abundance of clothespins, because it cuts the number of clothespins that you need in half.
  • When hanging up clothes, they often get little marks from the clothespins, so you need to think about where you are hanging your clothes from.
  • For shirts, instead of hanging them by the top or shoulders, I hang them from the bottom so they don’t get the stretched out, pinched look on the top.
  • For pants, the marks don’t really show whether you hang them by the waste or by the cuffs. I often hang them by the cuffs because I think that helps to release the wrinkles and get them nice and straight.
  • When hanging out baby clothes, you can save on clothespins by hanging onesies upside down by their snaps.
  • Hanging out wipes and rags and kitchen towels helps to air them out, and keeps them smelling and looking fresh.

Some people think hanging their clothes out makes them feel stiff or crunchy.  We’ll be talking more about natural fabric softeners and ways to keep your clothes soft and static free later this month, but one tip that I have if you are really concerned about this is, after your clothes are dry outside, you can bring them in and throw them in the dryer for a quick tumble, either on air dry or low heat.

Now, this obviously partially takes away from the point about not using your dryer when hanging clothes on the line, but if this is something that concerns you, using your dryer a little bit is better than not hanging your clothes out at all.

Do you hang your clothes on the line?  If not, what’s keeping you from it?  Will you take the Simple Step to hang your clothes out to dry this summer?

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Comments

  1. says

    My hubby built me a clothesline last summer. I love it! I think I learned, though, is to keep my clothes pins inside the house. We take them out in the morning and leave them out during the days we use them. When we bring the last load in, the clothespins come, too. This keeps the pins from getting mildew because of rain, night air, etc.

    Also, the only complaint we have about the crunchy feeling is for towels. I’m going to start bringing them in when they’re still damp and finish them in the dryer.
    Melissa @ Breath of Life recently posted..Lessons Learned – About our Girl

  2. says

    I love line-drying! My clotheslines are indoors, though, because I work outside the home in a place with many cold and/or rainy days, so I need to be able to do laundry after dark and not worry about bringing it in before rain starts. We are lucky to have a dry, spacious basement. In previous homes I had clotheslines on a covered porch or even above my bed. I have line-dried at least 95% of my laundry for 22 years now! And I’ve had some of my clothes all that time; they really do last longer when they don’t go through the dryer. I’ve come to think of the crunchy texture as meaning “clean”!
    ‘Becca recently posted..A Nonviolent Strategy for Action Heroes

  3. Julie says

    When we lived in Florida I was able to line dry my clothes all the time and could do several loads a day b/c it took no time for them to dry in the Florida heat. Since moving north, though, one of my sons has developed serious allergies which has prevented me from drying clothing outside. I still try to air dry as much as I can indoors, but unlike ‘Becca, my basement is too damp to use an actual clothesline there. Right now, I have one drying rack that I use and I try to hang the remainder of the load of laundry on hangers from various door jambs in the house. But, this means that I can only do one load of laundry a day, and I can’t air dry my towels and sheets b/c of their weight/size.

    Any suggestions for ways to improve my air drying capacity indoors would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you!

    • says

      Julie, when I lived in a dorm I hung clotheslines in a triangle over my bed: one just behind the head of the bed parallel to it, and the other two extending from the ends of that one to a point past the foot of the bed. The bed was against the wall; you don’t want a clothesline right near a wall because the damp is not good for the plaster, but with one END on the wall you can hang things so they don’t touch the wall. I would hang shorter things at the point where I got into my bed to make a “doorway”.

      I tied clotheslines around steam pipes, electrical conduits, and the top of a door hinge. In retrospect, this was not a good idea, and I’m lucky I didn’t break any of those things! A better approach would be to install hooks in your door and window frames. If you are careful to balance the weight (don’t do a load of all towels; put heavy things near the hooks, not in the middle) you will not need very big hooks, just the large size cup hooks or hooks for hanging potted plants. When I had a porch clothesline, it was hung on existing plant hooks.
      ‘Becca recently posted..A Nonviolent Strategy for Action Heroes

  4. says

    We dry items outside on a minimal basis at this time, but this is a goal of mine! We’ve been in our current home for nearly 2 years, so it’s been baby steps making it our own. Thanks for the encouragement and additional information and motivation! :)

  5. says

    I have an umbrella clothesline that doesn’t get nearly as much use as it should. I use it for the shells of my cloth diapers (I tumble dry my microfleece inserts).

    Last summer, I used it more, especially for loads of whites to whiten them. It’s a lot of work to get a load on the line with a 10 month old, though, which is why I haven’t used it much this year.

    I think I’ll use my clothesline more next summer again, when my son can just walk himself outside with me. That is, of course, if we don’t have a second baby before then! :)
    Becky recently posted..Staying Cool

    • says

      Becky – I have to laugh, as I have been in your situation MANY times – ALL of my kids have been that age over summer! I did a little planning and used my line ALOT….I would watch the weather and plan to wash ALL clothes on a “good” day….then, in the morning I would have hubby spread out a blanket or put up the pack-n-play in the morning before he would go to work….he would also put the wagon next to the door – the baby went on my hip and the laundry in the wagon (or vice-versa!) and away we went!

      Hope that my tips may help you!

  6. Julia says

    I have always found the American obsession with clothes dryers a bit crazy. I grew up in the UK and now live in Australia, and in both countries most people have always hung washing outside to dry. A dryer is only used if it’s raining. A dryer is such an energy guzzler and not very environmentally friendly, and the sun is such a wonderful free resource. Makes everything smell fresh, brightens whites, removes some stains and kills bacteria – why wouldn’t you use it? I find if you shake your clothes well, make sure they are hung inside out to avoid fading, and fold or hang as soon as you take them off the line, then you hardly need to iron anything either. As for towels, I do sometimes finish them off in the dryer, especially in winter, but I kind of like the crunchy feeling – it’s quite invigorating after a shower in the morning! So get your washing outside everyone! You won’t regret it, and you’ll get a very pleasant surprise when your next electricity bill arrives!

  7. says

    I just recently found this blog after reading an article on Simple Organic and I LOVE IT!!!

    I really need to start hanging my clothes out to dry! Thanks for the tips – I wouldn’t have thought of hanging onesies by their snaps!

  8. Patti says

    We put up a retractable clothesline on our screened in porch and use it and a collapsable drying rack all year. I need to think of another place to put one because I never have enough room for all my laundry but I do love the natural method of drying! And this way we can take it down whenever we have company.

    • Emily says

      Hi Patty,
      Do you live in a climate where it gets really cold in the winter? I wanted to put up a clothesline on our screen porch to use in the winter, but my hubs said the clothes would freeze in the winter time. The porch is south facing, so it gets sunlight (whenever the sun actually shines in the winter), and has windows that we can close so it’s not actually exposed to the outdoor air, but I don’t know if if would actually work for drying clothes in the winter?
      Thanks for your comment!
      ~Emily

      • Patti says

        Hi, Emily, We do live in the south so I am sure our experience is different than yours but our ancestors were drying clothes before there were machines to do it in so I guess you would have to try it out to see if it works! I dry mine inside in the winter using sunlight in my upstairs bathroom and now that I have read this article, I’ll be looking for places to put retractable clotheslines all over my house!! In Europe, they had dryer rods that dropped down from the ceiling in the kitchen so I am going to look online and see if there are any dryer racks like that. Good luck with trying it out.

        • Emily says

          Yes, you’re right Patti, I’ll just have to go ahead and try it and see how it works. I’ll petition hubs to put up a clothesline on the porch when the weather gets cooler. But I don’t want to think about that yet – we’re just starting to enjoy summer!! :)

      • says

        Whenever I get stymied by a green practice, I always think, ok, what would my great-grandmother have done? We live in the northeast which is very cold and snowy for 8 months of the year, but I am lucky to have a sun room where I can hang out clothes on drying racks all year long. Of course, on sunny warm days, they go right on the line outside!
        Sarah recently posted..5 Friday- Moroccan Grilled Chicken

  9. Julia says

    We’ve been hanging our clothes outside for just over a year now. We hadn’t done it before because of our HOA guidlines. It’s definitely been an adjustment in time, but we’ve seen a noticable savings on our energy bill that makes it worth it! I didn’t like the wrinkled look our clothes seemed to have, but a tip I learned from my MIL is to put them in the dryer for a few minutes BEFORE you hang them on the line. Also, I put our shirts on hangers and then just bring them in and put them in the closets.

  10. katie says

    I consider it a huge success when I can hang all my loads of laundry out on the line. I think it’s ridiculous when HOA don’t allow for clothesline…I don’t know their reasoning behind not allowing them…but if it’s because it can be viewed as being ugly or messy looking, my only comment would be…there’s nothing ugly about saving money and drying your clothes the natural way!

    • Emily says

      Agreed! And I actually think laundry on the line looks kind of pretty, I can’t imagine why anyone would think it was unattractive enough to ban them!

  11. kristen marie says

    really loved these simple tips. this actually seems doable and alot less intimidating that i thought it would be

  12. Theresa Perez says

    Thanks for the encouragement and additional information and motivation! In previous homes I had clotheslines on a covered porch or even above my bed.
    Theresa Perez recently posted..Arthritis Tips

  13. says

    “Some people think hanging their clothes out makes them feel stiff or crunchy. ”

    I’ve found that if you rinse the detergent all the way out of the clothes, there isn’t any need for even a natural fabric softener. Since I learned this tip, I am amazed at how soft and absorbent my towels, jeans and clothing is. The crunchy part that you feel is actually the detergent still in your clothes!

    • Kira says

      Agreed. I found a good portion of my clothing was coming out crunchy- turns out I was just using too much detergent. :)

  14. rachel says

    A couple years ago, we put an ad on Craigslist asking for someone who wanted to rid their yard of their old-fashioned metal T posts (the kind my mom hung our laundry from). Someone answered and, with a couple hours of sweat equity, I had some really great (free) clothes line posts. I live in Oklahoma and can hang my clothes out almost year-round. It is so much fun and I can fit almost 3 large loads on my line at once. When the weather is warm, they dry much faster than in the dryer and it reduces my need for ironing. I’ve also read that the UV rays kill lots of gross stuff in your towels and underwear. My family also doesn’t mind crunchy towels because they smell so good!

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